Critical Family History, Race, and Memory Work

“In America, we have only the present tense,” observed Adrienne Rich in The Burning of Paper Instead of Children. America’s “presentism,” constructed mainly by white people, erases memory of the violent foundations of white supremacy. Critical family history, as memory work, disrupts that erasure.  Family history has become a popular journey into the past. Yet […]

Ethnic Studies and Critical Family History

How do Ethnic Studies and Critical Family History connect? Does Critical Family History have something to offer to the teaching of Ethnic Studies? I began pondering this question about fifteen years ago while teaching an undergraduate course entitled “Culture and Cultural Diversity.” My students were very ethnically and racially diverse; typically, there was no ethnic majority group […]

Family History and Gender

What does an analysis of family history and gender reveal for a specific time period, geographical location, social class status, and racial/ethnic community? Writing in 1990 about “Beyond Separate Spheres: Feminism and Family Research,” Myra Ferree wrote, “Gender theory explains how specific behaviors and roles are given gendered meanings, how labor is divided to express gender […]

The Hidden Four Ps and Immigration

 In the fall of 2012 and again in spring 2013, Dr. Kevin Kumashiro and I co-taught an undergraduate course called “Introduction to Asian American Studies.” We examined the diversity and experiences of Asian Americans, like the transnational labor brokering of Filipinos and the binary of race relations between African Americans and Koreans during the 1992 […]

Critical Family History

Very likely you haven’t encountered the term “critical family history” before. I’m pretty sure I invented it in relationship to family history. As a white person, I was seeking a conceptual framework that situates individual family stories within a wider analysis of social power relationships and culture. White people, especially those of middle class status […]

Context Questions Framework

Many entries in this blog illustrate situating information about your ancestors in a social, cultural, and historical context, and the entry on Context Questions lays out the kinds of questions you might ask. But how do you actually get started in a way that isn’t just hit and miss? This article offers a useful framework […]

Troubling Jim Crow: Installment #1

At campus events, it is not unusual to find me singing the fight song of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With the first thunderous clap, I join the rhythm and singing of the refrain, “I’m a Tarheel born, I’m a Tarheel bred and when I die, I’m a Tarheel […]

Asking Historical Context Questions

Usually when doing family history research, people construct a family tree and locate as much as they can about individual family members, then stop without considering much about the context of family members’ lives. Why is asking historical context questions important? Contexts in which people were living help to explain how they lived, why they may […]

Why Family and History?

How might you make more meaning out of what you know about your own family’s history? Have you  ever wondered how your family’s story connects with larger stories? In other words, why family and history, together? This blog provides tools, discussions, examples, and ways of working these questions.   Family history research has become increasingly popular […]