Homesteading the Plains – Network Analysis

I looked at a project called “Homesteading the Plains” by the University of Nebraska.  The project contains many parts, and one of these parts is an interactive network which the authors of this project made in Gephi.

What (or who) are the nodes and what are the edges?

The nodes in the network represent individual people who had homesteads in one of two counties in Nebraska: Custer County or Dawes County (the counties had separate networks).  One thing I noticed about the people listed was that, based on their names, they all seemed to be men. I think this might have to do with the type of data available about these homesteads — the only members of the homesteads who were recorded in history were probably men, although women might have had a big role in running these homesteads too.  The edges of the network represent homesteaders that “witnessed for” or “were witnessed by” the node homesteader.  The site explains the meaning of witnessing like this:

The General Land Office required homesteaders to print a “proof of posting” in a local newspaper for five consecutive weeks, that signaled their intent to “prove up.” The posting included a legal description of the land and a list of four local community members who could positively testify that the applicant was a bona fide homesteader, thus yielding four known socio-legal connections for each homesteader.

What interactions does the project allow?

The project allows you to click on a specific homesteader to view only their portion of the network.  This wasn’t super helpful to me, but I think it would be helpful to someone researching specific homesteaders.

I think this is a really good use of network analysis, since it appears to me that the era of homesteading in United States history was very dependent upon community relationships.


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