Help: PASE Database

The web interface for the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England database is designed to allow both exploratory browsing of the contents and directed searching within it.


The screen is divided into three sections. From left to right these are:

Search Column

The leftmost column is the Search Column. Clicking on the controls here allows the user to select which records he or she wishes to view by applying a filter to the contents of the database: only those records that match the criteria set by the user are displayed.

Value Selectors

The most important controls in the Search Column are the Value Selectors, labelled Contains Text, Persons, Source, Possession, Location, Event, and Date when the page is first loaded.

The purpose of the Value Selectors is to allow users to select the entities they are interested in for display in the Results List. For instance, if a researcher is only interested in persons mentioned in the works of Bede, he or she would, in person view, click the Source control to open it and then select Bede from the list that appears. The Results List would then display the name and identifier of every person mentioned by Bede.

It is also possible to use the selectors to combine these values. If the user were interested in particular in the late seventh century, he or she could then select Date -> l vii, and the Results List would update itself to display only those persons who are both mentioned in Bede's writings and known to be alive during that time.

The numbers that follow each value indicate the number of results that would be returned if the value were selected. Note also that the interface automatically eliminates all values that would produce no results. For instance, once Bede has been selected, the user is no longer offered the choice of selecting the early eleventh century under Date, as Bede died in 735 and thus does not record events after that year.

Value Selector Controls

The most important interactions with the Value Selectors are simple clicks: users open selectors and select values within them by clicking. Depending on the nature of the selector, however, the user may be presented with additional controls.

Expand: Many selectors are organised hierarchically. In such cases clicking on the Expand button will reveal the next level down in the hierarchy.

Letter Picker: In selectors in which values are ordered alphabetically, clicking a letter in the Letter Picker allows the user to jump to the selected point in the value list.

Text Search Box: Users with targeted searches in mind can enter text into the text search box, which is located immediately below the Letter Picker.

Clicking 'Go' then causes all values associated with the selector and that match the text to be displayed in a list below the search box.

All text searches are implicitly followed by a '*' wildcard character – so that searching for 'Ulf' under name brings up not only 'Ulf', but also 'Ulfr', 'Ulfcetel', 'Ulfcytel', 'Ulfgrimr', and 'Ulfkil'.

Note that although the Contains Text text search box appears in many ways similar to the search boxes associated with Letter Pickers, its behaviour – described below under the Contains Text header – is slightly different.

The Search Column: Other Controls

In addition to the Value Selectors, the Search Column contains two further sets of controls.

Persons/Factoid Selector: The PASE database interface can display information about two kinds of entities: persons (historical individuals) and 'factoids' (assertions made in our sources concerning these individuals).

Using this control, users can switch between these two search targets.

Coin/Domesday Filters: The PASE database holds a great deal of information drawn from Domesday Book and from numismatic sources. Valuable though such sources are to historians, much of the data they hold does no more than testify to the bare existence of a witness or moneyer. Such lists of otherwise-unknown persons can easily 'swamp' meaningful results. Checking or unchecking these boxes thus allows the user to include or exclude these sources from the search.

The Search Column: What the Categories Mean

The category labels supplied for the Value Selectors are intended as far as possible to be self-explanatory. The complexity of the time period and of our sources, however, means that this goal has by no means always been achieved.

Contains Text Contains Text is unlike all the other Value Selectors. Rather than allowing users to select one value from a range of options, it presents them with a text input control. Entering text and then clicking on 'Go' then causes a search for all records containing the search term(s) across the entire database.

Note that, unlike the other text search boxes available within PASE, the Contains Text search does not automatically append a wildcard “*” character to the text string. A search for 'king', for example, will not return records containing references to 'kings'. To retrieve these a separate search for the full string will have to be performed.

Persons This category contains all terms that directly characterise persons. It is subdivided into the following categories:

Results List

The Results List summarises and displays the results of searches conducted in the Search Column. It consists of two parts.

The Criteria List This box at the head of the column summarises the criteria already selected in the Search Column, and that therefore characterise the results shown in the Results Display.

Note that each criterion has a small close button on the right hand side, allowing the user to remove it from the list. In addition, if one or more criteria have been set, a Reset Constraints button will appear, allowing the user to remove all constraints simultaneously.

The Results Display This displays all the persons or factoids who match the terms given in the Criteria List. Entries in the Results Display will typically consist of an identifier, e.g. 'Alfred 8', 'Event (Edward 15)', followed by a brief description. Clicking on the identifier will cause the full record associated with it to be shown in the Record Display.

Record Display

This panel displays the complete record associated with a person or individual in the database. This record will typically consist of a short piece of summary text followed by a list of factoids associated with the record and categorised by type. These factoid categories are hierarchical, and can be expanded to list subcategories and the individual factoids they contain.

Often these factoids will themselves contain clickable links to other factoid or person records.

In order to aid display and navigation, the Record Display offers users the following controls:

Open All: Clicking this link opens all factoid categories to display all factoids.

