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«Little, Hannah Mary (2010) Genealogy as theatre of self-identity: a study of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850. PhD ...»

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consequently the individual thing to be too important.” In what Nietzsche characterized as a kind of blind nostalgia, the antiquarian finally “sinks so low that in the end he is satisfied with any fare and even devours with gusto the dust of biographical minutiae.”67 This lively description accords with the antiquarian stereotype, the oft-cited and pilloried caricature, Jonathan Oldbuck, created by Sir Walter Scott in The Antiquary. As a scholar of antiquarianism, Rosemary Sweet writes: “it has often proved difficult to penetrate beyond the image of Jonathan Oldbuck, inhabiting a chaotic study, crammed full of objects of dubious authenticity, festooned with cobwebs.”68 When antiquarianism is reappraised it tends to be interpreted as the seedbed of those current historical professions which are concerned with material culture – art history, topography, archaeology and the collecting practices of museums, libraries and archives.

Consequently, most analyses of antiquarianism chart the shift from the elite, idiosyncratic and personal collecting practices of the antiquarian to the nationalist, collective and representative practices of the heritage professional.69 One such scholar whose work confirms this trajectory is Philippa Levine who describes the professionalization of three groups within the Victorian period: antiquarians, historians and archaeologists. For her, the modern professional counterpart to the antiquarian is the museum curator, the archivist or the librarian. Whilst she recognizes the common interests and origins of antiquarians, historians and archaeologists, she nonetheless treats each as distinct entities, each of which became gradually distinguished through academic discipline and professional status.70 Genealogy or family history, however, is not identified as one of the antiquarians’ nascent professionalisms.

In Levine’s effort to rescue antiquarianism by linking it with the respectability of the heritage professionals, those who are often still considered to be amateur, such as genealogists, have been ignored. The professional/amateur dichotomy has plagued genealogy and it is perhaps for this reason that genealogy has been overlooked by the academic world. The Society of Genealogists was not established in Britain until 1911 and it was not until the latter half of the twentieth century that British genealogical practice achieved some level of professional and academic respectability. Consequently, this thesis Friedrich Nietzsche, 'On the Utility and Liability of History for Life', in The Nietzsche Reader, ed. by Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp. 124-41, p. 137.

Sweet, Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain, p. xiii.

Crane, 'Story, history and the passionate collector', p. 187.

Philippa Levine, The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England, 1838-1886 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Hannah M Little, 2009 Chapter One 24

is concerned with a practice and genre that from the general point of view of the professional academic historian, has been – and is still considered to be – predominately amateur, in the worst sense. But what is meant by ‘professional’? There are examples of genealogists who have been paid to undertake work on behalf of others, who were dependent on this work for their living, who worked according to professional ethics, and who no doubt developed exacting and thorough research techniques. These professionals, however, often worked independently and in competition with each other – including some who did not have such exacting standards. Because of this, Wagner argues that these professionals were reluctant to share methods and findings, thereby making it hard to track innovations in the development of genealogy as a discipline – particularly during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.71 Yet significantly, genealogy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was seen as a branch of historical study. This was certainly the view of the renowned historian John Horace Round, for whom genealogy, and in particular, feudal genealogy was the subject upon which his own erudite and disciplined reputation was based.72 Whilst Round characterized his branch of work as modern and new, and distinctly historical, he nevertheless saw his work as being descended from the earlier genealogical work of the antiquarian heralds. Both Round and Wagner trace the origins of “modern scientific genealogy” to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when studying and collecting relics of the past struggled to become more of an organised social affair.73 The discipline of history to some extent also claims descent from the sixteenth and seventeenth-century antiquarian heralds. Woolf argues that the distinction between amateur and professional has shaped the historiography of antiquarianism which has focused on a small group of highly-educated heralds, who are depicted as pivotal players on the way towards the gradual and slow establishment of the historical discipline.74 In this way, the history of antiquarianism has been coloured by the lens of late nineteenth-century historiography, when the historical discipline itself was becoming an established profession. Attention has been focussed on the heralds because they were considered to be “the closest approximation to professional antiquaries, given that their business lay in

–  –  –

validating the right to bear arms and in tracing lines of familial descent.”75 Whilst figures such as Sir William Dugdale (1605-86) and Sir William Camden (1551-1623), no doubt played a highly influential part in the development of historical method – and significantly were paid for undertaking historical-genealogical research – the story that historical practice gradually improved through the concerted effort of a few is too simple and belies the breadth of engagement with the past in general. This engagement included a wider involvement in various genealogical and historical activities, not only on behalf of the heralds but also of the families that they were studying and amongst other sectors of society.76 It is beyond the scope of this study to trace the full breadth of antiquarian and genealogical knowledge through the sixteenth to the seventeenth or even eighteenth centuries, and it would be needless because Woolf and Sweet have already begun to do so – although there is no doubt more work to be done in this area.77 Instead, I will draw upon the history of genealogy within antiquarianism in order to provide a historical background for the social circulation of genealogy during the nineteenth century. This is done, not only to provide a context for contemporary ‘new antiquarianism’ or ‘personal heritage’, which will be outlined in this chapter, but also to enrich the history of British archival provision described in Chapter Two.

