As I finished teaching the classes at the Sacramento Family History Expo, and had conversations with some of the attendees, I was thinking about the overall nature of genealogy as a persuasion. There were somewhere near 500 people at the Expo and my impressions were that the attendees were predominantly female and over the age of 50. There were a significant number of men involved but they were far outnumbered by the women and the men were mostly the same age as the women.
As a side note, if you look at the images associated with the genealogy programs online, you would get an entirely different impression of who the genealogists are. Given the demographics at the Expo, I would think that most of the advertising is misdirected.
But I draw on my own experience. I became very much involved in genealogy about the age of 35. So, I did not then, nor do I now, fit into the predominant demographic. But when I was younger, I did not attend even one genealogy conference. In fact, given the lack of Internet in those times, I don't think I had ever heard of a genealogy conference. Further, it never occurred to me that genealogy could be or was cooperative in nature. During nearly all of those early years doing research and adding names and dates to my genealogy, I don't recall ever finding anyone in my family or otherwise, who was similarly interested in genealogy. In the nearly thirty years since I first began working on my genealogy, I have found limited pockets of interest in people on certain of my family lines. However, my attempts at organizing some sort of cooperative effort have never matured into a productive research situation.
So, if the genealogical community is predominantly female, older and a solitary pursuit, why is there such a marked effort by online software and website developers to make into a "cooperative" activity? Who am I supposed to cooperate with? For example, I have been online with New.FamilySearch.org for over five years. Although I have had contact with others interested in my genealogical research, I have never found anyone who even vaguely suggested cooperating on any projects. Am I disappointed or discouraged because no one else in my immediate or extended family is cooperating in genealogical research? Not at all. I do have one daughter who is very interested and writes a fabulous blog, TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com and we do exchange information. But I would not consider that the exchange consisted of cooperative effort.
I view myself as a solitary genealogical researcher working in parallel with other researchers who are working on their own lines. I have heard about and seen the results of some cooperative research projects, primarily conducted many years ago by my wife's family. I have attended some very successful genealogically oriented family reunions (cooperative events?) with my wife's family and one branch of my extended family. But those events cannot be said to have produced a cooperative effort in doing basic research. They are more of an exchange of documents, photos and artifacts combined with information about current living family members and how they are related to a distant common ancestor.
Further, I am not at all upset or disturbed about the solitary nature of genealogy. I do not intend to give the pursuit merely because I can find no one else in my family who is even slightly interested in combining their research efforts with my own. So, this seems to be the dominate model of genealogical activity, single older adults who are interested in pursuing genealogical research, some of whom began their interest a some time earlier in their life. Now, what about the extended family of these researchers? I believe you could say that there is a cloud of immediate family members, some of whom are somewhat tolerant of the genealogist and even including a few that will participate in genealogical activities if coerced into doing so. Having more than one central genealogist in an extended family is likely an unusual situation. Beyond the central genealogist, there is a further cloud of relatives who are only vaguely aware, if at all, of genealogy or the researcher's efforts.
Are any of the present genealogical databases or online resources calculated to create an atmosphere of cooperation among these extended family members? If the programs emphasize family cooperation and "beginners" at the expense of providing support for the established genealogical hub individuals, doesn't that at best ignore the present structure of the community or at worst alienate the people who are actually doing genealogical research?
More on this later.