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Eldorado

Why are Americans obsessed with geneology?

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Eldorado

America has become a nation obsessed with genealogy. The mere existence of so many genealogical materials digitized, indexed, and searchable online, and our communal drive to find them, comes from a suite of personal and cultural motivations, as well as a complex history around the search for lineage.

In his 2013 history of American genealogy, Family Trees, historian François Weil traces how the American impulse toward genealogy has often been in tension with itself.

In the early days of the new American republic, Weil writes, the idea of establishing one’s family line was associated with the British aristocracy’s obsession with social rank, and viewed with suspicion by a society that saw itself as more egalitarian and forward-looking.

Why would one be driven to document one’s ancestors, if not to prove some connection to better birth and station?

Full article at the Lit Hub: Link

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Manwon Lender
1 hour ago, Eldorado said:

America has become a nation obsessed with genealogy. The mere existence of so many genealogical materials digitized, indexed, and searchable online, and our communal drive to find them, comes from a suite of personal and cultural motivations, as well as a complex history around the search for lineage.

In his 2013 history of American genealogy, Family Trees, historian François Weil traces how the American impulse toward genealogy has often been in tension with itself.

In the early days of the new American republic, Weil writes, the idea of establishing one’s family line was associated with the British aristocracy’s obsession with social rank, and viewed with suspicion by a society that saw itself as more egalitarian and forward-looking.

Why would one be driven to document one’s ancestors, if not to prove some connection to better birth and station?

Full article at the Lit Hub: Link

Some want to forget their past!:unsure:

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Ted E Hughes

I have always been a bit puzzled with some Americans dislike of immigrants. If all immigrants were banished from the US, it would be left with a few thousands of Native Americans.

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Manwon Lender
55 minutes ago, ted hughes said:

I have always been a bit puzzled with some Americans dislike of immigrants. If all immigrants were banished from the US, it would be left with a few thousands of Native Americans.

I have no problem with immigrants, hell, I am the first born American of immigrants. But, the part about the Native Americans, those first European Visitors committed Genocide against those Native Americans. I know you were not thinking along those lines and didn't mean it that way but that is a terrible part of American history.

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Ted E Hughes
9 minutes ago, Manwon Lender said:

I have no problem with immigrants, hell, I am the first born American of immigrants. But, the part about the Native Americans, those first European Visitors committed Genocide against those Native Americans. I know you were not thinking along those lines and didn't mean it that way but that is a terrible part of American history.

Manifest Destiny.

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Autochthon1990
1 hour ago, ted hughes said:

I have always been a bit puzzled with some Americans dislike of immigrants. If all immigrants were banished from the US, it would be left with a few thousands of Native Americans.

Yes but you see there's a key difference between the NOBLE PAST IMMIGRANTS TAMING THE FRONTIER and the modern smelly sort of immigrants who do drugs...

 

Namely the first category was mostly white except for the ones who where brought here unwillingly. But honestly every new generation of immigrants has been shat on to an extent by the ones who've been here for a generation or so, just ask any Bostonian who's Irish relatives came here during the potato famine and yet won't shut up about Mexicans taking his jobs. 

 

Has for why we enjoy Genealogy, yes some of it is motivated to prove racial purity...but despite my frequent grousing about it, it's not even close to mostly that, it's a small percentage.

Over here the Mormon church makes it a big deal because of family ties to founding church members being important, and trying to find evidence of the book of Mormon's version of history, the Jewish community takes it seriously since "Jewish" status is matrilineal and there was a...bit of a thing in the forties that meant having to start from scratch on genealogy records. And honestly some people are just HUGE history buffs, my mother was one of them and spent a significant amount of time on a family tree going back to the 1700s. She also found out I'm about 1/64th Cherokee, which is good for exactly nothing other then 'annoying the p*** out of proper Amerindians by pointing out you're 1/64th Cherokee' and 'a half hour of my sister explaining to my very white brother why running around doing a whooping war cry will result in his ass being kicked'

Throw in people wanting to find out what their ancestors did during major world events, like if they had something to do with colonial foundings, to being on the Lewis and Clark expedition, to if they where a slave or not, to if they might need to watch out for genetic illnesses, and there's a rich, robust curiosity about the past out here. And it makes sense, our past and history are considered something very important over here. The pioneer days are a HUGE part of our overall culture, nearly has much as the frontier is. Which is also a big part of why people are mad about curriculum updates but that's another thread entirely. 

