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From: KEN AITKEN <>
Subject: [APG] Family reconstitution
Date: 18 Mar 02 09:52:02 -0600


This discussion reminds me of the time I threw a stone at a hornets' nest and ran. My original posting was the parting shot before I left for a long weekend away from my computer and into a retreat into my books. I emerge, blinking into the light to find a marvellous discussion going on!

I asked about definitions and explanations and I got some good ones. Thanks.

The term I am most familiar with is "Family Reconstitution"
This term emerged ( into my mind, at least) from the work of British historical demographers Peter Laslett and E.A. Wrigley. Essentially, they used the term for the process of taking an English parish register ( and perhaps the 19th century censuses) and reorganizing the data into family groupings, and extended family/kinship networks. They were not just looking for one or two subject families, but reconstituting all families ( if possible) in the parish.

In genealogy I thought I had first encountered the term "family reconstitution" in a very interesting article by Gerald M. Haslam, "Family reconstitution as a means of individual identification: ole Anderson Kolvien of Voss, Norway" from NSG Q (Vol 81, No 4 (1993 ) pp.283-294. In a small way, he does indeed use family reconstitution.
Actually I have in my home library another work I had read previously that deals with family reconstitution and genealogy. This is a little booklet by Andrew Todd entitled _ Nuts and bolts: family history problem solving through family reconstitution techniques_ published in Bury, Lancashire, England by Allen and todd, 2000.
So it is with this baggage, and years of dabbling in the work of historical demographers in Britain that I interpret the term. As I would use it the term implies 1. that a set of records is mined the recover all references to more than one family [surname] over a period of time (a generation or so)
2. that the data may be correlated with similarly mined data from other sets of records ( for example combining birth, marriage and death records with census records or tax records)

3. That from these records family units and kinship networks are constructed

I appreciated Nancy Coleman's comments on cluster genealogy and I too wondered about the term 'cohort". My experience has been in using the term to describe groups moving together. for example, as a kid I attenedec a school with an experimental math program. My buddy Russ , a year older than I was in the first cohort. The following year, I entered and became part of the second cohort through the program. Can you see how this term could be used to describe waves of migration? I can. But in Nancy's defense, I have trouble seeing the term being used to describe a technique / approach to discovering if there is a "cohort" marching along in measured cadence through life 9 as Donn Devine suggests or eighth grade math ( me).
I liked Brenda Merriman's comments about cluster research. Her definition helps me see a real difference between family reconstitution as I see it, and cluster genealogy research. As I understand it Brenda would consider that I was using a cluster genealogy approach to solving a problem of where did my Hambrooks in Canterbury, Kent, England come from when they fail to appear in the records of Canterbury before 1702, when I go back to a record like the International Genealogical Index and pull out only those births/christenings and marriage occurring before 1702, and plot their location on a map to see where they cluster. I might even plot them by 25 year grouping to note time and space factors. Brenda's interpretation, as I understand it, is a process of casting around for clues.

Such an effort might neatly lead into a family reconstitution" techniques. And certainly what is termed as "wider family reconstitution" includes the reconstitution of family and kinship links in adjacent parishes in the British model proposed by Andrew Todd.
So, I think I have some ideas now from Brenda Merriman and Nancy Coleman about cluster genealogy. And I think I understand family reconstitution. That leaves two terms I am confused about.

Family Reconstruction -- is that the same as family reconstitution?

Whole Family Genealogy.
I can go through life alone, just fine with fuzzy definitions, but those pesky folks in my classes keep asking me to explain myself.
Thanks to Elizabeth Shown mills, Brenda Dougall Merriman, Donn Devine, Nancy Coleman, Michael Neill, Barbara Vander Leest, Burt Hochberg, Chad Milliner, I have an idea or two clarified.
I'd love to hear more!

Kenneth G. Aitken
Prairie History Librarian
Regina Public Library
P.O. Box 2311
Regina, Saskatchewan, S4P 3Z5 Canada




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