Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Thoughts on the Three (or more) Genealogy Worlds

I had excellent responses to my post Three (or more!) Genealogy Worlds? written on Sunday.  I want to explain some of my observations, based on the comments received:

1)  theKiwi commented that he thought the breakdown was more like 60% / 25-30% / 10-15%. 

The statistics that I based my guesses on (and they were just estimates of 75% to 85% in the Traditional World, 5 % to 15% in the Online World, and 0% to 2% in the Technology World) were:

*   Witcher's total of 49 million have a "deep appreciation for their ancestors."  I interpreted that to mean they have an interest in genealogy and family history, and have an interest in genealogy.  That may be an incorrect interpretation.  I think it includes "inactive" genealogists - those not actively researching, and includes many that are members of genealogical societies and are not participating.  Therefore, I used the 49 million as my "base" for "all genealogists." 

*  Witcher's total of 13 million "active researchers."  That is 26.5% of the 49 million.  It includes Traditional, Online and Technology folks.  Therefore, the total of Online and Technology folks can't be more than 26.5%.  I put the ones who aren't Online or Technology into the Traditional World by default.

*  Witcher's total of 1.6 million online researchers who are aged 18 to 44, and his 7.5 million online researchers who are aged 45 and over.  Therefore, 17.6% of online researchers are under age 45.  The total of 9.1 million online researchers is 70% of the 13 million active researchers, and 18.6% of the 49 million.

2)  theKiwi also questioned the 500,000 memberships in 500 genealogical societies, for an average of 1,000 per society. 

There are some national, regional and state societies that have membership counts over 1,000, but there are many that have less than 200 members.  Many small societies are not members of FGS, but most large societies (above 500 members) are FGS members.  The three San Diego area societies that I'm a member of have 125, 225, and 500 members.  An average of 1,000 members seems reasonable, but the median is probably more like 300.

3)  Kerry Scott noted that not all "21st century genealogists" are under age 44. 

I agree (and should modify my comment "presumably under age 44," which was an ageist comment).  I do think that all "21st century genealogists," as defined by Witcher, are online genealogists, very few are society members, and use social networks and handheld devices.  How many are there?  

My "Technology" group includes these "21st century genealogists" of Witcher's, but it includes many folks who also work in the Traditional and Online worlds and embrace the Technology.  Most professionals, social networkers and genea-bloggers are in this group.  How many are there?  I guessed up to 2% of all genealogists.  That would be up to 980,000 of the 49 million group.  Do you think that there are that many?  The most enthusiastic of them went to RootsTech.  3,000 out of 980,000 is 0.3% - 1 out of 327.

4)  Kerry thinks that's subscribers are more than 5% to 15% of the genealogy world. 

If there are 1.3 million Ancestry subscribers, that's 14.3% of the online group, 10% of the active researcher group, and 2.6% of the 49 million.

5)  Kerry thinks that societies are missing out on most of the genealogist population. 

I agree.  By the statistics, they have 500,000 of the 49 million (1%), and my guess is that 60% of the society members are dormant - they don't participate.  We know that 73.5% of the 49 million are not active researchers.  A significant percentage of society leadership is not in the Online or Technology worlds, and therefore the societies are slow to adapt. 

6)  Debbie Parker Wayne added the "Traditional but Experienced" World to my Three Worlds in her blog post at Deb's Delvings

Good ideas and commentary, and the commenters have them too.   

I realize now that I should have included persons that work on genealogy every day (or even all day) in each of the Three Worlds I posited.  As Debbie points out, there are folks who are not online or have handhelds, but they are actively contributing to genealogy on a regular basis. 

The biggest question in my mind is "how many people are in the Genealogy World?"  If we knew the answer to that, we could discuss the actual percentages in each World. 

Thank you all for the comments - I appreciate them and respect your opinions.  If readers  have more demographics and statistics, or opinions about this subject, please chime in with Comments on this post, or in your own blog post.


Leslie Albrecht Huber said...

Very interesting post and comments with lots of things to think about. I have wondered about similar things as I have pondered how to market my book. I have felt that the word has somewhat gotten out to the "hard-core" genealogy group - meaning those who regularly attend conferences, read genealogy blogs and magazines etc. But the interest in genealogy (and in my mind, in the topics covered in The Journey Takers) goes way beyond this. But, as someone mentioned, these "other" people are hard to count - and hard to reach. I enjoyed seeing some numbers to put with my thoughts!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...


I somehow missed the first post, so a special THANK YOU for this follow-up post. In this, I include the reference to Deb's post and those comments, as well.

As interesting as all of these numbers and speculation are, I am mostly concerned about how do we both preserve and create searchable digital records of all those very special records that only exist in the files of genealogical/historical societies across the country - without getting bogged down with the "not-so-special" records that are also there. Even if we can ever get any of them digitized.

I readily admit a bias to the "realm of the records" rather than to the "society meetings." Many of the smaller county "societies" are already disappearing, along with their records... and many of them are in the rural areas were virtually ALL of my ancestors lived, in many, many states.

But, I recognize, that is most cases, the records are a part of the Society where they reside. So, perhaps, it is the societies we do need to preserve? or what?

Just more food for thought. ;-)