This website presents an example of 'digital archeology'. The project was initially triggered by the apparent mystery of a mythological 17th century Jewish community that had existed in Stühlingen a little German town near the Swiss border and ended with the expulsion of its Jews in 1743. But, unfortunately, no detailed information had ever been published.
This void, impeding the progress of my family history, gave rise to a quest to find out more about the Jews of Stühlingen. After a careful review of the available literature, a research plan was drawn up. Since I live in Canada, trolling German archives for relevant documents did not appear very practical. I, therefore, hired a local researcher – Friedrich Wollmershäuser - to systematically search the State Archive of Baden-Württemberg in Karlsruhe and the Fürstlich-Fürstenbergisches Archive in Donaueschingen for historic records pertaining to the towns of Stühlingen and Tiengen over the period 1550 to 1760 containing any mention of Jews. Steven Guggenheim, a lawyer in Silicon Valley, whose ancestors also must have lived in Stühlingen at one time, subsequently joined me by funding a major portion of the search and giving me full access to the results.
Mr. Wollmershäuser identified each document, abstracted its key features and recorded them in a standardized manner. The early documents were abstracted in German, but when Steve Guggenheim joined the fray, the abstracts had to be in English. The translation at the source may have distorted some content.
In the end we had hundreds of pages containing 4826 distinct abstracted historic records. The task of analyzing this amount of data seemed overwhelming at first. But with the help of modern information science, it was possible to deconstruct the ostensibly meaningless aggregation of archival prose and reassemble it as the picture of a living social network that had existed over 300 years ago. Surely, this process too introduced some additional noise – errors in attribution - that can gradually be identified and resolved.
The website gives users access to both the original presentation of the abstracts, and to their final, configured form. The organized information is interpreted in a book linked with this website at http://Stuehlingen.online/Book.
Although the pursuit may appear trivial to a viewer without interest in the particular subject, yet it provides a fascinating insight into the power of modern information science.