Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Flooding, now and then

After several days of significant rain, it now appears that conditions are right for a repeat of the flood of 2006.  There is a large storm cell bearing down on us, tracking to the northeast and stretching all the way to Alabama.  It will be interesting (in the sense of the Chinese curse) whether we will see history repeat itself, and whether the local municipalities will be better prepared. 

Naturally, this gave me the idea of looking into the history of natural disasters and the applicability of demographic and vital records to understanding the effects.  One genealogical site with a specific focus on disasters is on Cyndi's List under Disasters: Natural and Man Made.  In some cases the information for historical disasters includes specific information regarding disaster-related deaths, such as with the failure of the Austin Dam.  In situations where definitive mortality lists are not available, methods such as those described by Sattenspiel and Stoops combined with sites such as (thanks, Erin) can be employed to establish what demographic impact occurs from historical natural disasters. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Selection in surnames - Italy, 1926-1943

I have been searching the literature for information on potential selection in surname dynamics.  To date I have not found specific research integrating selection into isonymy research.  However, there is plenty on cultural selection for surnames in various contexts.  As an example I've chosen this article from the Journal of Modern Italian Studies regarding the attempts of the Italian Fascist government to forcibly acculturate the populace to a nationalistic ideal.  In such a case of forcible surname change, what we should see in a study of random isonymy from 1926-1942 is a surname "bottleneck" comparable to a genetic one.

From the abstract - This article places the surname Italianization campaign in Italy's Adriatic   borderlands from 1927 to 1943 in the broader context of fascist schemes to promote Italian nationalism and construct the Italian national community. A facet of legislative ethnic engineering, surname alteration policy was common to most successor states in the interwar period. In eastern Italy, while ethnic Slovenes and Croats bore the brunt of forcible acculturation, the measures intended to support nationalist, irredentist and imperial aspirations not to persecute Slavs. The fascist authorities' approach to minorities was more nuanced than scholars have recognized in their attentions to competition between west and east, 'European' and 'Balkan', Italian and Slav.

Hametz, Maura, 2010,  Naming Italians in the borderland, 1926-1943.  The Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Vol. 3 (15), pp. 410-430.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poster on Kin-Structured Migration

Here is my poster presentation from the annual meeting of the AAPA last week in Minneapolis.  I am still working on attaching PDF files to the blog, but since I have had several requests for it I've done the poster as a jpeg. 

Special thanks goes out to Edgar at the FedEx store in downtown Minneapolis, possibly one of THE most helpful and knowledgeable clerks from a print store I have ever met. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Isonymy in small populations

Just another follow up on the responses to my isonymy poster presentation:  one comment that came up a few times was from both students and professors was that they would love to use isonymy in their own work, but since they were working with a single population it was impractical.  In those cases, I recommend two articles by Lasker and Mascie-Taylor dealing that use isonymy at very small scales, including between and within households. 

Lasker, GW and Mascie-Taylor CGN,  2001, The genetic structure of English villages:  surname diversity changes between 1976 and 1997.  Annals of Human Biology, 28 (5): 546-553.

Lasker, GW, 1997, Census versus sample data in isonymy studies:  relationship at short distances.  Human Biology, 69 (5): 733-738.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The need for a new journal?

While it is sometimes difficult to gauge the impact of a poster presentation, I was very pleased with the responses to my presentation on kin-structured migration in 19th century Chemung County, NY (soon to be posted here) at the annual meetings for the AAPA.  What struck me, though, was how novel the idea of isonymy studies seemed to many of the members I spoke to, and not just younger graduate students.  Surname studies have been a part of biological anthropology for at least four decades, and yet one of the most frequent responses I got was something akin to "wow, I didn't know you could do that." 

This got me thinking of the need for more exposure and impact for biohistorical research programs.  One fairly obvious way to do this would be with a new journal dedicated to the topic.  Although biohistory more or less represents a methodological approach, there is no shortage of methodological and area-based journals within anthropology alone.  The growth of genealogical and historical population data online should presage an comparative growth for anthropological studies requiring such data.  Not just isonymy, but historical demographics, epidemiology and hybrid studies combining historical data with modern molecular methods.  Such studies do get occasionally appear in journals such as AJPA and Human Biology, but they are no doubt competing with the numerous other papers from areas some consider more "current."  A "Journal of Biohistorical Research" would provide an outlet for any number of viable articles that would otherwise go unpublished.  I do know there is no shortage of experienced practitioners of biohistorical research spread throughout academia, so finding a base of knowledge for peer-review would not be a problem. 

More on this in the posts to come.  At the moment I need to help my 2 year old get to sleep with some stories...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Westward bound

The family and I are on our way to the AAPA meetings in Minneapolis, MN.  Except for a few minor snags, we made the first leg of our journey from Binghamton, NY to Fremont, OH (on one tank of gas; thank you, Ford Focus).  Curious about the general utility of the internet for historical demography and isonymy research, I decided to do a quick Google search using "Fremont, OH" and "history."  I also did a search for Sandusky County, Ohio on Rootsweb.  Almost immediately, I came up with Sandusky County Geneaology and History, a USGenWeb page run by Maggie Stewart and Bonnie Walsh.  Census records were available for 1820, 1830 and 1850.  In addition, the page linked to a series of similar USGenWeb pages for the entire state of Ohio, which included similar census data.  These sites are largely volunteer efforts made by dedicated online genealogists, which expand and develop over time into large repositories of historical data.  Although I cannot readily assess the content of such pages for the entire country, there appears to be a significant groundswell of genealogical websites housing historical data of potential interest to biological anthropologists.  Ideally, bioanthropologists interested in isonymy and historical demography should first investigate what's online in their own back yard.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Annual Meeting of the AAPA

I've been neglecting the blog of late, mainly due to the lions share of my time going into preparation for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting in Minneapolis, April 13-16.  I will be presenting a poster on some recent research I have done regarding kinship in 19th century Chemung County, NY.  This year will include a session on April 16th for high school teachers called "Fossils, Bones, and Primates: Enriching High School Teaching."  The meetings also piggyback with the Human Biology Association, the Paleoanthropology Society, and the Paleopathology Association, all of which are highly recommended.