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

Saturday, November 22, 2014 reports on growth of online family history research

In a press release dated 19 November 2014 from in Provo, Utah, entitled, "Online Family History Research in United States Grows by 14 Times in Past Decade," the company stated:
Over the past decade, online family history research has grown in the United States by 14 times, with two-thirds (63%) of respondents in a recent study reporting that family history has become more important than ever. They also say that this growth is motivated by a belief that knowing more about the past is a key part of understanding who we are. 
Announced today by, the world's largest online family history resource, the new findings are part of the first chapter in its Global Family History Report, a multi-country study that examined trends in the family—both past and present—across six developed countries: the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.
This is certainly good news to genealogists, but what does this really mean? The statement refers to a "Global Family History Report." According to Diane Haddad, on the GenealogyInsider blog, this is apparently a study done by the Future Foundation on behalf of Diane states, in part:
The study by the Future Foundation on behalf of examined trends in the family—both past and present—across six developed countries: the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.

Overall, it indicates that generations are growing closer and families are increasingly interested in their history. Other findings include:
  • The number of grandchildren with a close relationship with a grandparent has risen from 60 percent in the 1950s to 1960s, to 78 percent today. family historian Michelle Ercanbreck attributes this to advances in technology and medicine: “As grand- and great-grandparents live longer and stay connected with social media, there are now unprecedented opportunities to engage with younger generations and pass on family stories.” 
  • Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents reported feeling closer to older relatives, with half of older relatives saying they had drawn closer to young relatives as a result of learning more about their family.
  • Younger people (55 percent overall) are among those inspired most to learn more about their family history by talking with older family members.
  • The average family history for US respondents stretches back 184 years, compared to 149 years a generation ago.
  • Among Americans who’ve gone beyond talking to family to research their family history, three of the most commonly used resources are photographs (81 percent); birth, marriage and death records (66 percent); and letters (45 percent).
 I am always skeptical of vaguely cited statistics, particularly those that try to prove the "popularity" of genealogy and/or family history. There is always a tendency to translate a vague interest in families into support for the popularity of doing genealogical research.

The problem here is separating the overall growth and impact of the Internet on the world's population from a specific interest in genealogy or family history. One example is the Internet Growth Statistics from the Internet World Stats website. From the statistics cited on that website, in February of 2004 (ten years or a decade ago) there were approximately 745 million Internet users worldwide. By March of 2014, the estimated number of users had risen to 2,937,000.000 users. In other words, the percentage of Internet users in the world population rose from 11.5% in 2004 to 40.9% in 2014. Now the problem is this; how do you compare a statistic that claims a "14 times" growth with the percentage increase in overall Internet usage? Finding exact statistics from about the number of users and growth is pretty difficult.

Isn't it true that people feel more connected today than they did ten years ago? I can now talk instantly or nearly instantly to my children around the country (an around the world if need be) in a variety of ways, all of which are essentially free results of Internet connections. Doesn't this alone support the cited rise in interest?

I am certain that involvement of people in online programs such as,, and all the other online genealogy programs, has increased awareness and interest in families. We do have current numbers of users from They have a counter on their website showing the number of members of the program. Today, the counter showed 73,293,269 members of worldwide. I have observed that in the past few weeks, that number has been increasing by about 100,000 new members a week! Simple math shows that about 2.5% of the world's estimated Internet users are on

All in all, these statistics are interesting and perhaps even encouraging. But they would be more interesting if they could be compared to some actual historical numbers.

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