Order by Source: Clicking this link rearranges the factoid hierarchy, grouping at the top level by source rather than category.

Go back: This allows the user to return to previously viewed records within the Record Display. It behaves exactly like the 'Back' button in a web browser, but affects only the Record Display, not the entire page.

Sample Searches

The following sample searches illustrate the features of, and different approaches to using, the PASE database interface.

1. Find all factoids relating to King Alfred.

The simplest approach here is probably to search by name. To do so, open the Persons -> Name Value Selector.

Select 'Alfred'. The Results List now lists the 97 persons named 'Alfred' held in the database.

Alfred the Great is listed as 'Alfred 8' in the Results List. Clicking this header causes his record to appear in the Record Display.

Clicking 'Open All' causes all factoid categories in the record to be expanded.

Right-clicking on this expanded list causes a context menu to appear. The list may then be printed by selecting 'Print Frame' from this menu.

2. Browse for the document whose image forms the right-hand corner of the PASE banner.

If you look closely, you can see that the fourth line of the PASE banner on the right-hand side begins 'Ego Eadgifu ...' ('I, Eadgifu ...'). To find out who she was, select Persons -> Office -> Queen in the Search Column.

This gives you an alphabetical list of all the persons asserted to have held the office of 'Queen' in the PASE database. Eadgifu is listed thirty-third, on the second page of the Results List.

Selecting 'Eadgifu 4' and then clicking 'Open All' reveals a list of sources, many of which are charters.

Charter S497 (under Recorded Name -> Eadgifu) is the charter pictured in the banner. Clicking on the link reveals more detail about the charter itself.

3. Find all persons described as a 'teacher' in the early ninth century.

Open Persons -> Occupation and click on 'T'. This produces a list of all occupations in the database that begin with that letter.

Select 'Teacher'. This yields a list of all 89 persons described as a teacher in the database.

Open the Date selector.

Select 'e ix'. This selection narrows the list to the 8 people known to be teachers between 800 - 832.

4. Find all factoids containing the text 'teach' and for which our source is the scholar Alcuin.

First, switch the View from Persons to Factoids.

Open the Contains Text selector, enter ''teach'' into the input box, and click the 'Go' button.

This will populate the result list with all factoids in the database that contain the word 'teach'.

Next, open Source.

Select 'Alcuin'. The Results List now displays only those factoids which both contain the word 'teach'and that have Alcuin as their source.

5. Find all factoids concerning the relationship of 'motherhood'.

Select the Factoid view, and then open Persons -> Relationship -.> Consanguineal Relationship.

Select 'Mother'. This produces a list of 240 factoids that record a person as being a mother.

6. Exploring the Possession selector.

Select the Factoid view, open the Possession selector, and click 'S' in the Letter Picker. This yields a list with four values: 'saltwork', 'ships', 'silver', and 'sword'.

Selecting 'sword' lists all factoids recording the possession of swords.

Alternatively, opening 'swords' displays a sub-list of all the individual kinds of swords listed in the database.

Note that is possible to traverse Possession values by text search. To jump to 'books', one could enter 'books' into the search box, and click 'Go'.

Opening 'books' would then reveal the books recorded in the database.

7. Explore a region of England.

Select the Factoid view. Then open the Location -> Region selector, click 'S', and select 'Somerset'. The resulting list displays all the information the database holds about Somerset.

To narrow the search to a specific location within Somerset, open Location -> Specific Location. Only locations within Somerset will now be displayed.

Selecting any of these (e.g., 'Wedmore') will then narrow the Result List to those factoids associated with this specific location.

8. Find all incidents of hanging.

In Factoid view, open Events -> Legal/governmental/administrative acts and legitimate use of violence -> Legitimate use of violence.

Select 'hanging'.

9. Find all kings involved in acts of grant and gift.

In Person view, select Person -> Office -> King. Then open Events -> Legal/governmental/administrative acts and legitimate use of violence -> Legal/governmental/administrative acts.

Select 'Grant and Gift'.

10. Find details concerning the Alfred the Great's journey to Egbert's Stone at Selwood, as recorded in Asser's Life of Alfred.

The search design of the PASE interface means there will often be several navigational routes to the same information. For instance, to find the reference to Alfred's journey to Egbert's Stone recorded in Asser's Vita Alfredi, one might use a variety of search strategies. For instance:

a. Select Factoid view. Then select Persons -> Name -> 'Alfred', Location -> Specific Location -> 'Selwood', and Source -> Asser -> 'Asser.Vit.Alfredi'.
The range of options has now been narrowed considerably. To complete the search, select Event -> Life-events/social and economic acts and relations -> Journey to reduce the Result List to a single factoid.

b. Alternatively, an expert user might simply perform a text search for 'Ecgbrihtesstan', Asser's way of denoting 'Egbert's Stone'.

This will produce results identical to the search path taken in (a).