weekend ancestry

Ancestor Hunger and Religious Conversions

I don’t usually cross-post from my newsletter, but I’m making an exception here. This might be my last post before the site is finally redesigned. If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you may know that my mom started a church in my living room when I was a kid. It was a tongues-speaking, Rapture-awaiting, exorcism-full ministry focused on hippies, drug . . .

Read more



Family Tree: Slate, Tin House, Begats

At Slate, Ariel Bogle recaps a discussion I had last week with AJ Jacobs, Wilhelmina Rhodes-Kelly, and Chris Whitten on how technology is affecting the family tree. I talked a little bit about what drew me to research my ancestry in the first place. Although technology is changing the way we discover our personal histories, the reasons why people may . . .

Read more



The Family Tree: Talks with Writers on Ancestry, for Tin House

    I’ve always been interested in the ways writers think about family history—and especially about echoes, or the lack thereof, through the generations—if they do, as they work. I’m grateful to Tin House for allowing me to indulge this curiosity in a new series of brief but wide-ranging interviews with authors about ancestry. First up, Christopher Beha: Maud Newton: When we first . . .

Read more



Like We Say Back Home, Vol. 3

In the past couple years my mom has taught me and reminded me of a few more of my Texan granny’s favorite expressions. Some highlights: Quiet as a little mouse peeing on cotton. (Usually used when someone reacts with stunned silence to some sort of diatribe or revelation.) You can’t get all your coons up one tree. (You can’t get everything you want.) Told them how . . .

Read more