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Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Genealogy's popularity declining?

There are indicators that the popularity of genealogy is rapidly declining. This would seem contrary to the emphasis placed on the pursuit by both commercial and non-profit genealogical enterprises. You can disagree with my assessment but the statistics compiled by Google Trends show otherwise.

Google Trends plots the frequency of searches on specific topics. Say, you search on the term "genealogy," Google then benchmarks the number of searches on any term based on Web search, Image search, News search or product search. The results are displayed in a graph over time.

Here are a few examples.

This is a search on the term "genealogy."


You can see a definite downward trend for the past eight years. The bench mark in this case was back in 2004. So, you don't believe this? OK, here is a plot for searches on Ancestry.com.

Down somewhat, but almost no real change over eight years of web searches. What about FamilySearch? Here's the trend:

This one turns out to be roughly the same as a search for the term "genealogy." What about "family history?"

Same downward trend. What about a search on MyHeritage, its rapid growth should show up, shouldn't it?

Yes, the rapid growth shows up, but the trend is still downward.

Why is this the case? What is going on globally with genealogy? Oh, just in case you want to see if there is some reality to these graphs, try searching on the term "hurricane." You will see a jump for each year when there was a major storm in the U.S.

Interesting? Challenging to most current perceptions about genealogy? I think so.

7 comments:

  1. I have not noticed any decrease in those attending my presentations so far, but I did notice a recent down trend in queries for my services. I wish they hadn't cancelled WDYTYA. Bad for business.

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  2. I think that the error in the argument is to conclude that a downward trend in searches for the *word* "genealogy" is an indication of a downward trend in *interest* in genealogy. This may simply indicate a shift away from broad web searches for genealogical information toward use of specific websites (such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch) to locate relevant information.

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  3. I'm curious if these results include only those searches for "genealogy" or if it includes searches that have genealogy in the search terms (e.g. "Simpson genealogy"). Additionally, these are results from ONE search engine, and doesn't take into account the searches done from within specific websites (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.)

    There are so many variables to this scenario that it wouldn't be prudent to put much stock in these results alone.

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  4. What about doing graphs for genealogy blogs and podcasts? I subscribe to blogs and podcasts, and describe myself as an intermediate amateur. I started doing genealogy in 1998. I mined the internet genealogy sites for years. I've reached the point now when I occasionally search, but need to concentrate on making all the research functional and format it in a way it can be of use to descendents. So much emphasis is put on online trees, and so many of them are poorly researched-and then take on a life of their own. Websites seem to be marketing trees, not sound research practices that would help intermediate researchers. WDYTYA brings in new researchers-critical. I think you can find some of the missing searchers looking to the genealogical community to advance their skills thru blogs and podcasts. Sorry for the long post.

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  5. I suspect that the people leaving genealogy are those that find it too hard. They have been used to instant gratification and when they can't find gt gt grandma quickly they're discouraged and quit.

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  6. Very interesting I must say. I'm wondering if people are not using the word genealogy when searching as much since they have learned other ways to search, and on specific websites -? Strange.

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  7. People have learned how to search. The word genealogy do not give the result you want. I search on names, places and number range.

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