What is the point of all this data?
On a personal level, there are stories here. These records trace the journeys of individuals as they cross the ocean, seek prosperity, find community, and become Americans. Without this data, many of these stories were long gone—last told years ago, if ever they were told.
But what I'm after is the aggregate picture, the patterns and trends in that data, that encapsulate forgotten history.
For example, only by identifying who had lived in Homestead at the time of the famous 1892 strike can I suggest an answer to the #1 question everyone asks me about my research: how were the Jews involved in the strike?
Map (left) and photograph (above) showing the the proximity of Jewish homes and stores to key sites from the 1892 Homestead strike.
While no first-person accounts were passed down about this community's experiences during the strike, this reconstructed map suggests fascinating answers for what they experienced living so close to the headquarters of the strikers and opposite to the state militia's encampment. (It also reveals that many of the famous photographs and drawings of the strike picture Jewish businesses!)
What happened between 1894 and 1902 to double the number of synagogue members? What happened between 1902 and 1910 to double it again? We can already brainstorm the factors, from Homestead's turn-of-the-last-century industrial boom to the Russian pogroms. With a more granular view into this data, can we trace their effects to this little corner of the U.S.?
Here are more questions this dataset can answer once it's in a format where it can be properly queried:
To be clear: These questions are all ones I believe this dataset can answer. And these are the just the questions I can brainstorm at the outset. Imagine what else this data can show once I am able to start working with it. Stay tuned!