The Wicked Findings of the Witchfinder General – Putting Scotland’s accused witches on the map with linked open data

Emma Carroll next to a computer, smiling
credit
Pic by Emma Carroll, CC-BY-SA
Witchfinder General Blog

A new website has been launched visualising the data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database (1563 to 1736).

From June to September 2019, Equate Scotland student intern, Emma Carroll, has been working with Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, on a project that aimed to geolocate and visualise the different locations recorded within the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database (1563 to 1736).

The bulk of the Data & Visualisation (or ‘Witchfinder General’) internship was to find the places of residence recorded for the 3,141 accused witches in Scotland. There were 822 different place-names and from these around 500 place-names needed to be geolocated. Through Emma’s detective work these place-names have now been found using a variety of different sources, mainly: Ordnance Survey 1890-1913 maps, place-name books, historical maps, gazetteers and more. 

The data was then uploaded into Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, as linked open data using the open source software Open Refine has now been further enriched with place of detention, place of trial, place of death information and much much more. It can now be directly queried for using the Wikidata Query Service and geographically projected onto a map using Leaflet or downloaded into a CSV file and uploaded onto ArcGIS Online.

The website features these different visualisations, including timelines and choropleth maps.