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Piney
3 hours ago, Eldorado said:

Why would one be driven to document one’s ancestors, if not to prove some connection to better birth and station?

 

Exactly!

  Being a member of the old line Quaker gentry and picked to replace the former historian and genealogist as a teen,  it was jammed down my throat from the beginning. Most Quaker Jowetts could recite their ancestry back to John, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then there are actual huge Haines, and Lippincott family history books.  Prior to all the websites people were driving me nuts looking for their Delaware Valley Quaker ancestor. Now they just want to know the location of things. 

I don't see myself as above those folks though. I'm still the b****** son of the Alloway Lenape help. :lol:

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Manwon Lender
Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, Piney said:

Exactly!

  Being a member of the old line Quaker gentry and picked to replace the former historian and genealogist as a teen,  it was jammed down my throat from the beginning. Most Quaker Jowetts could recite their ancestry back to John, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then there are actual huge Haines, and Lippincott family history books.  Prior to all the websites people were driving me nuts looking for their Delaware Valley Quaker ancestor. Now they just want to know the location of things. 

I don't see myself as above those folks though. I'm still the b****** son of the Alloway Lenape help. :lol:

My situation is a little different, my mother and father immigrated from Germany in the Early 1950s. After the surrender of the Third Reich, my father worked for the US Government in the US Occupation Zone. During the war he worked in the German Special Science division, and he continued doing the same work for the US Government. In the early 1950s he was given immigrant Visas for him and my mother to immigrate to the US where he continued to work for the US Government. I was born in St. Louis in 1959, because he had been assigned to work with McDonald Douglas Aircraft Co whose Headquarters where located in St. Louis. 

My past has haunted me even during my Military Career, where it took twice as long to get the proper security clearances for my position. Like I said above some immigrants want to forget their past and just move on, because even when your past isn't negative it can cause you headaches throughout your entire life.

Edited by Manwon Lender
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eight bits

American genealogy is a diverse place, with different people interested for different reasons.

A major player is the LDS who have amassed an enormous collection of records, and largely made these available to non-adherents. I am told this reflects their religious belief that the unit of salvation os the family. Regardless, it is an amazing resource, widely shared.

I will confess that in my own family, there is some interest in the "better station" stuff - notably a family "oral history" (and false) link to a famous author and an enduring fascination among some of my cousins that one of those Norman castles that still stand in Ireland might be our very own. No, but we did have a very nice farm in Cork (probably payment for a few ancestors serving in the armies of William of Orange ... which is kinda cool - and holding onto that farm over the centuries wasn't easy)..

However, there is also the practical side: second citizenship. Irish regualtions are fairly easy to navigate, but I've also helped out friends with Italian and taken a stab at Canadian. The only time I was paid for geneaology was for helping to settle an estate (documenting due diligence that there were probably no Swedish cousins who were left out of the proceedings).

Although "heritage organizations" aren't what they used to be, I'm told there's still some interest in locating an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower, or fought on one or the other side in the Revolution or Civil War. If you document the chain, you get to join. Apparently, there is an association of descendants of the Salem witch defendants. I have a friend who qualifies via descent from Rebecca Nurse.

So - with so many reasons to do it, and so many resources so readily available these days ... how could it not be a thing?

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acute
Posted (edited)
Quote

Why are Americans obsessed with genealogy?

*fixed*

 

You're welcome. :tu:

 

Edited by acute
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Desertrat56
Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Susanc241 said:

From my own experience (I am not American but don’t see why the obsession is theirs alone) it is powered by an interest in history and an even greater interest in who my ancestors were and how and where they lived their lives.  To put flesh on the bones, as it were.  My family tree is full of poor people who worked the land (ag labs) or toiled at other sorts of work - metal workers, cloth weavers and so on.  My search was never to find someone famous or rich or with a title.  Never even crossed my mind when I started out.  For me the fun is in the chase, the search, and getting results I can be sure are as accurate as the records allow.

