"Billingsley's book accomplishes what previous studies of antebellum southern kinship stop short of doing by going beyond the borders of one community and state to examine how kinship and the process of migration shaped one another. Her focus on a single family and its thousands of descendants not only traces the role kinship played over an extended period of time and over an extended area, but also provides a valuable methodological bridge between genealogists and historians."
—Robert C. Kenzer, author of Kinship and Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange County, North Carolina, 1849-1881
Drawing on Keesee family history, Billingsley reminds us that, contrary to the accepted notion of rugged individuals heeding the proverbial call of the open spaces, kindred groups accounted for most of the migration to the South’s interior and boundary lands. In addition, she discusses how, for antebellum southerners, the religious affiliation of one’s parents was the most powerful predictor of one’s own spiritual leanings, with marriage being the strongest motivation to change them. Billingsley also looks at the connections between kinship and economic and political power, offering examples of how Keesee family members facilitated and consolidated their influence and wealth through kin ties.
Piecing together a wide assortment of public and private records that pertain to the Keesee family and shed light on naming practices, residential propinquity, migration patterns, economic and political dealings, and religious interactions, Billingsley offers a model of innovation and subtle analysis for historians. This important new study makes a persuasive case that kinship, particularly in the study of the antebellum South, should be considered a discrete category of analysis complementary to, and potentially as powerful as, race, class, and gender.
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