Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Telling Family Stories

memorial kiddush cup
Michigan State University currently has an online exhibit called "Telling Family Stories:  Jews, Genealogy & History."  The exhibit draws on the university archives' holdings in cookbooks and children's books to illustrate several themes related to genealogy and family history.  The themes reflect a more academic approach than is often applied to family history, such as gender and religion in family stories, and the international and multilingual nature of Jewish families.  The section "Doing Genealogy, Doing History" discusses how genealogists and social historians can use the same resources and tools in their work.  There is a link to a talk on immigrant children in America between 1880-1925.  Also included is a bibliography.

The exhibit compares and contrasts differences in time periods.  For example, a 2006 community cookbook noted that "going to Grandma's may mean stopping off for a quick lunch at her office", reflecting the changing roles of women in society.  The site also poses questions to encourage viewers to relate the material to their own lives, such as comparing the family stories presented to the ones from their own families.

I enjoyed the focus of this exhibit because family stories are what sparked my interest in genealogy so many years ago.  It's interesting to think about those same stories from an academic perspective and consider how that changes my perception of them.

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