Friday, August 03, 2007

Word of the Day: Prosopography


the study of collective biography, for individuals of a certain group (social class, profession, time frame, geographic origin, etc.). By accumulating data on individuals in a group, one learns more about the group. The term may have been coined by anthropologists but it is widely used among medieval historians, particularly social historians. - Nathaniel Taylor,

Prosopography is an important methodological tool within historical research, its goal being the collection of all known information about individuals within a given period, often in the form of a register or database (frequently also known as a "Prosopography", e.g. The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire).

Thanks to Sharon Sergeant of the APG list for introducing me to this term. She references Mel Wolfgang's presentation Researching 'Birds of a Feather': How Prosopography, Cluster Studies, and Record Linkage Techniques Can Help Put New Leaves On Your Family Tree, which she says, "drew unending raves from attendees, who were previously scratching their heads about the word prosopography." The lecture was in 2006 Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) annual seminar.

Sharon says, "Mel continues providing his eye-opening techniques at the PMC in Fort Wayne with If You Think You've Looked Everywhere... It's Time to Think Again

What a grand term for the enduring principle to get around brick walls in research -- if you can't go back, you must go wide, and research kith, kin, co-workers, fellow church members, neighbors, the community, and all in-law connections.

You can access Sharon's post in the list archives:

Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future. - Joan Chittister

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