Using letters and other family documents, Frazier reconstructs two hundred years of middle-class life, visiting small towns his ancestors lived in, reading books they read, and discovering the larger forces of history that affected them. He observes some of them during the British raid on Danbury, Connecticut, in the Revolutionary War; he follows others west as they pioneer in the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana; he visits the battlefields where they fought the Civil War. Frazier interviews old-timers, uncles, aunts, cousins, maids, and a beer-store owner who knew his dad. He pursues the family saga in aspect from trivial to grand, hoping for "a meaning that would defeat death." Family is a poetic epic of facts, a chronicle of Protestant culture's rise and fall, a memorial, and a revised view of American history as romantic as it is cold-eyed.