Demography and Environment in Grassland Settlement (Kansas) Project

1860 - 1940

This interdisciplinary research project, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, includes ecologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and historians at four campuses.  Led by Dr. Ken Sylvester, the project began in 2003 at the University of Michigan as major expansion of the Great Plains Population and Environment Project.  Collaborators are housed at the University of Saskatchewan’s Historical GIS Lab, Colorado State University’s Natural Resources Ecology Lab, SUNY-Albany’s Department of Sociology, and elsewhere.

This project created a database built around manuscript censuses of population and agriculture conducted by the state of Kansas between 1860 and 1940.  The resulting database includes records of all families and farms in 25 sample townships, distributed across the state and captured at 10 time points over 80 years.  Families in the population census are linked to farms in the agricultural census, then linked across time, allowing complex analysis of changing demography and land use during the pioneer settlement of the central grasslands.  The database includes 30,000 farm observations and records of 175,000 individuals.

For a detailed description of the projects methodology see Kenneth M. Sylvester, Susan Hautaniemi Leonard, Myron P. Gutmann, and Geoff Cunfer, “Demography and Environment in Grassland Settlement:  Using Linked Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Data to Explore Household and Agricultural Systems,” History and Computing 14 (2006), 31-60.

The project has recently received a second round of funding to extend the data sample from 1940-1980.