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City of Remembering - A History of Genealogy in New Orleans

City of Remembering

A History of Genealogy in New Orleans

By Susan Tucker
Hardcover : 9781496806215, 244 pages, 17 b&w and 111 color illustrations, May 2016

A look at the passionate pursuits intersecting family and public histories


City of Remembering represents a rich testament to the persistence of a passionate form of public history. In exploring one particular community of family historians in New Orleans, Susan Tucker reveals how genealogists elevate a sort of subterranean foundation of the city—sepia photographs of the Vieux Carré, sturdy pages of birth registrations from St. Louis Cathedral, small scraps of the earliest French Superior Council records, elegant and weighty leaves of papers used by notaries, and ledgers from the judicial deliberations of the Illustrious Spanish Cabildo. They also explore coded letters left by mistake, accounts carried over oceans, and gentle prods of dying children to be counted and thus to be remembered. Most of all, the family historians speak of continual beginnings, both in the genesis of their own research processes, but also of American dreams that value the worth of every individual life.

The author, an archivist who has worked for over thirty years asking questions about how records figure in the lives of individuals and cultures, also presents a national picture of genealogy's origins, uses, changing forms, and purposes. Tucker examines both the past and the present and draws from oral history interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research. Illustrations come from individuals, archives, and libraries in New Orleans; Richmond; Washington, DC; and Salt Lake City, as well as Massachusetts and Wisconsin, demonstrating the contrasts between regions and how those practitioners approach their work in each setting. Ultimately, Tucker shows that genealogy is more than simply tracing lineage—the pursuit becomes a fascinating window into people, neighborhoods, and the daily life of those individuals who came before us.


"This book will be useful to practicing genealogists, historians, historical geographers, and others interested in sociocultural historical resources in New Orleans and in the United States as well as those interested in how stories of remembering and forgetting and of belonging and excluding come to be through genealogy"

- Rebecca Sheehan, Oklahoma State University, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 84, No. 2

"City of Remembering reminds us that genealogy is not just about records; it is also about things such as family bibles, artifacts, scrapbooks, and albums. Think of it as a genealogist would–a visit to the attic of New Orleans where hard work and serendipity will produce nostalgia, surprises, and useful discoveries."

- Robert L. Dupont, University of New Orleans, Louisiana History

"From the extraordinary cemeteries to private and public archives, this work beautifully describes the depth of surviving evidence awaiting genealogists who know where to look."

- Melinde Lutz Byrne, FASG, National Genealogical Society Quarterly

"This interesting and entertaining book provides a significant contribution to the field of genealogical study for New Orleans, its history, and repositories. I found it a useful, fascinating, and succinct work on the history of the city's social history, record keeping, and how those records were disseminated. There is much valuable information here."

- John T. Magill, retired senior curator/historian of The Historic New Orleans Collection