Employing Digital Prosopography in the Study of Mid- and Upper Social Strata in Transylvania (Mid-Eighteenth to Mid-Twentieth Centuries): Tools and Approaches

15 December 2021

Author Vlad Popovici, Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Author Angela Lumezeanu, Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca

The paper explores the possibility of employing an Entity – Attribute – Value (EAV) database in relation with the historical sources and the digital tools in use for prosopographical research of the mid- and upper social strata in Transylvania, from early modernity to the interwar period. The massive digitization projects and the emergence of several historical databases, both taking place mainly during the last decade and still on-going, have provided the scholars of Transylvania with a wealth of information, but the development of proper tools for extracting and structuring it has hardly started. By transferring the digitized narratives from the primary sources into a structured database, which allows automated verification, linkage and comparisons, and approaching the data as “factoids”, and not as given historical facts, historians should be able to improve the selection of the prosopographical samples in view of further analyses, keep track of conflicting information provided by different sources, and revisit any piece of data when required. In view of the above, the paper illustrates the application of digital prosopography on one of the historical databases focusing on the upper social layers of Transylvania during late modernity: “Historical Data Grinder”.

digital prosopography, factoids, Intermediate Data Structure, Transylvania, historical databases, EAV databases

[1] Selectively: Cornel Sigmirean, Istoria formării intelectualității româneşti din Transilvania şi Banat în epoca modernă [History of the Formation of the Romanian Intellectuality in Transylvania and Banat in the Modern Era] (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2000); Lászlo Szögi, József Mihály Kiss, Magyarországi diákok bécsi egyetemeken és akadémiákon 1849-1867. Ungarländische Studenten an den Universitäten und Hochschulen in Wien 1849-1867 (Budapest: ELTE Levéltára, 2003); Miklós Szabó, Zsolt Simon, Lászlo Szögi, Erdélyiek külföldi egyetemjárása 1849-1919 között, [Transylvanian Students Abroad between 1849-1919], vol. 1-2 (Marosvásárhely: Mentor Kiadó, 2014). An exception is represented by the prosopographies of the delegates at the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia (1 December 1918). See the most recent one and the listed literature on the topic: Dragoș Ursu, Tudor Roșu, ed., Dicționarul personalităților unirii [The Dictionary of the Personalities of the Union] (Cluj-Napoca: Mega, 2019), 653-663.

[2] Vlad Popovici, “Does History Remember Civil Servants? A Case Study on the Regime Change of 1918-1920 in Transylvania,” in Dumitru-Cătălin Rogojanu, Cosmin-Ștefan Dogaru, ed., Elites, Networks of Power and Citizens (19th-21st Centuries) (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2019), 121-140.

[3] “Arcanum Digitheca,” accessed 10 September 2021, https://www.arcanum.com/hu/adt/.

[4] “Biblioteca Digitală a Bucureștilor” [The Digital Library of Bucharest], accessed 10 September 2021, http://www.digibuc.ro/.

[5] “Biblioteca Digitală BCU Cluj” [The Digital Library of the University Library in Cluj], accessed 10 September 2021, http://dspace.bcucluj.ro.

[6] “Family Search,” accessed 10 September 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/en/, “Ancestry”, accessed 10 September 2021, https://www.ancestry.com, “MyHeritage”, accessed 10 September 2021, https://www.myheritage.ro, “RadixIndex”, accessed 10 September 2021, https://www. radixindex.com.

[7] “Arhivele Naționale ale României, eANR” [National Archives of Romania, eANR], accessed 10 September 2021, http://arhivelenationale.ro/site/eanr/.

[8] Ioan Bolovan et al., “Historical Population Database of Transylvania. A Database Manual,” Studia dig. 64, no. 1 (2020): 10-85.

[9] Sandra Hirsch et al., “Digital Framework for the History of the Austrian Military Border in Transylvania,” Studia dig. 64, no. 2 (2020): 5-53.

[10] “Historical Data Grinder,” accessed 9 September 2021, http://hdgrinder.ro/.

[11] Angela Cristina Lumezeanu, “A Database Model for Social History: Historical Data Grinder and the Transylvanian Society of the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Trans R 28, no. 2 (Summer 2019): 100-111.

