Family Trees: A History Of Genealogy

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People study history because they wish to strengthen human connections. The same can be drawn about the pursuit of genealogy. Whether it be connections to nobility, to a specific ethnic group or a specific event in history, there are diverse motivations to study genealogy According to Francois Weil, “Genealogy provides a powerful lens to understand personal and collective identities.” In essence Weil’s Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America is a study of American identity over a span of four centuries through a discussion of genealogy and family history.
In efforts to examine how genealogy evolved into its modern manifestation, Weil’s, Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America is a “genealogy of genealogy.” Family Trees is a …show more content…

In the colonial era, family trees were fashioned as a form of elitism.There was an innate desire to connect the Old England with the New England. Ultimately their goal was to monarchical or noble ties to one’s pedigree. This would elevate an individual’s social status, as well as his or her immediate family. Crude methods of genealogy in this period implemented heraldic devices such as cemetery art as well as coats of arms. Many of these devices were found to be blatantly inaccurate.
From the birth of a new republic up to the early 1860s brought a new wave of genealogical study. Republican ideas of the dynastic revolutionaries came about, which presented similar problems to that of the elitist attitudes of the previous period. People wanted to affix themselves to revolutionary figures like George Washington or Benjamin Franklin just like European nobility. Problems also arose due to the lack of archival resources in America at the time Many of these people were of European origin created a barrier between the individual and the genealogical information he or she sought. Furthermore, key information was often housed in European capitols, and therefore unattainable for …show more content…

Issues of slavery in the and white supremacy in the United States brought about the desire for “racial purity.” The belief was that the highest ethnic achievement was the claiming of Anglo-Saxon origin. Feelings of nativism and nationalism gave way to the rise and fall of scientific whiteness and contributed heavily to the motivation as to why people studied their family trees.
Conversely, the most recent period of genealogical study has embraced a more inclusive agenda. A renewing of history from the bottom up has taken hold and influenced modern American genealogical studies. Furthermore, the field has become increasingly commercialized. Moreover, modern influences in the field led to the popularization of websites such as and “novelized histories” like the television series Roots. These mechanisms bring once neglected people groups to the

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