Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Trevor M Harris

Committee Co-Chair

Kenneth C Martis

Committee Member

Matthew Vester


The challenge to Historical GIS examined in this study is how to enable a system to accommodate sparse, unstructured, and spatially ambiguous data. The goal of this research is to take up this challenge by developing an Historical GIS that allows researchers to gain an understanding of a geography of the past. The study area for this research is the town of St. Vincent in what is now the Italian Alps and the time period is the sixteenth century. Three primary criteria were used in the selection of sixteenth-century St. Vincent as the case study for this research. The first was the availability of a rich, unstructured, and largely untapped set of data. These data are in the form of hand-written ledgers produced in the sixteenth century which include notarial records, birth records, and tax surveys. These ledgers record land holdings, property transactions, marriages, contractual agreements, and various disputes that took place among the inhabitants of the region. The second criteria was a geographical context that could be examined as a setting in which the events described in the source materials were acted out. This information is available in the form of maps of the region that were commissioned by the Italian government in the late nineteenth century. These maps identify towns, place names and land parcels, many of which are recognizable from the earlier texts. Finally, St. Vincent holds questions of interest to historical scholars related to social interaction, land ownership, and familial survival strategies. This work is a study in the incorporation of unstructured historical documents within GIS. Specifically, an investigation into the techniques that facilitate ingesting unformatted information into the highly structured requirements of current computer based information systems.