History Database Project June 9

Hello Everyone,

I hope you’ve had the chance to look over the websites that are running using Heurist structures. It’s pretty amazing what these databases can do! After adding roughly a hundred records on Philadelphia pensioners in the 1820s I’m getting a sense of what new information I can gain from using Heurist. It’s hard to visualize the interconnectedness of records until you have a large network you can search. I just wanted to run you through one iteration of filtering that I’ve learned to give you a sense of the possibilities.

One of the issues I’ve had using FileMaker Pro is choosing families to serve as models while I’m writing. I love that FileMaker helps me easily sort data and run the total numbers of pensioners in a particular ward or with a particular illness. The numbers I was able to collect from my nearly 1000 records were really interesting, but I had a hard time choosing individuals that were interesting test studies to write about. It was really hard to visualize how large their families were, or where they were in the city. Heurist does an amazing job helping with that.

Here’s one example:

Grace Babbs was added to the pension list on March 30, 1829. She was sixty years old, a widow, and lived in the City Northern District at No. 15 Sassafrass Alley. She had a mobility impairment but continued to sew carpets and rags to make money. Grace was really noteworthy because she had seven children, two of whom were disabled.

Using Heurist, it was really easy to note her dependents and to visualize their household. On the right hand side of the Filter-Analyse-Publish page is a set of tabs that allow you to visualize records under Record View, Map-Timeline, Custom Reports, Export, Network Diagram, and Crosstab.

Pulling up record view, as you can tell, details the record that I’ve designed for pensioners (which I built and detailed using the “Person” template).


Pulling up the record quickly like this, I know from my “Notes” section of the record that her children Sarah and Richard are both disabled as well. I can then use the Network Diagram tool to visualize the family and the records for each child.

From here I can pull up the records for Sarah and Richard to get their information. Opening these personal records, I’m reminded that Sarah is 22 and Richard is 20. I can also visualize that this brother and sister have another five siblings – four brothers and one sister.

Using the filtered subset “t:52 Babbs” allows me to search all of my pensioners for the last name Babbs. [Each record type in Heurist has a number so you can sort by the category or the designated number. For me, my record set “Pensioners” is t:52] Quickly cycling through the 8 person filtered subset, I can  tell that four children live at home – including Sarah, Richard, and their younger brothers William (19) and Samuel (17). The youngest child Thomas (13) is not recorded living at home, implying he might be apprenticed out of the home. Furthermore, the oldest two siblings seem to be married or have moved out of the household for work.

I really like the fact that I can search for particular categories and use multiple search phrases. I can search through pensioners living in a particular district, or pensioners with certain disabilities. Although I don’t have KML layers added into the program yet, it’s also possible to search for geospatial records using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. The Map-Timeline feature allows me to see when individuals were placed on the pension list, which helps me understand the movements of the Guardians of the Poor for each district. I can practically chart their daily actions within the city district by following the addresses and timeline of application reviews. Based on the information you’ve input you can span centuries, decades, years, months, and days by scrolling through the timeline. This helps me visualize familial networks more easily and to visualize general trends in a new way. With a better understanding of the nuances of my data set, I think I’ll be able to communicate this data to others in new and exciting ways.

I’m looking forward to exploring all the features Heurist has to offer! I’ll post an update in a few weeks to discuss what I’ve learned. So far it’s been an awesome experience – I hope you decide to create a database yourself and explore the tool. Keep an eye out for our posts and be sure to email us with any questions you might have.

Contact us at: cbaseproject@gmail.com

Check out Heurist at the following link: http://heuristnetwork.org/

Best Wishes,

Nicole Schroeder