Mining archival genealogy databases to gain new insights into broader historical issues

Published date11 November 2019
Date11 November 2019
AuthorKim Abildgren
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Records management & preservation,Information repositories
Mining archival genealogy
databases to gain new insights
into broader historical issues
Kim Abildgren
Department of Economic and Monetary Policy, Danmarks Nationalbank,
Copenhagen, Denmark
Purpose Several genealogicaldatabases are now publicly available on the Web. The information storedin
such databases is not only of interestfor genealogical research but might also be used in broader historical
studies. As a casestudy, this paper aims to explore what a crowdsourced genealogicalonline database can tell
about incomeinequality in Denmark during the First World War.
Design/methodology/approach The analysis is based on 55,000 family-level records on the
payment of local income taxes in a major Danish provincial town (Esbjerg) from a publicly available
database on the website of The Esbjerg City Archives combined with ofcial statistics from Statistics
Findings Denmark saw a sharp increasein income inequality during the First World War. The analysis
shows that the new riches duringthe First World War in a harbour city such as Esbjerg were not goulash
baronsor stock-market speculators but shermen. There were no shermen in the top 1per cent of the
income distribution in 1913. In 1917, more than 37 per cent of the family heads in this part of the income
distributionwere shermen.
Originality/value The paper illustrates how large-scalemicrodata from publicly available genealogical
Web databasesmight be used to gain new insights into broader historical issues.
Keywords Digitization, History, Genealogical Web databases, Digital archives, Tax records,
Income inequality
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Denmark saw a sharp increase in income inequality duringthe First World War (Sørensen,
1990;Atkinson and Søgaard, 2016;Søgaard, 2018a). In anecdotal narratives, the increased
inequality has often been associated with the so-called goulash barons,i.e. manufactures
earning huge prots by selling canned meat of poor quality to the German armed forces.
The term goulash barons has more generallybeen used to describe a nouveaux riches class
of stock-market speculators and businessmenproting from the war (Cohn, 1928;Sørensen,
2014;Bendtsen,2017;Appel, 2018;Søgaard, 2018b).
But who were actually the new riches in Denmark during the First World War? The
article at hand explores what 55,000 family-level records on the payment of local income
The author wishes to thank two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on a preliminary version
of this paper. Views and conclusions expressed in the paper are those of the author and do not
necessarily represent those of Danmarks Nationalbank. The author alone is responsible for any
remaining errors and shortcomings. The research presented did not receive any specic grant from
funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-prot sectors. There are no conicts of interest
to declare.
Received8 July 2019
Revised19 September 2019
Accepted8 October 2019
DigitalLibrary Perspectives
Vol.35 No. 3/4, 2019
pp. 259-270
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/DLP-07-2019-0025
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT