Adopted Ancestor: Finding Kate

Adopted Ancestor: Finding Kate

I am called Pākehā here in New Zealand. This means I am a descendant of colonial ancestors originating from Europe. Through an autoethnographic project I generated data to understand who my ancestors were, to disturb the notion that Pākehā are all the same and, further, that Pākehā have no culture. Here is one story. It was last July and summertime in Amsterdam. I was sitting upstairs in the Sephardic synagogue looking down through the dust filtered light to the ghostly patterns on the sandy … [Read more...]

Teaching Critical Family History

I began developing the concept of critical family history after I had retired from the university and had time to “play” with questions about my own family history. Aside from publishing a couple of articles and giving several conference presentations about the concept, until recently I had not had an opportunity to teach critical family history. I am grateful to the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the thirty-eight students (who were mainly classroom teachers), for giving me that teaching … [Read more...]

German-American Internment in the U.S. Heartland

Heartland: A Historical Drama about German-American Internment in the United States during WWII

I became interested in German-American internment during the two World Wars when I found out that roughly 11,000 German Americans were, in fact, interned – a history few of us know. While none of my German-American ancestors were interned, one of my great-grandfathers, a German Methodist minister born in Germany, could well have been interned during World War I had flames of xenophobia had been whipped up more than they were, since everyone born in Germany were targets of suspicion. Over time, … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Hummingbird’s Daughter


How would you approach writing a novel -- or even a short story -- about someone in your family tree? This is a challenge I have wrestled with, and I found it incredibly difficult. On the one hand, I feared straying too far from the facts I was able to find about my ancestors and their lives, concerned that my imagination might be taken as “truth” in the minds of readers. On the other hand, however, their lives seem to embody stories worth telling about what it means to be human in specific … [Read more...]

Family History Books for Kids


How might teachers or parents guide young family historians? Just like considerable information exists in books and on the Internet for adults, so too are there many websites and books for kids. Here, I review three family history books for kids in the U.S. I selected them more or less out of a hat. When I realized how many family history books for kids have been published, I decided to start with three from Amazon that appear to sell well, and that differ from each other. The Kids’ … [Read more...]

Researching Cherokee Ancestry

“I’m part Cherokee.” I have heard people say this all my life, and I used to say it myself until a DNA test showed otherwise. The question of who is part Cherokee (or another tribe) comes up publicly at times, such as when Elizabeth Warren recently claimed Cherokee ancestry. The question also surfaces for many family historians. If you are researching Cherokee ancestry you think you may have, it is important to know why you are doing so. While the research process is similar regardless of … [Read more...]

Roots of Cultural Ways of Knowing and Being


“Mr. Córdova, Mr. Córdova, why didn’t you become an artist instead of a teacher?” Third grade student Campbell asked the very question I had been thinking for quite some time as he and his classmates sat in a circle on the classroom carpet while we worked on a year-long painting project with local plein air painters (Córdova, 2008). I responded to him, with classmates overhearing, that sometimes life takes you in places you hadn’t imagined, “like I am suddenly magically here, lucky to work … [Read more...]