Prosopography is the listing of every known person in a particular period of history and a particular geographical location. The list can be compiled from every known source, published histories, family histories and genealogical tables, literary texts inscriptions on monuments and graves the lists include the
Names of individuals who are only identified in dubious texts(i.e History Augusta) are included as well as identifiable people who’s names have been lost ( i.e. daughter of Merobaudes) are included. It is then possible to identify links between different family groups.
This approach has the benefit that when new information comes to light it can be readily added to the list and any previous conclusions readily reviewed.
There are specific projects covering the Roman Principate, and the later Roman Empire, with a declared intention to extend it to the Byzantine Empire. it has been decided to limit the size of the task by only listing those holding official posts or ranks and their immediate families. This decision in itself can lead to some agonising about inclusions and exclusions.
Oxford University now has a unit for prosopographical research and the unit’s general editor Christian Settipani, who has a background in Information Technology is specifically focussing on the emerging evidence that the elite of the roman empire were not entirely replaced during the years of the “Barbarian migrations” or the subsequent formation of independent nations. His computer aided search for continuity of family naming patterns is supporting this theory and is providing much useful information to genealogists.
However the work is not universally accepted and spirited academic argument continues.