Genealogy as Family History, Not Genetics

I was reading some articles about the writing of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, co-written with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. On a discussion board, a couple of scenes were mentioned where someone asked for or demanded to have the baby or child of another person. A few people mentioned how this used to be common for people to ask for and raise other people’s children.

There were various reasons for this. A couple who couldn’t have kids might have wanted a kid. Also, because of farm life, having lots of kids around was necessary. And there were many reasons for a couple to give up a kid. They might have been compensated for giving away their child. Or they might simply have hit hard times and couldn’t afford all their children. Or one parent got sick or died.

It was a rough world in centuries past with sickness and death being a near constant factor in people’s lives. Most people didn’t live long and many women died in childbirth. Kids being raised by people who weren’t their parents was extremely common. And no one thought much about it. People used to be a lot less sentimental about children and childhood, largely because most children died in the first few years. For this reason, it was common for children not to even be given names until they survived past toddler age.

This made me think about the problems of genealogy research. It is usually impossible to prove your actual genealogy more than a century back. In the past, birth records, baptismal records, etc were rare. And until the latter half of the 19th century, wives and children weren’t even named in the United States census records. Plus, proving paternity was impossible until the recent development of genetic tests. I remember reading about how many men came home after the Civil War to find their wives pregnant or with children who were born while they weren’t around. The same thing happens in every war, especially major wars like the two world wars. Most people don’t talk about such things, much less leave records indicating questionable paternity.

Most of genealogy is probably fictional. It represents generations of family identity, not genetic inheritance. An child who is adopted or of uncertain paternity is still part of the family they were raised in. That is what genealogy is about.

10 thoughts on “Genealogy as Family History, Not Genetics

  1. I think the alt right and white-racialist types are primarily driven by insecurity over tje recessiveness of their looks. It’s emotional desoite all the justifications and rationalizations they put out. It’s fear of the change yes and that fear is because of people looking different. Especially because looks wise their “look” is recessive. Light features and skin etc. If things were reversed and light features were dominant over dark half wouldn’t be stormfronters. The hysteria about “race mixing” so much that the USA passed laws against whites intermarrying is rooted in it. Insecurity, including white male sexual insecurity over nonwhite men with white women

    They rationalize with “hbd” and “not looks they’re fundamentally different” but if all nonwhites tomorrow suddenly turned pale blond and blue eyed (with everything else about them the same) they would be at ease

    Then again if nonwhites tomorrow all turned white looking there wouldn’t be much to truly distinguish them lol. People under the surface aren’t that inherently different t Cultural differences yes

    In he end it’s all emotional contortions over looks

    • I’d like to see this research done with more control of confounding factors and broken down in greater detail. Most people in rural states aren’t rural residents. As for the rural Upper Midwest, it is the most economically stable region in the country.

    • The comment I posted there:

      “I think it cannot be maintained by any candid person that the African race have ever occupied or do promise ever to occupy any very high place in the human family. Their present condition is the strongest proof that they cannot. The Irish cannot; the American Indian cannot; the Chinese cannot. Before the energy of the Caucasian race all the other races have quailed and done obeisance.”
      ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

      Ethnic nationalities were originally considered separate races. It took a long time for a larger European identity to form. And from that the belief in a Caucasian race.

      The earliest racial ideology didn’t propose as broad of a conception of ‘whiteness’. If you go back early enough, even feudal aristocracy and peasants were considered separate races. What this implied is that they were two populations that rarely or never intermarried, i.e., supposedly distinct breeding populations (of course, plenty of non-official breeding occurred).

      In the early 19th century, certain ethnic/racial groups had their crime data kept separate. Along with blacks, this included Irish, Jews, etc. The Second Klan, primarily active in the North, targeted ethnic Europeans more than blacks. Both ethnic Europeans and blacks were often excluded from sundown towns.

      One factor that helped the Irish become white were the orphan trains. The Irish, like Hispanics, were predominantly Catholic. This led to a conflict about how different groups would be treated.

      “Another recent invention is our present conception of whiteness. One of the most interesting stories of the orphan trains relates back to one of the main protagonists of this story, the Irish. They weren’t always deemed white. The English and Anglo-Americans were known to compare the Irish to Africans and Native Americans. The Irish were savages and foreigners, partly because they were mostly Catholic. Unlike today, Catholicism wasn’t seen as just another variety of Christianity. Protestants, specifically WASPs, saw Catholics as an alien culture. One of the names given to poor Irish children was “street Arabs”.

      “How did these Irish become white and hence “real Americans”?

      “This was a long process. In the early colonies, Africans and Irish indentured servants lived together, worked together, and I suppose had children together when the opportunity allowed. The racial order of slavery came later and that was the beginning of the Irish transition toward whiteness, initially simply being represented by their legally defined non-blackness. This shift of racial identity was solidified during the era of orphan trains.

      “WASPs, in their fear of Catholics, intentionally placed Catholic children into Protestant homes. In response, Catholics began to implement their own programs to deal with Catholic children in need of homes. One such case involved nuns bringing a trainload of Irish orphans to Arizona to be adopted by Catholic families. The problem was that the Catholic families in question were Mexican-American. The nuns didn’t understand the local racism/ethnocentrism involved and were taken by surprise by the response of the local WASPs. The “white” population living there took great offense at this challenge to racial purity. Suddenly, when put into that context, the Irish children were deemed to be innocent whites to be protected against an inferior race. This is ironic because where those Irish children came from in the big cities out East they were considered the inferior race.”

    • “Why do you hate her so much? Were you molested by a real estate lady?…she’s a boring centrist, it should never raise to the level of hate.”

      That demonstrates the point I keep making.

      Many of those who are disconnected from the American public believe that Clinton New Democrats represent the center of public opinion. To these out-of-touch neocons and neoliberals, anyone to the left of the Democratic Party is a left-winger.

      But if that is the case, then most Americans are left-wingers. That means we are a left-wing country or at least a left-wing population being ruled over by a right-wing elite, a right-wing where the ‘centrist’ position is embodied by Hillary Clinton.

      Yet Maher and his ilk in corporate media can’t comprehend why this bothers most Americans. Being ignorant of public opinion, he assumes that it’s just a few crazy left-wingers that simply have personal issues

    • I’d like to see a photograph of her with family, friends, neighbors, etc from the Senegal. I wonder how her skin tone compares to the average Senegalese. I remember seeing a photograph of Obama visiting Africa. Standing in a crowd, Obama looked like a white guy in comparison. Well, he is as much a white guy as he is a black guy, or rather as much European as African.

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