Introduction

Family is central to how we confront and understand the world, but families do not just happen. They are made. Some adults choose to have children and make a place for them to thrive. Sometimes parents do this through fostering or adoption, extending notions of kinship beyond birth and biological connections.

Societies and religions define kinship in different ways too, and they may have little to do with blood relations. The most striking example may be Jesus of Nazareth’s injunction to forsake one's birth family to follow him. In the early modern period in Europe, the family often meant a set of biologically related people plus servants and apprentices organized around work.

On still another plane, individuals create their own families. They come to recognize kinship ties as they grow toward adulthood, to value them or to chafe against them, to validate them or to reject them. In the modern world—we have chosen some Americans in Paris for an example—people also create their own families through networks of friendship and intellectual kinship.

Perhaps the most creative form of family-making is genealogy, and the Newberry has long excelled in serving readers looking for historical sources to trace their family trees. Historical and modern examples, both factual and fabulous, show how research too makes families and puts them down on paper or parchment for all to see.