12 December 2006

The American national hobby ... almost!

According to a number of surveys in recent years, genealogy is the second most popular American hobby after gardening, and it is the second most visited category of Web sites, after pornography.

I once had a conversation about the popularity of genealogy research with the editor of a Jewish paper in one of the far Northern states (where it snows from September through April).

He asked, rather insistently, "More popular than golf?"

My reply: "I'm not sure how popular golf is in your neck of woods in the lo-o-o-o-ng winter, but you can easily research your family sitting at home no matter how high the snow drifts!"

He couldn't say that about golf. Imagine trying to find a little white golf ball in six feet of snow!

It's easier to find a passenger's badly transcribed name in the Ellis Island Database, even without Steve Morse's Gold Page.

And you can take a practical course in various genealogical topics online no matter the weather outside.

In any case, here's a story from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
On the first night of Carol Knox Hossfield's first genealogy class, the instructor asked where her family was from.

When Hossfield replied, "New York," the instructor smiled. "Ah, the black hole of genealogy," she said.

Hossfield's hopes sank.

Despite New York's reputation - earned because the state was settled before vital records were recorded and because New York lacked detailed town records such as those found in New England - Hossfield soon found an extraordinary amount of information on the Internet, thanks to census records from the early 1900s.

I'm sure that most Jewish genealogists do not consider New York to be the black hole of genealogy, but it's an interesting read.

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