[12] Although Transylvania officially lost its status as a province in 1867, after the union with Hungary, regional particularities and even legal frameworks differentiating it from Hungary proper (e.g. the provisions of the electoral law) continued up to the First World War and beyond.

[13] Selectively, for Bohemia: Josef Tomeš, Slovník k politickým dějinám Československa 1918-1992 [Dictionary of Political History of Czechoslovakia 1918-1992] (Praha: Pražská edice, 1998); Josef Tomeš et al., ed., Tváře našich parlamentů 1861-2011. 150 let parlamentarismu v českých zemích [Faces of our Parliaments from 1861 to 2011. 150 Years of Parliamentarism in the Czech Lands] (Praha: Nakladatelství Lidových novin, 2012); Franz Adlgasser, Die Mitglieder der österreichischen Zentralparlamente 1848-1918. Konstituierender Reichstag 1848-1849. Reichsrat 1861-1918. Ein biographisches Lexikon, vol. 1–2 (Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2014); Martin Klečacký, Slovník představitelů politické správy v Čechách v letech 1849-1918. The Biographical Dictionary of Political Administration Officials in Bohemia in 1849-1918 (Praha: Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR, v.v.i. – Národní archiv, 2020). For Transylvania, the main prosopographic work remains Adalbert Toth, Parteien und Reichstagswahlen in Ungarn 1848-1892 (München: R. Oldenbourg, 1973), but the first complete set of election results was published only recently: Judit Pál et al., ed., Parliamentary Elections in Eastern Hungary and Transylvania (1865-1918) (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2018), and the prosopographic data is still being processed.

[14] “Historical Population Database of Transylvania,” accessed 7 September 2021, http://hpdt.ro.

[15] Brașov County, but only partially, through the “Portal of the Romanian National Archives,” accessed 7 September 2021, http://cautare-bv.arhivelenationale.ro/cautare-bv/detail.aspx?id= 32759.

[16] “Hungary Funeral Notices, 1840-1990.” Images. FamilySearch, accessed 7 September 2021, http://FamilySearch.org. Original collection: National Széchényi Library, Budapest.

[17] Selectively: Iván Nagy, Magyarország családai. Czímerekkel és nemzedékrendi táblákkal [Hungarian Families. With Coats of Arms and Generational Signs], vol. I–XIII (Budapest, 1857-1865); Béla Kempelen, Magyar nemes családok [Hungarian Noble Families], vol. I-X (Budapest, 1911-1931); János József Gudenus, A magyarországi főnemesség XX. századi genealógiája [The Nobility of Hungary in the 20th Century Genealogy], vol. I-V (Budapest: Heraldika, 1990-1999).

[18] József Pap, Parliamentary Representatives and Parliamentary Elections in Hungary (1848-1918) (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2017), 36-53.

[19] Bolovan et al., “Historical Population Database of Transylvania,” 11.

[20] Pál et al., ed., Parliamentary Elections.

[21] Mainly detailed in ibid., 356-366. The most useful are Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 1884-1918 [List of Civil Servants in Hungary] (Budapest: Arcanum Adatbázis, 2011, Blu-ray).

[22] Most of the press, including yearbooks of various cultural and civil associations, is digitised on “Arcanum Digitheca” and “Biblioteca Digitală BCU Cluj.” Of special importance are the financial and banking yearbooks: Magyar Compass [Hungarian Compass] (1874-1941, accessed 7 September 2021, https://adt.arcanum.com/ro/collection/MagyarCompass/), respectively Anuarul Băncilor Române [Yearbook of the Romanian Banks] (1900-1918, accessed 7 September 2021, http://dspace.bcucluj.ro/handle/123456789/82910).

[23] John Bradley and Harold Short, “Texts into Databases: The Evolving Field of New-style Prosopography,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 20, Suppl. Issue (2005): 8, doi:10.1093/llc/fqi022.

[24] Ibid., 10.

[25] Ibid., 21.

[26] Michele Pasin and John Bradley, “Factoid-Based Prosopography and Computer Ontologies: Towards an Integrated Approach,” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30, no. 1 (2015): 86-97. See also “Factoid Prosopography,” accessed 25 August 2021, https://www.kcl.ac.uk/factoid-prosopography.

[27] A large part of these databases, in their current form, can be accessed via “European Historical Populations Sample Network,” accessed 27 August 2021, https://ehps-net.eu/databases.