For me it is about clarify some of the stories.   Growing up my dad always made reference to being Irish, but relating that to his dad's family coming from the Isle of Man, then doing geneological research in the 80's he found that his dad's family were Scottish and the Isle of Man is not Irish.  :P   He did have Irish ancestors from his mother's side and german ancestors from his dad's mother.   But then looking at the DNA chart there is no German showing up, it is Scandinian.  I think the stories of being Irish from my dad's paternal grandfather must have been because when he immigrated he got a job working in a mine that was run by Irish.  it is another story I heard that I have not verified that immigrants wanting to work in that mine had to have some connection to Ireland.   It might just be a myth.   We grew up with more German phrases that my dad was taught as a child than any gaelic, and even more Navajo because of my dad's job and his obsession with them.   Most of us in the U.S. don't know where our ancestor came from so yes, we are obsessed.  Most of us don't care about being related to famous or aristocratic families, we just want to know our family story. 

Edited by Desertrat56
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Desertrat56
Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, ted hughes said:

I have always been a bit puzzled with some Americans dislike of immigrants. If all immigrants were banished from the US, it would be left with a few thousands of Native Americans.

Yeah, the natives are the only ones who rationally should hate immigrants.

"What is your last name, Niederman? If you want all the africans to get back on the boat to Africa are you going to go back to Germany where your ancestors came from?"  Phil Donahue 1980 something.   

Edited by Desertrat56
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Hammerclaw
Posted (edited)

A lot of white Americans became curious about their ancestry because of the book and miniseries, ROOTS. Hitherto content to be plain old "Muricans" they became keenly aware of all the hyphenated Americans strutting around, loudly proclaiming their ethnic origins as badges of honor. Feeling left out and underrepresented, they went off in search of their own. 

Edited by Hammerclaw
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godnodog
Posted (edited)

Perhaps they are looking to have something to be victimized of....

 

Just kidding, I am from Portugal and yet I am pretty sure I have either asian or north african ancestors from my mother's mother side, and western central europe from my mother's father side. From my father side all of them look like portuguese rednecks :D

Edited by godnodog
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spartan max2

It's because we are all such mutts. 

 

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spartan max2
55 minutes ago, Desertrat56 said:

For me it is about clarify some of the stories.   Growing up my dad always made reference to being Irish, but relating that to his dad's family coming from the Isle of Man, then doing geneological research in the 80's he found that his dad's family were Scottish and the Isle of Man is not Irish.  :P   He did have Irish ancestors from his mother's side and german ancestors from his dad's mother.   But then looking at the DNA chart there is no German showing up, it is Scandinian.  I think the stories of being Irish from my dad's paternal grandfather must have been because when he immigrated he got a job working in a mine that was run by Irish.  it is another story I heard that I have not verified that immigrants wanting to work in that mine had to have some connection to Ireland.   It might just be a myth.   We grew up with more German phrases that my dad was taught as a child than any gaelic, and even more Navajo because of my dad's job and his obsession with them.   Most of us in the U.S. don't know where our ancestor came from so yes, we are obsessed.  Most of us don't care about being related to famous or aristocratic families, we just want to know our family story. 

Same.

My mom always claimed her dad was a gentlemen who worked at the Turkish embassy in the US and then dipped out after he knocked her mom up.

I did one of those heritage DNA test once and lo and behold, I do have a suspicious amount of lineage from that area :whistle:

 

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spud the mackem

Why do American Presidents tend to think that they have Irish ancestry , Trump is not an Irish name and neither is Biden or Carter , Yes to Kennedy and Reagan , My name first appeared in English records in 1379 , before that it was probably Anglo/Saxon with a bit of Viking thrown in , one of my ancestors was a good friend of George Washington ,  and became the first Governor of an American state ,the rest were probably slaves to some English Lord , but who cares its the present that counts , not what mischief my ancestors got into. 

 

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Desertrat56
2 minutes ago, spud the mackem said:

Why do American Presidents tend to think that they have Irish ancestry , Trump is not an Irish name and neither is Biden or Carter , Yes to Kennedy and Reagan , My name first appeared in English records in 1379 , before that it was probably Anglo/Saxon with a bit of Viking thrown in , one of my ancestors was a good friend of George Washington ,  and became the first Governor of an American state ,the rest were probably slaves to some English Lord , but who cares its the present that counts , not what mischief my ancestors got into. 

 

When did Trump, Biden or Carter ever claim Irish ancestry?