My focus on the nineteenth-century is also intended to counter-balance the historiography of the professionalization of history. Whilst Woolf recognises the breadth of the social circulation of genealogical materials and the importance of the “availability of multiple sources of information and their free transmission from one interested individual to another” for the development of genealogical and biographical research “all the way up to the Harleian Society, the Victoria County Histories and the Dictionary of National Biography”, he nevertheless sees genealogy as being relegated to sidelines with “the Debretts and Burkes of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries”, cut off and less important to the mainstream of antiquarianism which was based on the visible and tangible “architectural and natural remains of the past.”78 Consequently, his study ends in 1730.

Whilst genealogical publications and societies did develop along distinctive and somewhat separate lines, this thesis holds the opposite view. I argue in Chapter Two that such activity, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century, signals a groundswell of Sweet, Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain, p. 48.

Woolf, The Social Circulation of the Past: English Historical Culture, 1500-1730, p. 99.

Ibid., pp.73-140.

Ibid., pp.120, 137.

Hannah M Little, 2009 Chapter One 26

genealogical interest and imagination continuous within the antiquarian tradition, rather than a cutting or a branching off into insignificance. It is the intention within the next chapter to uncover some of this history, particularly the part that contributed to the development of archives and domestic archivization.

However, before doing so, an outline of British genealogy is needed. The next section presents an overview of Round’s work in its relation to the nascent historical profession of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The development of genealogy within antiquarianism from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries will be described briefly, followed by an investigation of the development of the county history and genealogical reference work during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which leads into a discussion of genealogy and class. Then family history and the second ‘new genealogy’ will be outlined, to be followed by an analysis of DNA genealogy, personal heritage and new antiquarianism. This chapter concludes with the claim that the pre-Second-WorldWar history of genealogy is worthy of investigation; genealogy is a diverse cultural practice with its own history, historical agents and situated communities.

John Horace Round’s ‘new genealogy’

Whilst the historical profession was being established in the late nineteenth-century, antiquarianism was not initially dismissed; it too – through its various branches of archaeology, topography, architectural history, folklore and genealogy – was being renewed along modern critical lines. In 1902 the heraldry expert and founder of the

magazine Ancestor, Oswald Barron summed up this position when he wrote that:

The beginning of a new century sees the antiquary abroad. The antiquary as the early nineteenth century knew him, a fusty person enamoured of fustiness, lingers in our dark places, but the new school of English archaeology, building fact upon the sure foundation of fact and adding daily to the mass of our knowledge of the past of our race, is up and doing with a more reasonable enthusiasm. Architect antiquaries are telling every stone of our ancient houses and churches; topographer antiquaries are writing the history of the land to the twelve inch scale; folk-lore antiquaries are garnering in what remains of old English custom and tradition; genealogist antiquaries are hewing with critical axes amongst the stately family trees, under whose shade their forerunners were content to walk reverently.79

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Within Britain, the most significant figure wielding the new critical axe of genealogy was John Horace Round (1854-1928). Round is widely credited with establishing genealogy as a branch of study within the nascent professional and critical school of history. In 1954, L.G. Pine wrote that Round had saved genealogy from being the mere “preserve of the retired sea captain or army officer, or of the spinster aunt.”80 Similarly, Wagner describes him as “a potent influence in raising critical standards.”81 Round who specialized in the Anglo-Norman period had studied at Balliol College, Oxford, under the supervision of Bishop William Stubbs (1825-1901), himself a keen genealogist who used the Duchy of Lancaster Court Rolls of the Forest of Knaresborough to trace his ancestry through sixteen generations to 1359.82 As regius professor of history, Stubbs oversaw the expansion and consolidation of modern history at Oxford, where it became established as an independent degree in 1872, and was greatly influenced by the new brand of German source-based historical scholarship pioneered by Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). Round was part of a new generation of professional historians personally taught by Stubbs, including Sir Charles H. Firth (1857-1936), Reginald L. Poole (1857and Thomas F. Tout (1855-1929), who all left a distinctive mark on the development of the discipline.

The foundation of the English Historical Review in 1886 was another sign that history in Britain was becoming an area of expertise. Described by Levine as “the voice of the new professionals”, the English Historical Review’s “chief care” was the trained student of history. 83 Its aim was to educate and raise the standard of history to the level set by the German-style archival scholarship; accordingly, the first article in the first edition was “German Schools of History” by Lord Acton (1834-1902).84 Round was a regular contributor to the English Historical Review, publishing over one hundred articles in the journal between 1886 and 1928. Although a specialist in genealogical matters he was L. G. Pine, 'Historians Reconsidered XII: J. H. Round', History Today, 4:5 (1954), 338-44, p. 338.

Wagner, English Genealogy, p. 393.

James Campbell, 'Stubbs, William (1825-1901)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online (2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36362 [accessed 17 January 2008]; William Stubbs, Genealogical history of the family of the late Bishop William Stubbs. ed. by Francis Collins, Record series (Yorkshire Archaeological Society) ([Leeds]: Printed for the Society [by J. Whitehead and Son], 1915); Wagner, English Genealogy, p. 401.

'Prefatory Note', English Historical Review, 1 (1886), 1-6, p. 5; Levine, The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England, 1838-1886, p. 2.

Lord Acton, 'German Schools of History', English Historical Review, 1 (1886), 7-42.

Hannah M Little, 2009 Chapter One 28

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