Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The Extension of the Historical GIS Friesland

In this project the already developed parcel based historical GIS (HISGIS) for the Dutch province of Friesland (Frisia) will be extended with a series of crucial datasets and map layers.

Hans Mol
Fryske Akademy

Fryske Akademy



This project, which is carried out by the Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden in cooperation with NIDI (The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, the Hague), DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services, The Hague) and the Department of History in Leiden, aims at providing a basis for both the presentation and use of historical geo data on a regional basis. This is done by extending the already developed parcel based historical GIS (HISGIS) for the Dutch province of Friesland (Frisia) with a series of crucial datasets and map layers.

From its start in 1998, HISGIS was meant to cover the whole of the province of Frisia, with its basic layer consisting of about 1500 vectorised maps of the Napoleonic land survey, known as the cadastre (1812-1832), each counting at least 200 parcels with corresponding data on ownership. Also from the beginning, the extension with a second layer was provided, to be linked to the first one, comprising a reconstruction of nearly all farmsteads (ca. 10.000) existing in the year 1700, with the land parcels attached to them. The data for this layer, including information on owners, tenants, surface and value, was taken from a fiscal administration. In this basic set up, the system proved its worth for historical research into land use and for retrospective studies on the power positions of the church and the nobility in medieval Frisia. Since it became clear that a broader public was also interested, it was decided to make the system accessible via an internet site of its own. As such it was launched under the name of HISGIS (www.hisgis.nl) at 13 December 2005.

As the ambition of this historical GIS-project has always been to stimulate research into the history of property, power and persons by providing tools and datasets on their location and spread in space, it was clear that steps had to be taken to extend the above mentioned basic layers for as many time periods and with as many new data and map layers as possible. The extension program that has been formulated aims at enriching the system in three fields.

In the first place a grid functionality has to be added to the interface, for the digital use of topographical maps, aerial photographs etc. as fore- or background to the data layers.

The second field on which the HISGIS has to be enriched constitutes an extension program in itself. It consists in the adding of several new historical content layers. The most important one of these layers has to contain all data on the owners and tenants of farmsteads in the year 1640. When this layer is constructed, it can serve as a foundation of layers showing the landed property of all monasteries and parishes in medieval Frisia. Both this 1640 layer and the layer on the farmsteads of 1700 make it possible to construct another one on the (defensible) stone houses of the Frisian nobility before 1550. Last but not least, a layer containing more than 40,000 toponyms will be linked to the system.

The third part of the program touches upon the population of the inner cities in Fryslan in the period 1700-1850. It aims at opening up all census information and other sorts of government data on individual inhabitants; information that is generally stored in registers ordered according to houses. To realise a match between these and the cadastre of 1832, as the basic layer of the GIS, the parcels have to be linked to the early 19th century house number systems. When this has been done, it will be possible to present all kinds of data on fortunes, religion, descent, diseases etc. in a spatial context. At first, data will be collected for the cities of Bolsward and Leeuwarden.

It is expected that the Frisian research possibilities in social and demographic history will profit enormously from the results of this project.

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