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acute
Posted (edited)

@Desertrat56

President Biden is very proud of his Irish roots, and mentions it a lot.

https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/1020/1172761-joe-biden-ancestor-edward-blewitt-mayo-ireland-great-famine/

Trump has Scottish and German ancestors.

Carter, English.

 

Edited by acute
More info.
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Desertrat56
1 hour ago, acute said:

@Desertrat56

President Biden is very proud of his Irish roots, and mentions it a lot.

https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/1020/1172761-joe-biden-ancestor-edward-blewitt-mayo-ireland-great-famine/

Trump has Scottish and German ancestors.

Carter, English.

 

OK.  I never paid attention to that.   So I knew Trump had German ancestors but why did @spud the mackem claim he pretended to be Irish?  Same for Carter.   That is why I asked the question and I hope he can answer it or admit that he was making stuff up.  Most of us pink/beige people in the U.S. have no clue where our ancestors came from, partly because our grandparents didn't talk about it and partly because our parents didn't care.   I think it is probably true for a lot of dark brown people who only know that most of their ancestors came from somewhere in Africa, which is a huge continent.

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Hammerclaw
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, spud the mackem said:

Why do American Presidents tend to think that they have Irish ancestry , Trump is not an Irish name and neither is Biden or Carter , Yes to Kennedy and Reagan , My name first appeared in English records in 1379 , before that it was probably Anglo/Saxon with a bit of Viking thrown in , one of my ancestors was a good friend of George Washington ,  and became the first Governor of an American state ,the rest were probably slaves to some English Lord , but who cares its the present that counts , not what mischief my ancestors got into. 

 

The Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600s, while primarily Lowland Scots Presbyterians, was also added to by lawless Borderers of both English and Scot descent as well as other Protestants from England and Europe. The culture was overwhelmingly Scots. When the Ulster Scots immigrated en masse in the early 1700s to America there had been intermarriages between them and native Irish. In fact, the Ulster Scots were called 'Irish' by Americans, because that's from whence they came.

Edited by Hammerclaw
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XenoFish
5 hours ago, spartan max2 said:

It's because we are all such mutts. 

 

Pretty much. We're also one big dysfunctional family.

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Likely Guy
4 hours ago, spud the mackem said:

... but who cares its the present that counts , not what mischief my ancestors got into. 

 

I found out my grandfather spent a few months in prison for cattle rustling, my great uncle for bootlegging and my great grandfather for perjury.

I think it's kinda neat! :)

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HerNibs
11 hours ago, eight bits said:

American genealogy is a diverse place, with different people interested for different reasons.

A major player is the LDS who have amassed an enormous collection of records, and largely made these available to non-adherents. I am told this reflects their religious belief that the unit of salvation os the family. Regardless, it is an amazing resource, widely shared.

I will confess that in my own family, there is some interest in the "better station" stuff - notably a family "oral history" (and false) link to a famous author and an enduring fascination among some of my cousins that one of those Norman castles that still stand in Ireland might be our very own. No, but we did have a very nice farm in Cork (probably payment for a few ancestors serving in the armies of William of Orange ... which is kinda cool - and holding onto that farm over the centuries wasn't easy)..

However, there is also the practical side: second citizenship. Irish regualtions are fairly easy to navigate, but I've also helped out friends with Italian and taken a stab at Canadian. The only time I was paid for geneaology was for helping to settle an estate (documenting due diligence that there were probably no Swedish cousins who were left out of the proceedings).

Although "heritage organizations" aren't what they used to be, I'm told there's still some interest in locating an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower, or fought on one or the other side in the Revolution or Civil War. If you document the chain, you get to join. Apparently, there is an association of descendants of the Salem witch defendants. I have a friend who qualifies via descent from Rebecca Nurse.

So - with so many reasons to do it, and so many resources so readily available these days ... how could it not be a thing?

My family had ours prior to the internet. Used some sites later to confirm stuff.  
 

Mother’s side - We are part of the Mayflower Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, something with the Civil War, etc. Nothing useful but very interesting. Tracked back to England, Scotland and Ireland. Whole bunch of peasants. :)

We have some items in a couple of museums from the American Revolution.

Fathers side - bailed from Russia in 1917. Guess things weren’t looking good for the family. ;)

Its very interesting, not looking for anything grand. Just really cool to know what some of my ancestors did and how they survived. 
 

Grandmother was obsessed with it.

Nibs

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