The Problems and Wonders of Family Histories

Academics and ordinary people often disagree on what history should include or exclude. Academics have trained for years to gain the authority to teach and write about history. Given the sacrifices we have make to achieve that position, it is perhaps understandable that we defend our status as gatekeepers to the past. Once, when history books were few and far between, so we could reasonably control what “history” was. That is no longer the case. Today anyone can explore the past, sometimes without even encountering a historian. It is less an academic exercise and more a personal journey into a past that is relevant to the individual. One of the most popular ways for non-academics to delve into history is genealogical research and family histories. Why is this aspect of history so compelling?  What does it mean for historians?

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