Last week, the U.S. National Archives hosted a talk with UNC Press author Francesca Morgan and Karin Wulf, Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, discussing Morgan’s recently published book A Nation of Descendants: Politics and the Practice of Genealogy in U.S. History.
A Nation of Descendants traces Americans’ fascination with tracking family lineage through three centuries. Francesca Morgan examines how specific groups throughout history grappled with finding and recording their forebears, focusing on Anglo-American white, Mormon, African American, Jewish, and Native American people. Morgan also describes how individuals and researchers use genealogy for personal and scholarly purposes, and she explores how local businesspeople, companies like Ancestry.com, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Finding Your Roots series powered the commercialization and commodification of genealogy.
Francesca Morgan is associate professor of history at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and author of Women and Patriotism in Jim Crow America.