Early Americans like George Washington obsessed over genealogy. Much was at stake. One's place on the family tree could mean the difference between inheriting a plantation like Mount Vernon and its enslaved community, or working a patch of hardscrabble. Genealogy was very much a matter of custom, culture, and law, which explains in part why Washington composed a long-ignored document tracing his own lineage. It was as much a reflection of his family's past as it was a road map to his future power, wealth, and authority.
On today's episode, Dr. Karin Wulf helps us understand the powerful force that genealogy played in early American life. Wulf is a Professor of History at the College of William & Mary where she is also the director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (OI). A recent Washington Library research fellow, Wulf is writing a history of genealogy's essential role in British American society. She also discusses the OI's leadership in the Georgian Papers Programme, and the OI's work to explore #vastearlyamerica.
About Our Guest:
Karin Wulf is the director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, which has been publishing the William and Mary Quarterly, the leading journal in early American scholarship, and books with the University of North Carolina Press, since 1943. She is also Professor of History at the College of William & Mary, and co-chair the College’s Neurodiversity Working Group. Her scholarship focuses on women, gender and family in the early modern British Atlantic.
About Our Host:
Jim Ambuske leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project. He is the co-author with Randall Flaherty of "Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson," in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson's University ed. by John A. Rogasta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019). Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.