[28] George Alter and Kees Mandemakers, “The Intermediate Data Structure (IDS) for Longitudinal Historical Microdata, version 4,” Historical Life Course Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 1-26, accessed 27 September 2021, https://ehps-net.eu/sites/default/files/hislives_vol_1._23-05-14.pdf.

[29] Ibid., 4 referring the work of W.W. Stead, W.E. Hammond and M.J. Straube in the early 1980s.

[30] Mikołaj Szołtysek and Siegfried Gruber, “Mosaic: Recovering Surviving Census Records and Reconstructing the Familial History of Europe,” The History of the Family 21, no. 1 (2016): 38-60.

[31] Lumezeanu, “A Database Model,” 100-111.

[32] Usually, empty values are not stored into the database, meaning that HDG only registers what is known of an entity (i.e., provided by a source), without highlighting the attributes for which information is lacking. As trivial as this may seem, it is a step further from the classical database design, in which rows in a table for which the sources do not provide information, remain blank (i.e., no value), but are still recorded in the database, taking up space and slowing down the queries.

[33] Cf. Ovidiu Iudean, The Romanian Governmental Representatives in the Budapest Parliament (1881-1918) (Cluj-Napoca: Mega, 2016), 87-238 passim.

[34] Kees Mandemakers and Lisa Dillon, “Best Practices with Large Database on Historical Populations,” Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 1, 37 (2004): 34-38.

[35] Vlad Popovici and Rada Varga, “Building Life Courses and Explaining Life Choices with the Help of Digital Prosopography,” Studia dig. 63, no. 2 (2018): 59-63.

[36] As biographical information is already stored and referenced in HDG (cf. fig. 3) whenever possible from this point onward, we will indicate only the HDG IDs of the selected case studies.

[37] Gábor Bona, Századosok az 1848/49. évi szabadságharcban [Captains of the War of Independence from 1848/49] (Budapest: Heraldika, 2008-2009), digital edition on “Arcanum Digitheca.”

[38] The authors would like to thank Professor Judit Pál for verifying the biographical data and annotating the possibly erroneous information.

[39] The lists were published initially on a monthly basis, and after 1900 on a yearly basis in Astra’s journal, Transilvania, which is digitised at “Biblioteca Digitală BCU Cluj,” last accessed 8 September 2021, http://dspace.bcucluj.ro/jspui/handle/123456789/7435.

[40] Iudean, The Romanian Governmental Representatives, 109-114, esp. 113.

[41] Transilvania 40, no. 4, (1909): 223; ibid., 41, no. 4 (1910): 221.

[42] Anuarul Societății pentru Fond de Teatru Român 4 (1901): 212-220.

[43] Sigmirean, Istoria formării intelectualității, 375, 480, 696.

[44] Augustin Tataru, “† Dr Aurel Socol,” Gazeta Ilustrată 6, no. 9-10 (September - October 1937): 121.

[45] Vlad Popovici, “Cojocna,” in Bogdan Murgescu and Andrei Florin Sora, ed., România Mare votează. Alegerile parlamentare din 1919 “la firul ierbii” [Greater Romania Is Voting. The 1919 Parliamentary Elections "at the Edge of the Grass" (Jassy: Polirom, 2019), 180-181.

[46] Tataru, “† Dr Aurel Socol,” 121.

[47] Aurel Socol, Furtună deasupra Ardealului [Storm over Transylvania] (Cluj-Napoca: Tribuna, 1991).

[48] Sigmirean, Istoria formării intelectualității, 380, 460.

[49] Traian Bosoancă, Mureșenii și Marea Unire [People from Mureș County and the Great Union] (Târgu Mureș: Ardealul, 2000), 17-20.

[50] E.g., Bruno Rodrigues, “Historical Newspaper Scraping with {Tesseract} and R”, accessed 7 September 2021, https://www.brodrigues.co/blog/2019-04-07-historical_newspaper_scraping_ tesseract/.

List of illustrations

Fig. 1. Record linkage of the same person / entity registered in HDG according to different sources, under different names, in different languages.

Fig. 2. Proto-narrative of Lőrinc Mara sr. in HDG (a).

Fig. 3. Proto-narrative of Lőrinc Mara sr. in HDG (b).

Fig. 4. Biographical data about Emil Andreșan in HDG.