«Little, Hannah Mary (2010) Genealogy as theatre of self-identity: a study of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850. PhD ...»
Patrick Cadell, 'Building on the Past, Investing in the Future through Genealogy and Local History Services', IFLA Journal, 28:4 (2002), 175-80, p. 179.
Mortimer, 'Discriminating Between Readers: the case for a policy of flexibility', p. 62.
Hill, 'Serving the Invisible Researcher: Meeting the Needs of Online Users', p. 143; Rob Mildren, '1.4 Genealogical Tourism', Scottish Archive Network Project Evaluation Report (21 April 2004), http://www.scan.org.uk/aboutus/report.htm#14 [accessed 23 July 2009].
Boyns, 'Archivists and Family Historians: local authority record repositories and the family history group', p. 62.
Michael Moss, 'Choreographed Encounter-The Archive and Public History', Archives, 32:116 (2007), 41Susan Tucker, 'The most public of all history: family history and heritage albums in the transmission of records' (unpublished doctoral thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2009).
Eric Ketelaar, 'The Genealogical Gaze: Family Identities and Family Archives in the Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries', Libraries & the Cultural Record, 44:1 (2009), 9-28, p. 12.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 10the Netherlands during the Golden Age, concluding that during this period the “boundaries between public and private memories and archives were permeable if not nonexistent.”19 Yet despite these efforts there is still plenty of scope for further research. Recently Louise Craven wrote that: “the growth in genealogy and interest in personal history had begun long before the TV series Who Do You Think You Are?. Archivists, however, still know little about the users of archives and record offices: little about why records fascinate.”20 (her emphasis). This study not only encompasses research into the history and phenomenon of genealogy, but also is an exploration of the role archives play in society and is part of an ongoing debate centred upon what archives are and why they matter.
Archives can simply be defined as places where important and historical documents are kept, “a repository of public records or of records generally.”21 From the nineteenth century onwards, they have been the “primary sites of the labor and legitimacy of professional historians, their equivalent of laboratories or fieldwork.”22 The term ‘archives’ includes the evidential records or documents that testify to past actions and events which are kept by such institutions. However, this definition tends to overlook the performative nature of the archive and of archives – the work of those, whether professional or nonprofessional, who decide what should be kept, and of the way in which the use and sharing of archives can re-define and challenge its purposes. Ketelaar writes that the “archive is an infinite activation of the record.”23 As such, this thesis takes ‘archives’ and ‘archive’ to stand for a broader set of notions, which encompasses not only the traditional definition of a place of official deposit, but also the performance of keeping and using things to tell us about the past and ourselves.
Because genealogy straddles the private and public domains, and is about the familial and the personal, it both challenges and shifts focus from the traditional notion of the centralized national archive, opening up a space in which to develop and explore the processes of archivization and its political and social roles. It is precisely because of genealogy’s ambivalent status that it justifies further study, as Hugh A. Taylor – who had
been an English local authority archivist before he emigrated to Canada – wrote in 1982:
“family history is becoming not just a pastime, but a search for personal identity in an era Ibid., p. 22.
Louise Craven, 'From the Archivist's Cardigan to the Very Dead Sheep: What are Archives? What are Archivists? What do They Do?', in What are Archives? Cultural and Theoretical Perspectives: A Reader, ed. by Louise Craven (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 7-30, p. 15.
‘archive’ in The Chambers Dictionary (Edinburgh: Chambers Harrup Publishers, 2001), p.80.
Randolph Starn, ‘Truths in the Archives’, Common Knowledge, 8:2 (2002), 387-401, p.387.
Eric Ketelaar, ‘Tacit Narratives: The Meanings of Archives’, Archival Science, 1 (2001), 131-141, p.137.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 11of intensive and rapid change.”24 This thesis can be seen as an exploration of a new kind of fetishisation of the archive where the archive is not only used and revered as a source of evidence, but has also become a place of public performance and desire, a kind of theatre where people want to find out and claim their identity. In this sense, family history has perhaps become something else – family memorialisation or self-imagining – and perhaps the archive has become something else too. As such, this study is part of this new exploration of identity and archivization, and has something to contribute to the development of the history of archives, archival theory and historiography.25 What little research on genealogy that has been done within the field of information studies has been focussed on service provision. In recent years, new research has been undertaken into the genealogical use of online sources. Kate Friday, based at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen is currently investigating genealogical uses of the Internet with the aim of improving local library services.26 Kylie H. Veale is carrying out similar research at the Curtin University of Technology, Australia.27 By comparison, my research is not a detailed survey of information needs and the use of online tools; rather, it aims to provide a historical background and an analysis of genealogical practice and discourse. As such, this thesis is more concerned with theoretical questions such as, what is the meaning of family history and genealogy? How does it provide a sense of identity, how is it articulated and how has it developed? What factors drive or shape genealogical discourse?
