«Little, Hannah Mary (2010) Genealogy as theatre of self-identity: a study of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850. PhD ...»
Little, Hannah Mary (2010) Genealogy as theatre of self-identity: a study
of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850.
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obtaining permission in writing from the Author The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the Author When referring to this work, full bibliographic details including the author, title, awarding institution and date of the thesis must be given Glasgow Theses Service http://theses.gla.ac.uk/ email@example.com Genealogy as Theatre of Self-Identity: a study of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850 Hannah Mary Little MA MSc Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy University of Glasgow Faculty of Arts/Department of Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute December 2009 © Hannah Little 21 December 2009 Abstract This thesis is an investigation of genealogical inquiry, but rather than interpreting genealogical activity first and foremost as a branch of history, I analyse genealogy as a form of semi-autobiographical narrative about the self. Instead of viewing the use of archives primarily as a marker of historical scholarship, I investigate the archive as a shared space or horizon in which stories about the self and one’s descent are enacted, a theatrical space in which the ‘narratability’ of the self and of others is exposed.
The thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter provides a ‘heritagraphical’ overview of genealogical knowledge where I argue that the pre-war history of genealogy is worth investigating; genealogy is a diverse cultural practice with its own history, historical agents and situated communities. The second chapter, ‘Archivization of Genealogical Knowledge’, explores the development of genealogy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by investigating the circulation of genealogical knowledge in the public sphere of antiquarian print culture, gender and genealogy, the connections between eugenics, genealogy and archives, and the influence of the American diaspora upon the production and consumption of genealogy within Britain. The third chapter, ‘Narrating the Genealogical Self’, develops the metaphor of the archive as a theatre of self-identity by exploring several texts, including A Family Record (1932), Roots (1976) and the television programmes, Who Do You Think You Are? and Motherland: A Genetic Journey. In doing so, ‘the archive’ is expanded to not only include the traditional notion of an institutional repository of written documentary sources, but also more recent conceptions of the archive as a body of immutable biological code, as the consignation of unique hidden traces, or as the compilation of autobiographical memory.
I conclude by arguing that genealogy can represent a desire for semi-autobiographical narrative through which the self is revealed as both a unified self and as a ‘unique existent’. This is how archives disclose to us who we are. In this way, this thesis demonstrates that archives have another function than that of providing tangible evidence of business transactions; they have an ontological function of being necessary ‘other’ evidentiary witnesses, revealing the narratability of who we are as unique historical beings, who, nevertheless, do not stand alone.
List of Figures
Chapter One: Heritagraphy
John Horace Round’s ‘new genealogy’
Genealogy and class distinction
Family history and the second ‘new genealogy’
A ‘new antiquarianism’?
Chapter Two: Archivization of Genealogical Knowledge
The Circulation of Genealogical Knowledge
Gender and Genealogy
Eugenics and Genealogy
Chapter Three: Narrating the Genealogical Life
A Family Record
Who Do You Think You Are?
Roots: an epic quest
Motherland: A Genetic Journey
Conclusion: Genealogy as Theatre of Self-Identity
List of Figures Figure 1: Number of new family history societies founded in Britain between 1970 and 1985………………………………………………………………………………………..62 Figure 2: Number of genealogical titles published between 1800 and 1928…..………….86 Acknowledgements I sincerely thank my supervisors, Michael Moss and Susan Stuart for their untiring and enthusiastic guidance. Without their encouragement and help I would not have had the courage to think, explore and write. I thank my fellow postgraduates in HATII and the Faculty of Arts who have been an invaluable source of information and companionship – James Girdwood, Louise Cameron, Lindsey Short, Tony Ross, David Macknet, Elizabeth Anderson, Marc Alexander, Fiona Stewart, Jenny Craig, Ruth Hawthorn, Erin McGuire and Johanna Green. I also thank those archivists, genealogists, librarians and academics who kindly responded to my requests for help and gave me their time, in particular Susan Tucker, Maggie Loughran, Ronald D. Lambert, Simon Titley-Bayes, David Sabean, Michael Drake, Tim Salls, Laurence Brockliss, Adam Kuper, Matthew Hillyard, Ann Carson and Adrian Ailes. Without the support of others this thesis would not have been written. All mistakes, of course, are my own. I am very grateful for the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council which has enabled me to carry out this research. Last, but not least, I thank Martin who has been lovely – especially during the times when I have not been.
