Saturday, December 3, 2011

Society Saturday: Proso -- what?!? (or Accuracy in Genealogy)

As a member, I recently received a copy of the Winter 2011/2012 newsletter for the Western Michigan Genealogical Society. This is a very active society, established in 1954. They have a great number of programs and mini classes available for local members. Several of the upcoming programs sound awesome, I just wish I lived closer. The society does offer a good deal of information for remote members on their website, in their quarterly magazine Michigana and with publication and access to other society materials as well. I am definitely renewing my membership.

One scheduled talk is described as including a discussion of using "prosopography" for learning more about the residents of Cherry Street in Grand Rapids, MI. Proso-what?!? I had never heard of it. Is it a good tool for genealogy?

I did a google search for the term and found a good article at trusty Wikipedia which says that prosopography is an increasingly important approach within historical research. The definition states that it's
"an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis." The article mentions that prosoprography is related to, but distinct from, both biography and genealogy and that "well-conducted genealogical research reconstructing family relationships may form the basis of a prosopography," although the "goals of prosopographical research are generally wider."

It's probably a lot more intellectual and scholarly than most of us achieve in pursuit of our ancestors, but I would liken it to cluster or whole family genealogy research which can give you a much broader and more accurate knowledge of family history. And really, accuracy should be a top priority for all genealogists. As Michael Hait said in his blog post, "who wouldn’t hate to discover that after years of research, you had been tracing someone else’s family?"

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