Project Proposal: Albany Muster Roll- 8th Militia

The data set that I will be using for the final project is the Albany Muster Rolls for the 8th Militia. This set includes important numeric and text information of 945 different men were enlisted in this local militia. Organizes by name the categories of collected information include each individual’s enlistment date, age, Militia Company, and trade. Additional information that is particularly interesting to me is the physical descriptions of these Albany men and how they relate to their place of birth. Descriptions include height, complexion, hair color, and eye color.

I believe that this data set can help discuss the construction of race in the mind of the individual that collected the muster roll. My goal is to create a visual representation of the connection between Birth Place and Complexion in order to discuss the construction of race. I will also be attempting to draw a connection between race and trade. I think it would also be interesting to look at the connection that birthplace and complexion may have on which officer they reported to in order to detect any forms of segregation based on ethnicity

There are some challenges in working with the Albany Muster Roll for the 8th Militia in that the labeling of complexion is subjective to the individual that collected the data and the terms that this individual used include: dark, swarthy, fair, brown, Indian, negro, pockpitted, freckled, mulatto, and ruddy. These terms are far from standardized and I will be interested to see if there is a clear connection to their birth origins. Another issue that I cannot ignore is the high levels of men listed as ‘laborers’, which again does not give me a clear idea of their trade. What that does tell me is that there pay be some significant importance of the trades that are specified such as: tailor, carpenter, shoemaker, weaver, butcher, blacksmith, saddler, cord winder, hatter, and others. Through the mindset of a militia these skills have deep value; or at least value to the man collecting the information. As far as the visualizations, it will be a challenge to give a full depiction of these large categories of race, trade, and origin while maintaining the legibility of the visualizations. I think relationship networks may prove useful for this project.

One thought on “Project Proposal: Albany Muster Roll- 8th Militia

  • April 19, 2016 at 2:44 am

    For birthplace vs complexion, you may want to look at doing a symbol map with little pie charts–complexion for color and number of records for angle, which will give you a quick overview of proportions of people from geographic areas with each complexion attribute.

    The networks idea is a great one, and could be very revealing. You’ll need to do a little spreadsheet magic first, though–what you’d do is make a new spreadsheet file, and copy into it your list of names in column A, and your attributes into column B (eg, trades). Then you go to the bottom of the list, copy the same list of names into column A, the next set of attributes (eg, birthplace) into column B, and then repeat. So your spreadsheet looks like:
    Column A Column B
    Source Target
    Name trade
    Name birthplace
    Name complexion
    Name officer

    etc etc, where the list of names gets duplicated every time. You’ll then feed that to gephi or palladio; if in gephi you’ll also need to install this similarity calculator:, which we can walk through quickly in class tomorrow.


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