Against the backdrop of powerful, networked ICTs, affordable genetic tests, and discourses of human difference that inhabit genealogy and genetics research, this paper investigates the production of genetic knowledge and subjectivities within genealogical communities of practice. Based on interviews and participant-observer work in genealogical communities, this paper explores how genetic genealogists use and engage with genetic tests and databases, with ramifications for the construction of race and identity in the US context.Dr Calvert is interested in how genealogists, and genetic genealogists engage with the racial legacies of US history and population genetics, especially origin stories. Her study is a work in progress so she laid the framework and provided examples rather being able to draw firm conclusions.
Part of the framework she mentioned was "four waves of genealogical interest" in the US:
- 1876: the US centennial
- 1930s: the Depression
- 1976: Alex Haley`s Roots
- 2000: genetic genealogy
In discussion following the presentation I asked about these waves, commenting that there's surely more to the last than genetic genealogy, and asking about the Depression wave. Scout quoted a source which I didn't catch. At http://www.common-place.org/vol-02/no-03/ohare/ there's reference to peaks of interest in the 1890s, 1930s and 1970s as reflected in publications. That publication is too early to have captured the last peak.
What's the evidence from Google Ngram? Here's the frequency of the terms genealogy, ancestry and, pedigree in the American English corpus, with 5 year smoothing.
I'm hard pressed to see the four waves. Can you? What I see is an increase in the term ancestry through the 19th century, then a decline through the 1980s followed by an increase in parallel with an increase for the term genealogy which started around 1950. The term pedigree had no similar dramatic moves.
So what about the widely believed influence of Alex Haley's book Roots? An Ngram for the terms race and racial do show bumps in the mid-1970s, but Haley published Roots in 1976. It's more in line with the influence by the civil rights movement which preceded it.
What this evidence from Ngram suggests to me is that in terms of influence on genealogical interest the book Roots had precious little.
I'll have more to say on this lecture soon, including some comment on Elizabeth Kipp's post on her English Research from Canada blog.