Amateur genealogist Wayne Bates is challenging the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) over the rejection of his relative’s application for recognition of their ancestor as a veteran of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence. Wayne Bates is contesting the rejection and questioning the DAR’s policies.
This clash raises interesting issues for historians, who do not engage in genealogy but who deal with historical records of families from the past. Historians have to grapple with contested conceptions of family and lineage, which have not been stable in the past. Members of the current Bates “family” is here trying to establish a fixed Bates “lineage” to support their current aims and agendas. The DAR is defending its definitions of “lineage” and military service in the interests of its current members and their lineages. Family history thus intersect with family politics at the heart of this clash.
Historians often encounter genealogists and their research. Academic historians work alongside genealogists, both amateur and professional, in archives around the world. Historians of the family routinely use genealogies that have been produced by genealogists in the past, even though these sources are incredibly complex and problematic as historical sources. Genealogy, family history, and local history are major areas of interest for many people who have never studied history as an academic subject.
History students and professional historians arguably need to become more aware of the multiple encounters between history and genealogy.
The Washington Post reports on the story.