Grave doubts: Testing the accuracy of late 19th century cemetery data

01st June 2011

India Green

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, October 2010

Cemeteries contain a wealth of knowledge about past and present attitudes towards the deceased and can provide a comprehensive dataset for analysis. Historical cemeteries, in particular, provide an opportunity to examine the prevailing ideologies of the time through comparison and integration with documentary records. Little work has been undertaken on cemetery analysis in Queensland, despite the existence of fairly complete burial records and mortality data for most of the State’s major cemeteries. Previous research in the field has frequently assumed that cemetery and census data are interchangeable and are a representative sample of the entire population. This research tests the validity of cemetery data by comparing it against the available census records. Historical analyses of the Mackay Cemetery and Toowong Cemetery is compared against Queensland census data for the period 1876 to 1901. Statistical analyses were performed using Chi-Square tests to determine the similarity or difference between the two data sources. These analyses confirm that there are no statistically significant differences between the cemetery and the census data. This research demonstrates that researchers can be confident in their use of cemetery data to reconstruct historical populations.

India Green
Grave doubts: Testing the accuracy of late 19th century cemetery data
June 2011
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Thesis Abstracts
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