Whilst analysis of genealogy is thin on the ground within the field of information studies, it has received some attention in other fields, such as sociology, anthropology and human geography. In 1991 the sociologist Michael Erben argued that detailed comparison of migrant genealogies would enhance the sociology of migration, and that genealogical sources could be used to research family intimacy, kinship structures, “local patterns of family activity” and “local inheritance customs”.28 Erben also noted that “genealogies are a key ideological component of most cultures”.29 Building upon the potential sociological Hugh A. Taylor, 'The Collective Memory: Archives and Libraries as Heritage', Archivaria, 15 (1982), 118-30, p. 123.
The term ‘archivization’ is taken from Jacques Derrida, who argues that “archivization produces as much as it records the event.” Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 17.
Kate Friday, Researching e-genealogy, (http://www.researchingegenealogy.co.uk/ [accessed 28 September 2007].
Kylie H. Veale, 'A Doctoral Study of the Use of the Internet for Genealogy', Historia Actual On-Line, 7 (2005), 7-14, http://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=1210321 [accessed 10 October 2007].
Michael Erben, 'Genealogy and Sociology: A Preliminary Set of Statements and Speculations', Sociology, 25:2 (1991), 275-92, p. 289.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 12areas of research highlighted by Erben, the Canadian sociologist Ronald D. Lambert has examined the motivations of Ontario Genealogical Society and other genealogical groups.30 From this he has drawn valuable conclusions about these societies’ understandings of time, mortality and the social construction of memory.31
More recently, Dallen J. Timothy and Jeanne Kay Guelke’s Geography and Genealogy:
locating personal pasts (2008) offers a series of essays investigating the contribution that geography can make to genealogy, as well as essays investigating genealogy as a cultural practice from the point of view of tourism, genetics and religion. Their justification for investigating family history is that it “in practice both illuminates and subverts key areas of interest, such as identity, landscapes of memory, and gate-keeping of knowledge” and, as such, can contribute not only to human geography but also to “allied aspects of history and cognate social sciences.”32 Similarly, the human geographer Catherine Nash describes genealogy as “a practice through which ideas of personal, familial, collective, ethnic, and sometimes national senses of culture, location, and identity are shaped, imagined, articulated, and enacted.”33 These broad interests of identity, memory and knowledge are ones that cross disciplinary boundaries. Accordingly, they call for the sort of interdisciplinary approach which has been adopted in this study.
Timothy and Guelke investigate how genealogy can contribute to the study of geography, however, rather than study genealogy as a supplement to an academic discipline I seek to explore genealogy on its own terms. This is not to say that this study has nothing to contribute to other topics of research. The development of genealogy, for example, cannot be considered without paying attention to the peculiarly “heritage hungry” diasporas.34 As will be outlined in Chapter Two, genealogy was popular in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The American diaspora had, and still has, a significant influence upon British genealogy, from the influence of the narrative memoir and
Ronald D. Lambert, 'A Profile of the Membership of the Ontario Genealogical Society', Families, 34:2
(1995), 73-80; Ronald D. Lambert, 'Looking for Genealogical Motivation', Families, 34:3 (1995), 149-60;
Ronald D. Lambert, 'Becoming a Family Historian', Families, 34:4 (1995), 223-32; Ronald D. Lambert, 'Doing Family History', Families, 35:1 (1996), 11-25.
Ronald D. Lambert, 'The Family Historian and Temporal Orientations Towards the Ancestral Past', Time & Society, 5:2 (1996), 115-43; Ronald D. Lambert, 'Constructing Symbolic Ancestry: Befriending Time, Confronting Death', Omega, 46:4 (2003), 303-21; Ronald D. Lambert, 'Descriptive, narrative, and experiential pathways to symbolic ancestors', Mortality, 11:4 (2006), 317-35.
Dallen J. Timothy and Jeanne Kay Guelke, Geography and genealogy: locating personal pasts (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), p. 1.
Catherine Nash, 'Genealogical Identities', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 20 (2002), 27-52, p. 28.
David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 9.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 13correspondence between antiquarian societies, to the vast work of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) which is fuelled by the doctrinal beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). As such, my thesis also contributes to Timothy and Guelke’s analysis of family history within the context of tourism, genetics and religion.
Yet aside from reference to the beliefs of the Mormons and post-First World War spiritualism, there is not enough scope within this thesis to fully explore the connection between religion and genealogy. Within the Judeo-Christian culture the most famous genealogies are the lists of ‘begats’ in the Bible and Torah. More research could be carried out into the theological implications of genealogy and the notion of spiritual birth and the family of God. The importance of genealogy and memorialisation to Jews in particular would be a fruitful area of research.35 Such research would provide a useful counterpoint to the notion of the ‘second birth’ of the citizen through civil registration, and the idea of the national ‘family’, which I refer to in Chapters Two and Three of my thesis.