Conserving Genealogy in the Future

March 3, 2010

Genealogy is, depending on who you consult, either the fastest growing hobby in the U.S., the most popular pastime in the U.S., or just so hot right now…

America’s obsession with mapping pedigrees (yes, it’s the same term as for dogs and horses) has a distinguished legacy. Everyone remembers all those begats in the Bible, and that the Greeks used epic poetry to trace their lineage back to ancient heroes (and, for the more pompously inclined, gods). Some Native Americans also carved tree trunks into family trees (calling them, of course, totem poles) and today the largest extant family tree, that of Confucius, goes back 2,500 years. Dynastic records became particularly important as a way of sorting out all the patrilineal inheritance squabbles about wealth and power that arose in the Middle Ages and after.

Why Are Americans So Mad About Genealogy at The New Yorker

conservation of the family tree and genealogy

I took two things from my first library job.  First, I was not prepared to spend a career politely informing people that no, the state historical society was not the state genealogical society, and in fact there was little overlap in the assistance that we could provide.  And second, I was even less prepared to effectively deal with the researcher who reveled in telling everyone who wouldn’t walk away from him that he could trace his lineage back to the Merovingians and hence was a direct descendant of Jesus.

However, it might be worth considering America’s obsession with genealogy along with Antique Roadshow and scrap-booking as an emerging market for conservation services.


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