Friday, December 7, 2007

Ancestry Survey Reveals Lack of Family Knowledge has a press release titled "Survey Reveals Americans' Surprising Lack of Family Knowledge" - read the whole thing here. The findings are summarized as --

-- Young Americans are looking to their roots - 83 percent of 18- to 34-years-old are interested in learning their family history. Following closely are the 35- to 54-year-olds at 77 percent and Americans ages 55+ at 73 percent.

-- Half of Americans know the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents.

-- Twenty-two percent of Americans don't know what either of their grandfathers do or did for a living.

-- Although America is known as a nation of immigrants, 27 percent don't know where their family lived before they came to America.

-- Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they are interested in learning more about their family history.

-- Fifty percent of American families have ever researched their roots.

-- In comparing regions, Southerners know the least about their roots. Only 38 percent know both of their grandmothers' maiden names, compared with 50 percent of Northeasterners. Also, only 47 percent of Southerners know what both of their grandfathers do or did for a living, while 55 percent of Northeasterners know both grandfathers' occupations.

Are you surprised by these findings? I'm not. Look at the state of the world today -- with

* many children born out of wedlock who do not know their biological fathers,
* many raised by single parents or foster or adoptive parents,
* many divorced couples,
* many family members spread out all over the world due to immigration and occupation.

Frankly, I'm amazed that so many people do know about their grandfathers' occupations and their grandmothers maiden names.

Those same reasons for the lack of knowledge are why there is the interest in family history - they want to know more about their family and how they came into being. There is a yearning for knowledge about identity and genetics - a desire to know "where do I belong?"

There is an opportunity for genealogy societies and researchers to help these people in their quest. The challenge is to find the best way to help people find their family history. I think it lies in education - especially using audio-visual methods - and in finding and telling family history stories that people can relate to.

The Ancestry press release has some questions for inquisitive people to ask their family members during the holidays - it's a good list. I hope that more people take the opportunity to ask the questions and video or write down the answers.

Do you agree? What else can be done to help those inquirers, and genealogy societies deal with them?

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