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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Important Comment

I got a very important comment to my recent post about the genealogy community's market penetration. This is the comment that was made by Tessa Keough on Google+:
Interesting post that raises some big questions. We do have a small very engaged circle or group in genealogy - but it is still not making it out to the general public (at least in this country). Oftentimes it is not even making it out to the online community. What are we as a community doing right and what are we getting wrong? 
Why do some other countries do so well with family history/genealogy - England, Scotland, Sweden, Norway to name a few. In each of these countries, the government and/or a large private company has gotten behind the digitization and really pushed it out to the people (often with volunteers). People also seem to have a real interest in their family, their history and their country's history (as well as their place in it).  
Why does family history/genealogy attract so many more people in Britain than it does in the USA? Why does their big conference in England -WDYTYALive - attract people from all backgrounds, including age, sex, economic, education, religion/non religion? Is it location, cost, type of show, publicity, and/or who is putting the conference on and what types of booths/classes are available? 
Why is the show WDYTYA so successful over there but could not attract a moderate following over here? What lessons can we learn from their model and what changes do we need to make over here to get more "mainstream" (and I am sure there will be many who don't want it mainstream).  
So +James Tanner and all other genealogy/family historians out there - what are we doing right and wrong & what would you change about the current approach? Do we have the numbers/reviews from RootsTech for the past 3 years (has it been 3 or 4 years) so we know who came, why, what their expectations were, and were they met? Is that done for FGS, NGS, SCGJamboree, and other conferences on the regional and national basis? Did anyone ask the people who attend via the internet those same questions? Is that information being shared among the groups for planning purposes? Big question - where do we as a community want to go from here & how do we plan to get there? 
As to one of the examples brought up in your post, it seems the LDS Church has not gotten the word out to its own membership about its flagship program (that surprised me) which is a fascinating subset of this bigger issue. 
Well? What is the answer? Is there a community out there that can address these issues? Are there statistics available to the general genealogical community to give us an idea what is going on? I am not aware that any of the larger conferences share that kind of information outside of their own internal staff. For example, we don't get a measure of how many people who attend the conferences are actually working or staffing the conference as opposed to paid attendees or "invited guests."

Where do we get accurate information about the percentages of people actually participating in the genealogical community? Especially with so many who do not participate online.

If we include everyone who is interested in their family, is that an accurate measure of interest in family history? If we define family history so broadly that it includes almost every activity in which the family is involved, does that "solve" the issue? Do we improve the genealogical community by downplaying the need for "research" related activities? Do we abandon support for the serious, educated and motivated researchers so the rest of the "community" won't feel bad?

Are the current genealogical societies serving the greater community and attracting new members?

The questions can go on and on. Here is one last comment from Tessa:
I hope people see my comments as the questions they are and NOT complaints because I really think we can do so much more but we need to figure out how to get outside the small box we have put ourselves in.


  1. When comparing anything between the US and other countries, one also wonders if there is something different in the 'stereotypical' American mentality and the European mentality.

    The 'individualistic' meme is much stronger in America, and I wonder if that has an impact on the popularity of genealogy. It makes sense that genealogy would be more popular in European countries where there is a stronger emphasis on the importance of family and community.

    If someone feels where they are and who they are is solely dependent upon themselves, they're going to have less interest in their ancestors.

  2. Believe me +Tessa Keough, the LDS Church has gotten the message to its members about FamilySearch and temple work. But only a small number in each ward (congregation) elect to do either. This is the same in families... Where genealogists are considered a little nutty.