Alexander Don’s ‘Roll’ of the Chinese


  Don and the Roll

  Reshaping the Data

  Romanisation of
  Chinese Characters

  Search the roll


Alexander Don's ‘Roll of Chinese', pp. 90-91. Reproduced from James Ng, Windows on a Chinese Past , volume 4, Otago Heritage Books, Dunedin, pp. 94-5.

Reshaping the Data

In order to turn the Roll into a searchable database, we had to process the information it contained in such a way as to make it easy to use.   Firstly, the details about people and place contained in the Roll were transcribed into spreadsheet form, to replicate the layout and organization in the original source.   The information from the spreadsheet was then divided up and reorganized for analysis using database software. The atemporal personal details for each person were stored in a database table containing people details.   These details included name, age, years from China, times returned to China, years at school, year of initial entry, district of origin in China, nearest market town to home village, and home village.

All of the places mentioned in the Roll were organized into 357 separate places and these places were characterized using a four-part classification of Country, Region, City or Town, and Local.   For example, the Dunedin suburb Anderson's Bay was classified as New Zealand—Otago or Southland—Dunedin—Anderson's Bay. This classification enables events within the Roll to be analyzed at different geographic levels.   Finally, computer scripting was used to reorganize the details of events in the Roll into a common form of Person—Year—Location—Activity.   This reflected the nature of Don's records, which were primarily details of a particular person doing something in a particular place at a specific point in time.