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31 July 2013

'Nature vs. Nurture' through Genealogy

Recently, I've been updating my family tree. I enjoy casual genealogy, as I don't have the money or time yet to invest in a thorough undertaking. Family lore has it that my father's father's father (i.e. my great grandfather) was adopted. He was born in the historically contested area where Central and Eastern Europe meet and emigrated to the U.S. as an adult, which has made documenting his story and lineage somewhat difficult. I found myself asking an important question: Am I interested more in who my great grandfather is genetically or socially? Do I care more about who contributed DNA to his project or who took the time to feed, clothe, and socialize him? I think the answer to this question can tell us a lot about our relative cultural valuing of the biological and the social. Our concern over genetic genealogy  is indicative of a cultural predisposition with biological determinism.


  1. I'm more interested in the stories. (I'm involved in scrapbooking and studied scrapbooking for my dissertation). Anyway, I had this very conversation with a genealogist that the stories and connections matter more than biology. Her take on it was that that is important, but genealogy is about the genetics, hence the name genealogy.

  2. Ha ha. That's some shady etymology! http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=genealogy&allowed_in_frame=0

    I tend to agree with you, Stephanie.