Working Group – Prosopographic Data, DfH 2019

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Working Group – Prosopographic Data, DfH 2019

Richard Light, Torsten Hiltmann, Christopher Pollin, Georg Vogeler

Some related Resources:

What is the concept: person?

  • Social  identity
  • biological identity 
  • administrative  identity  
    • (how can identity be expressed?)  


  • “it needs to be just complex enough”
  • factoid model (John Bradley and Harold Short, ‘Texts into databases: the Evolving Field of New-style Prosopography’, Literary and Linguistic Computing 20 Suppl. 1 (2005) 3-24; Pasin, M & Bradley, J 2013, 'Factoid-based  prosopography and computer ontologies: Towards an integrated approach')
  • Describing  not the biological person, “it is my assertion that this person is  X and I bring to justify some source”
  • in  Pelagios: with places they created a interconnection format from different gazetteers  
    a  statement  of minimum information to identify a place in another system.
  • Cultural  dependent model
    • Africa: someone who has many children gives their children to someone else who has no children = in different cultures you have different concepts/understandings what means to be “child of” (social, biological, cultural)
  • Mental Model of a person
  • rules to say with a high probability that a person is the same person
  • Identify a Family (or institution like a monastery if its a monk) and not  the individual being

How can we agree that we talk about the same person?

What is the minimum information that allows to disambiguate people?

This information is related to temporal and spatial contexts


A hierarchy of reliable identifiers

  • authority-id,  authority file  
    • a passport, id-number
    • fingerprint
  • name  (names can change)
    • Family name
    • First name
    • appellation (CIDOC - Construct)
      • “maier  from berlin”, “peter of london”
      • “the  bold”, “the great” ( in different  cultural context such appellation can change)
    • kings, monks or pope change their name or add something to their name
  • relationships  
    • Family
    • “the father/mother of X” + “the son/daughter of Y”
      • “is  it the younger or older cousin?” - context sensitive
      • Reasoning  constraints: “the father must be born before the son”
    • economic activities: business partner, the boss of  
    • social relationships: friend of,
    • social  network
  • area
    • “Franz from Leipzig”
  • gender
    • biological sex and social gender
  • Birthday
  • Death  
  • symbolical  identification: emblem
    • signature in a document / seal  
  • graphical  identification: handwriting  
  • function  of a person:  
    • the priest in a village, a herald: office name
  • authorship  (the author of Faust (which Faust?))
    • letter
      • gives  a lot information about a person
  • creative/cultural  work
    • style
      • the  workshop of the famous painter X  
      • “the  brushstroke of a person” (art history)
  • social  status
    • someone is married, married with X
      • can  be resolved
    • title   
      • someone  is a Dr.    
        • Different from occupation, it can inherited (a   noble inherits his status)   
      • when  a noble signs a contract: he can appear  with personalities, different social roles in different situations (as  the merchant, as the captain...)  
    •  people taking over someone others social role: “a king coming back from the crusades (as an imposter)
    • occupation: the blacksmith in a village
  • fictional person: like King Arthur
  • History of ownership of a farm/building, the name of the first family that  lived there
    (ger: Genanntname,  auch Vulgoname)

reliability of the source - probability inside a corpus

falsify a document (fraud)


2 medieval chronicles can describe the same event with different person/people involved.


Soviet soldier – Ukraine refugee – Jewish person in the USA


depending on the situation he described his story differently depending on the situation, but he was the same person.


Library Authority Files: take death, birth and occupation (but occupation changes in a lifetime)

  • preferred  name (who prefers it?)

Naming systems

Create different instances of person and match them together afterwards

- statement about a id: there is a person

- another statement about a id: there is a person


More Resources


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