19 December 2007

National survey: Researchers are younger

Ancestry.com's latest survey revealed a lack of family knowledge among Americans as well as some interesting results.

-According to the survey, genealogy's demographics may be changing as more younger Americans are looking for roots: 83% of respondents ages 18-34 were interested in learning their family history, followed by ages 35-54 (77%) and ages 55+ (73%).

-Half the respondents know the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents. One-third cannot name any of them.

-22% don't know what either of their grandfathers do or did for a living.

-Although known as a nation of immigrants, 27% of American respondents don't know where their family lived before arriving in America.

-78% say they are interested in learning more about their family history.

-Only 50% of American families have researched their roots.

-Regional comparisons were also interesting. Southern respondents knew the least aboutfamily roots: Only 38% know both their grandmothers' maiden names, compared to 50% of Northeasterners. Only 47% of Southerners know what both their grandfathers do or did for a living, while 55% of Northeasterners know both grandfathers' occupations.

The most important part of this survey, in my opinion, is the changing demographics indication. Jewish genealogy societies and organizations need to make a concerted effort to encourage participation by younger individuals. This can be accomplished in various ways: Outreach programs, special student member pricing, sponsoring educational programs or awards at the high school level and numerous other activities.

Outreach should be a major investment in a field dominated until recently by those ages 55+. Attracting new blood (e.g. younger researchers) is a necessity to keep creativity and ideas flowing to all researchers, particularly in technological areas.

What is your genealogical society doing or planning to do to attract younger, active members? I'm interested in your comments and look forward to reading them.

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