The database development is, of course, of immediate genealogical interest, yielding information about specific individuals of interest. The bigger question, though, is how it might be used to develop a social history of this community of people. We have some work underway on developing thick interpretative stories of several families who are buried at Holy Cross, and there are potentials for quantitative analysis of the entire set of records. However, our most important theoretical and practical initiatives lie in a series of projects under the umbrella of Historical GIS.
(a) cemetery stone database
At the smallest level, we have built an independent dataset for the cemetery stones. The cemetery stone dataset has been built with precise geographical coordinates for each stone, and we have partially connected the records to the master database we are creating. Once a programming connection is in place, we will have a service that can locate individual stones, and pick out entire family-clans, age-specific burials, occupational classes, and the like.
(b) property assessment database
We next became interested in building a wealth indicator, and this led us to take photographs of many of the original property assessment records for Halifax in the nineteenth century. These photographic images have now been largely transcribed amd converted to a searchable dataset. We have now linked about 550 burial records to street addresses, and want to now connect those addresses to the assessments. At this point, we do not have GIS coordinates for those street addresses, and it will require work on historical maps for the relevant periods. This project, therefore, provides a larger frame for spatial analysis, moving out beyond the cemetery to the city itself.
(c) small business database
We also have a project underway to identify small businesses in Nova Scotia which were owned by Holy Cross families. The business information source is the Dun & Bradstreet survey of 1923. At this point we have about 600 names which appear to have an affiliation. The business locations are in different parts of Nova Scotia, but are not yet detailed at the street level. There is, therefore, more work to do on this dataset to bring it closer to the point of being useful for an integrated database. So, this is a larger frame again, beyond the city to various districts in the province.
(d) historical gis symposium
The breadth and scope of these projects is such that we are planning a Symposium for 2015 on Historical GIS. This field has just started to emerge in the last few years. Given Nova Scotia’s traditional culture and historical roots, this field has great potential for the cultural advancement of the province.