An Historian Comments On Historians and Genealogy

Professional historians, like all skilled tradespeople, have their own status rules. One of the most basic of these–so basic that our postgraduate students do not even need to be told, so clearly do we silently communicate our snobbery– is this: do not ever become involved with the practice of genealogy: it is a necropolis of the mind and anyone who enters there can only return as a zombie. This is absolute rubbish . . . .

Donald Harman Akenson, Douglas Professor of Canadian and Colonial History, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Professor Akenson is the world’s leading scholar on the Irish diaspora and the author of several major works on the history of Judaism and Christianity. The quote is from his latest book, Some Family — The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself (McGill-Queen’s University Press), copyright Donald Harman Akenson, 2007.

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