Family History through Genealogy and Genetics

Jan 344A
MTWRF, 9-12am
Boyce M. Lawton, III, PhD
DuPré Administration Building, 2nd floor

Project texts

At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present. Carl Degler. First edition.
Domestic Revolutions: A Social History Of American Family Life. Steven Mintz.
Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History. Megan Smolenyak

Project description


This project will focus on personal investigations of family histories. Students will construct detailed histories of their families using interviews, online resources, and archival documents such as census records, draft registration cards, birth and death records, city directories, newspaper articles, letters, diaries, tax records, and cemetery listings to better understand who their family members were and how they led their lives.

As a part of the genealogical community, students will also be asked to “contribute” to the efforts of others by contributing to, the world archives project, or other activities.


This search for relatives will be aided by the use of autosomal DNA testing which will provide each student with an ethnic profile, maternal haplogroup, and paternal haplogroup (only available to students with Y-chromosomes).  These results will be shared across thousands of other users to search for relatives.  Each student in the course will gain a “beginner’s understanding” of genetics.

Family History

Students will compare their family to others in the United States through readings on the history of the American family.  These readings will focus on gender roles, work, religion, and moral values.

The course will focus on personal investigation, but the results will be shared with the group through daily discussions and online journal entries.

Students who enroll in the course must agree to provide a saliva sample for the genetic test.  Students must also be open to the “unknowns” that arise when investigating family backgrounds.  We will be incorporating many discussions of pluralism throughout the project.

Project website:

Project outline

Prior to leaving campus in December, students will receive their DNA testing kit from Dr. Lawton and send their saliva samples to

Prior to the first day of class, students must purchase a membership (at least one month) to

Project requirements

Weight Task
40% Family tree (evaluated on quality of search, variety of sources, documentation of facts, and supplemental media incorporated into tree)
10% Online blog posts
10% Group presentations
10% Class mystery
10% Final presentation
10% Actively contributing to family history/genealogy community (, World Archives Project, etc.)
10% Class participation


Attendance is required at every class session.  During interim, each day of class is equivalent one week of class during the fall/spring terms.  Students missing more than two classes will automatically be removed from the course.  This does not mean that students are allowed two “free absences” – each of your classmates benefits from your participation every day.

Final grade

Grade Percent
Honors >96%
Pass 70%-96%
Fail <70%

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