BL British Library CAMPOP Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure EUL Edinburgh University Library FFHS Federation of Family History Societies GCRC Genealogical Co-operative Research Club GRO General Record Office GSU Genealogical Society of Utah GUL Glasgow University Library HMC Historical Manuscripts Commission IHR Institute of Historical Research, London LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mtDNA mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid NAS National Archives of Scotland NLS National Library of Scotland PRO Public Record Office SARC Scots Ancestry Research Council TNA The National Archives (England and Wales) UCL University College London WL Wellcome Library Y-DNA Y- chromosome deoxyribonucleic acid Album Life History Album Directory International Genealogical Directory Inquiries Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development Record Record of Family Faculties Introduction On the 11 January 2006, Jeremy Paxman, the hard-hitting anchorman for Newsnight, broke down in tears on national television. The British nation was amazed to see this man, known for his merciless interrogation of politicians, crying over a letter submitted to the poor relief board and, later on in the programme, a death certificate.1 After discovering that his great-grandmother had died at the age 35 of “TB and exhaustion”, leaving his grandfather an orphan, he commented that: “Thousands of people must have lived like this and died like this. When it’s numbers it doesn’t mean anything – I don’t know these people, I wouldn’t recognise them if I fell over them – but I’m connected to them.” After shedding a few more tears, he concluded: “You shouldn’t go into this family business, it’s just upsetting.”2 Four years earlier, on 2 January 2002, the 1901 Census website was launched by the Public Record Office (PRO).3 Within the first week of its commencement, one million, two hundred thousand users per hour tried to access the site, causing the server to collapse and a national audit to be instigated. By 31 October 2003, the re-launched site was receiving between eight and ten thousand visitors a day and had generated gross revenues of up to four and a half million pounds.4 Genealogy is big business and today family historians represent a significant proportion of archival users.5 In 1999, three quarters of one hundred and fifteen English and Welsh local authority record repositories reported that fifty per cent or more of their users were family historians.6 A user survey undertaken in 2002 of the online portal, Access to Archives (A2A), found that eighty per cent were family Hugh Davies, 'Paxman in tears as he reads about the death of an ancestor', Daily Telegraph, 8 December 2005 p. 4; Kenny Farquharson, 'Jeremy Paxman fought back tears when he discovered his great grandmother had been widowed - Focus', Sunday Times, 11 December 2005, p. 19; Morgan James, 'Meet the granny who made Paxman cry The inquisitor discovers he is a Clan Mackay descendant', The Herald, 8 December 2005; Ian Johns, 'Paxo's tough side is history. Or is it? - Last night's TV', The Times, 12 January 2006 p. 27; Robert McNeil, 'Last Night's Review', The Scotsman, 12 January 2006 p. 44.
'Episode 1: Jeremy Paxman', Who Do You Think You Are? Series Two. Dir. Reita Oord and Simon Chu.
Prod. Alex Graham, Maxine Watson, and Lucy Carter. BBC/ Wall to Wall/ Acorn Media. 2006.
[broadcast 11 January 2006].
From April 2003, the PRO became known as The National Archives (TNA) for England, Wales and the United Kingdom.
National Audit Office., Unlocking the Past: The 1901 Census Online: Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General HC 1259, Session 2002-2003 (London: The Stationary Office, 14 November 2003) pp.
1-2, http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/0203/unlocking_the_past_the_1901_c.aspx [accessed 5 June 2009].
The pre-launch marketing and planning of the 1901 census website was based on the distinction between family historians, who were defined as those within family history societies and were estimated as two hundred and fifty thousand and the general public including overseas users. Ibid. pp. 8-9.
Rosemary Boyns, 'Archivists and Family Historians: local authority record repositories and the family history group', Journal of the Society of Archivists, 20:1 (1999), 61-74, p. 63.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 8historians. The LEADERS research project (2001-2004) found that sixty per cent of its users were using archives for their own personal leisure, with eighty-four per cent of this group looking for families as opposed to other topics.7 But where did this interest come from? When people say that they want to find out ‘who they are’ by discerning where their ancestors came from, what do they mean and what do they expect? Are these new questions and assumptions that are specific to a modern age? To what extent does family history spring from an antiquarian tradition, and if so, what are its connections with modernity? What are the implications of these questions for archives, and more broadly for British culture and society?
Certainly initial investigation reveals significant tensions in the archive office between historians and genealogists, and indeed between professional genealogists and those seeking to find out ‘who they are.’8 In servicing genealogists, or “recreational users”, Ian Mortimer argues that archivists have compromised their own professionalism and undermined the archives’ principle duty. This duty, he suggests, is not to provide a leisure service, but to support the writing of history and to provide “the evidence on which the integrity and judgement of our public institutions, and of individual decision-makers and opinion-formers may be vouched for or called into question”.9 The view that historians have been neglected at the expense of genealogy is borne out by a few of the users’ comments taken as part of the National Audit Office’s report into the launch of the 1901
The online service is good in the sense of servicing the core constituency [but] poor in the sense of serving the constituency outside genealogy.
The needs of academics, local historians and demographers that are not looking for information by name but by place, occupations etc. have not yet been fully met.
Social inclusion has improved but only as far as genealogy and family history is concerned.10 Amanda Hill, 'Serving the Invisible Researcher: Meeting the Needs of Online Users', Journal of the Society of Archivists, 25:2 (2004), 139-48, pp. 140-41.
Stacey Gee, 'A Standard Service for All? The case for a flexible attitude', Journal of the Society of Archivists, 23:2 (2002), 233-38; Susan Tucker, 'Doors Opening Wider: Library and Archival Services to Family History', Archivaria, 62 (2006), 127-58.
Archives at the Millenium: the twenty-eighth report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1991–1999 (1999), p 4 cited by Ian Mortimer, 'Discriminating Between Readers: the case for a policy of flexibility', Journal of the Society of Archivists, 23:1 (2002), 59-67, p. 62.
National Audit Office., Unlocking the Past: The 1901 Census Online: Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General HC 1259, Session 2002-2003 p. 24.