Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reading "Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America"

Hubby surprised me with a gift of this new book, Francois Weil's Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America.

Weil traces the evolution of genealogy in America through several stages. In the early days, colonists wanted to show off their status through kinship connections with nobility in the Old World and a sense of long-standing pedigree.

Another stage concerned the use of genealogical ties to prove ownership of land or inheritance (not unlike the tangled claims in Bleak House, for instance).

As the United States developed its own national identity, certain regions of the country sharpened their own sense of status through lineage. Pride in family history grew as ordinary people began to trace back to ancestors who had fought in the Revolution, for example, or landed at Plymouth Rock.

Chapter 6, "Everybody's search for roots," resonated most strongly with me because I, like many boomers, was moved to ask questions after viewing the Roots miniseries in 1977. For me, genealogy is a way to understand identity and heritage, learn what shaped my family's decisions and directions, and explain the stories and connections that bring the facts and dates to life.

I recommend this as a history book--a history of genealogy, not a "how to" or a "who's who." And if you like history, you'll like this book. 

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