Geneaology Can Produce Consequences

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In the corner of one side of the document, Washington wrote "Genealogy of the Washington Family in Virginia" (Courtesy Karin Wulf. Document at the Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: George Washington, Genealogy Chart, 1753.)

This Long-Ignored Document, Written by George Washington, Lays Bare the Legal Power of Genealogy

by Karin Wulf Smithsonian.com

The scads of advertisements from Ancestry.com or PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” make it easy to imagine geneaology as the arena of the hobbyist or amateur historian. Sites and shows like those and others suggest that, in our highly individualistic world, ancestry is just a pastime. But in fact ancestry still has (literally) grave consequences. Matters of inheritance and heritage are at the core of many functions of the state, from birthright citizenship to Native American ancestry to matters of probate. Such is the reality now, and so it was in the founding years of the United States.

For a man of his times like George Washington, but also for men and women without his wealth or prominence, lineage was foundational. By the time he was 18, George Washington was a competent genealogist — and he had to be. In Washington’s Virginia, family was a crucial determinant of social and economic status, and freedom.

How did Washington understand his family, and what can that tell us about the world in which he lived and played such a significant role? Thanks to a document long ignored by biographers and historians alike, we now know how fully he grasped the basic truth that genealogy is power.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013
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