The Afterlife of Documents: Identity, Mobility, and the Genealogical Imagination


ACLS Fellowship Program




In recent decades, an explosion of interest in family history has turned genealogy into one of the most popular hobbies worldwide. This project examines: (1) the sociotechnical, economic, and political processes that put documents and records at the fingertips of amateur genealogists; (2) the growth of genealogy into a global cultural phenomenon; and (3) the meaning-making practices that characterize the encounter between amateur genealogists and the documents they access. Previous work has explored the motivations that lead laypeople to become amateur genealogists. Instead, on the basis of ethnographic methods and content analysis, this project emphasizes the epistemological effects of the interactions that amateur genealogists establish with the raw material that makes the genealogical enterprise possible.