Real world datasets – the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

Data Science for Design MSc students worked on a project to import the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata. This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It had as its aim to collect, collate and record all known information about accused witches and witchcraft belief in early modern Scotland (from 1563 to 1736) in a Microsoft Access database and to create a web-based user interface for the database.

Since 2003, the data has remained static in the Access database and so students at the 2017/2018 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data were exported into Wikidata, given multilingual labels and linked to other datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved? Through modelling the data and mass uploading via QuickStatements, we were able to add verifiable data to Wikidata referenced back to the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.

We now have 3219 items of data on the accused witches in Wikidata (Spanning 1563 to 1736). We also now have data on 2356 individuals involved in trying these accused witches. Finally we have 3210 witch trials themselves. This means we can link and enrich the data further by adding location data, dates, occupations, places of residence, social class, marriages, and penalties arising from the trial.

  1. SPARQL query – the accused witches.
  2. SPARQL query – the witch trials.
  3. SPARQL query – people associated with the witch trials.

Data visualisation videos produced by students:

There is still MUCH more to be added so if time allows we may be able to add more data to Wikidata such as:

  • Linking the trials to the accused witches through the defendant (P1591) property. Done!
  • Adding in the social class of the accused witches. Done!
  • Adding in the occupations of the accused witches. Done!
  • Adding penalties arising from the trials.
  • Adding cause of death for the accused witches.
  • Adding manner of death for the accused witches.
  • Adding in the places of residence of the accused witches.

Creating dynamic Wikidata lists on a Wikipedia subpage.

  1. Listeria list of the accused witches.
  2. Listeria list of Scottish Witch Trials.
  3. Listeria list of people associated with the witch trials.

Copy this code below and click to go to Wikipedia:

// [[User:Dr pda/prosesize]]
importScriptURI(‘//en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User%3ADr_pda%2Fprosesize.js&action=raw&ctype=text/javascript’);

// [[User:Caorongjin/wordcount]]
importScriptURI(‘//en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User%3ACaorongjin%2Fwordcount.js&action=raw&ctype=text/javascript’);

// Magnus Manske – Listeria bot
importScriptURI(“//www.wikidata.org/w/index.php?title=User:Magnus_Manske/wd_edit.js&action=raw&ctype=text/javascript”);

//Aude – Nearby.js
mw.loader.using([], function() {
importStylesheet(‘User:Aude/nearby.css’);
importScript(‘User:Aude/nearby.js’);
});

First things first, we need to switch on a couple of extra gadgets.

  1. Type User:YOURUSERNAME/common.js in the Wikipedia search bar.
  2. Paste the code above into the new page.
  3. Type created new page in the Edit Summary box.
  4. Click Publish Page.

Once the page is saved we should be able to add location data to the accused witches above.

Adding penalty information to items about the Scottish witch trials.

  1. Go to the Google spreadsheet for the penalty information for the Scottish witch trials.
  2. You will each be allocated 3 penalties to add to the table.
  3. Copy the Trial ID from the sheet. e.g. T/JO/1
  4. Go to the Scottish Witch Trials table.
  5. Ctrl + F to search for the Trial ID in this table (if that doesn’t work then search in the Trial tab on Google sheets)
  6. Go to the column for Penalty on the table for Scottish Witch Trials. Click add using the WdEdit feature.
  7. Type in the type of punishment the accused witch received. Hit ok to save.
  8. Click on wd to access the Wikidata item using WdEdit. OR you can click on the Wikidata link in the first column.
  9. Click on link to Survey of Scottish Witchcraft entry from the Wikidata page.
  10. This link can be used as a reference but there will also be more information about manner and cause of death.

Adding manner & cause of death information to items about accused Scottish witches.

  1. Copy the Trial entry’s url on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft and click back to the Trial item on Wikidata.
  2. This will have a defendant statement. Click on the accused witch’s name.
  3. Once on the Wikidata item for the accused witch, click to add statement.
  4. Type manner of death (P1196)  and a value of capital punishment (Q8454).
  5. Add a reference with by clicking add reference.
  6. Type reference url (P854) and paste in the link to the Trial entry on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.
  7. Click add statement and type cause of death (P509).
  8. Add a value according to how they were executed: hanging, death by burning, decapitation, strangling.
  9. Add a reference with by clicking add reference.
  10. Type reference url (P854) and paste in the link to the Trial entry on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.

Adding location information to items about accused Scottish witches.

  1. Click on the accused witches page.
  2. Work on the given names you have been allocated only.
  3. Click on the accused witches name to view their page on Wikidata. e.g. Robert Baxter
  4. Click on the link to the Survey of the Scottish Witchcraft at the bottom of the Wikidata page. e.g. A/EGD/523
  5. Find out if residence of the accused witch is mentioned.
  6. Return to the Wikidata page and click the + add statement symbol to add a new statement at the bottom of the other statements.
  7. Type residence in the property field and the location you have  just uncovered in the value field. Hit publish.
  8. Click + add reference and type reference URL for the property field and paste in the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft url address in the value field. Hit publish.

Extra activity.

1. Repeat this with the locations of the witch trials. (Important use the Property ‘location P276’).

2. Repeat this with the places of residence (P551) of the people associated with the witch trials.

Quickstatements tool – adding mass edits to Wikidata

  1. Link to Google sheets with batches ready for import. (you will be allocated a batch to work with)
  2. Link to Quickstatements tool.  (you need to log in to use the Quickstatements tool).
  3. Link to Quickstatements help page.

The results

  1. Map of places of residence of the accused witches.
  2. Map of locations the trials took place.
  3. Map of places of residence of the people associated with the Scottish Witch trials.
  4. Bubble chart of occupations of the accused witches.
  5. Bubble chart of manner of death of the accused witches.
  6. Bubble chart of cause of death of the accused witches.
  7. Bubble chart of gender of the accused witches.
  8. Bubble chart of social class of the accused witches.
  9. Bubble chart of penalties arising from the witch trials.

The hope is that this project will help shed new light on a little understood period of Scottish history. This, in turn, may help fuel discoveries by dint of surfacing this data on a multilingual open platform and linking it with other related datasets across the UK, across Europe and beyond. As the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft’s website states itself Our list of people involved in the prosecution of witchcraft suspects can now be used as the basis for further inquiry and research.“

The power of linked open data to share knowledge between different institutions, between geographically and culturally separated societies, and between languages is a beautiful thing. Here’s to many more Wikidata in the Classroom assignments.