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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Demographics of Genealogists -- A Review

In a previous post, I mentioned a comment from someone who had done a study of the demographics of genealogists. I have been in communication with the author and have her permission to cite to her study. She is Pamela Drake and her study was done as a Masters' Thesis for California State University in Fullerton, California. The study was done in 2001 and is called Successful Aging: Investment in Genealogy as a Function of Generativity, Mobility and Sense of Place.

Here is the formal citation:

Drake, Pamela Jo Willenbring. Successful Aging: Investment in Genealogy As a Function of Generativity, Mobility and Sense of Place. Thesis (M.A.)--California State University, Fullerton, 2001, 2001.

I also found a related paper as follows:

Umfleet, S. Bradley. Genealogy and Generativity in Older Adults, A Social Work 298 Special Project
Presented to the Faculty of the College of Social Work San José State University
. Special Project, (M.A.) San José State University, San José, California, 2009.

Then, guess what? I found there is a whole string of commentaries and scholarly papers on this subject.  So what is the subject? Generativity. I found a concise definition in Phychology:
Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during middle adulthood between the ages of approximately 40 and 65. During this time, adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them; often by having children or contributing to positive changes that benefits other people.
Contributing to society and doing things to benefit future generations are important needs at the generativity versus stagnation stage of development. Generativity refers to "making your mark" on the world, through caring for others, creating things and accomplishing things that make the world a better place.
Stagnation refers to the failure to find a way to contribute. These individuals may feel disconnected or uninvolved with their community and with society as a whole.
 This is starting to look very interesting, particularly in relationship to the age factor in genealogy. I am in the process of reviewing several of these publications and may provide some commentary here.

These issues touch on several related subjects, including the relative popularity of genealogy as a "hobby" or interest, the median age level of the participants and whether or not genealogy as a "community" is attracting or can attract "younger" members?

It will take me a while to read through what I have found already, but I expect I will have some comments to make.


  1. I studied Erik Erikson in Nursing School forty years ago, I suppose I wasn't interested in the seventh stage at the time. I guess it is time for a re-review.

  2. I found the Umfleet paper to be very interesting. I have been researching my family history for 20 years and prior to her death, my mother and I would discuss my findings. During this time I believe that by studying genealogy along with me, she was able to make peace with her life.