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Genealogies as a resource for studying kin networks in time and space

Alice B. Kasakoff, University of South Carolina

Genealogies link relatives over longer time spans and greater spatial distances than most other sources, revealing patterns that may not be visible, even to participants. This paper illustrates some of these using genealogies taken from the American North 1620-1880, at scales ranging from the household to the lineage going back to founders generations past. Genealogical populations are generally more established and more wealthy than the general population. Because certain branches and entire families were poorer than others, there were "turning points" that affected future generations. However, the number of distant kin within easy access did not affect wealth. At the micro scale, at mid 19th century, the last and only male children stayed behind to care for their elderly parents. The challenge is to link processes at different scales over generations and, because genealogies reveal only "potential kin," to find measures of interaction to explain the mechanisms behind these patterns.

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Presented in Session 56: Contribution of genealogies to historical demography and population genetics