Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Family history survey results

Myles Proudfoot is a Cincinnati based market researcher and genie who has just published the results of a fascinating survey on family history on his Family History 21ster blog at

1050 people took part, ranging from complete amateurs to long term professionals. Their only common denominator was a strong leaning to the use of social networks, and with 39% claiming to work for a family history society or organisation in some way.

Some of the results are very revealing. For example, the average age of those starting their research is 35.8 years - that's the average age mind - so any pretence that family history is a hobby only pursued by the retired gets slightly knocked on the head! Only 34.9% of respondents were in fact retired. Two thirds of respondents described themselves as addicts, and the average length of time people have pursued their research is just over 18 years.

Of the many reasons asked why people started their research, I was heartened to read that only 3.9% answered it was because of a TV programme - I've long been of the opinion that shows such as Who Do You Think You Are were commissioned because of the upsurge in interest in family history, they did not create that interest. Interestingly the main reason, claimed by over 31%, was the continuation of someone else's research, followed by almost 27% of people wishing to preserve the memory of a deceased relative.

Two thirds of respondents described themselves as amateurs, and one third do work on their trees every day. Over 87% stated they did their research from home, with a third having never attended a family history society meeting or conference. Just under 80% try to tackle their trees on all fronts at the same time, rather than pursue individual research lines.

On the most common sites (bear in mind this is a worldwide survey), 14% of people have used ScotlandsPeople. Ancestry and FamilySearch came first and second, though oddly FindmyPast does not seem to be on the list of offerings there. Three quarters of users subscribe to a commercial family history records site, with just over 40% having paid subscriptions to family history sites. In terms of gaining info on new resources or techniques, the top three methods are books (overwhelmingly), family history conferences and blogs, with one to one instruction and podcasts bringing up the rear.

On the social networking options, overwhelmingly the top resource used is Facebook, with Twitter in second place. Almost three quarters (72.8%) have never hired a professional genealogist, and three quarters of respondents to the survey were women. 45.7% of respondents had Scottish ancestry, in third place behind Irish (57%) and English (71.9%). [Well, it's quality rather than quantity that counts! lol]

The full survey - all 25 pages! - is available through Myles' site. It has to be remembered that this is a worldwide survey, but let's face it, here in Scotland we're not exactly Ireland when it comes to online accessibility and resources (OK, I know it's getting better!), so much of this will apply. An interesting snapshot.

Ordinarily I welcome comments on my blog, but in this case, can I suggest you read the survey and then make your comments on Myles' blog? He's put a lot of work in, it seems only fair that he should get your comments - and he desperately wants them!

(With thanks to Myles Proudfoot)


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