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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Updated Thoughts on Genealogy Blogging and Pi Day

The noise level in the social media world has reached even new levels. I recently posted a comment from the newsletter concerning the fact that very few blogs are receiving enough traffic to make it on to the Top 100 Genealogy Website list. That could be either good news or bad news. The good news aspect would indicate that genealogy was increasing in popularity and therefore blogging was becoming a smaller percentage of the pie. The bad news could be consistent with my own observations and the list of supplementary blogs listed by the post, that did not make the Top 100 but were considered highly ranked. Some of these have made the list in previous years but most are "commercial" blogs with well developed websites consisting of a wide spectrum of online activities including webinars, Facebook pages and other social media activities.

Of course this raised the perennial question of the overall popularity of genealogy as an online topic. We are now well into 2016 and it is time to take a look at Google Trends again. Today is Pi Day and searches on Google for pi peak on this date every year. This is a classic example of a time or date related search surge. Here is the Trend for Pi Day.

You can see the definite trend on March 14th.

Now, how is genealogy fairing these days? Google Trends is a way of showing The following:
Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart. If at most 10% of searches for the given region and time frame were for "pizza," we'd consider this 100. This doesn't convey absolute search volume. 
The real question is whether or not the "trend" simply indicates that "genealogy" as a field of study or as a search term has declined or is merely failing to keep up with the overall growth of internet searches. In other words is genealogy really more popular now that it used to be, yet even with an increase in popularity, is it getting lost in the online masses? I am not sure that there is a way to tell and I am further not sure there is much of a difference. 

Here is the current graph for a search on Genealogy as a field of study. 

I included the comparison of regional interest in the subject. For those living in the United States it should be interesting that six other countries show more interest in genealogy than we do here in the U.S.

Over the past few years that I have been looking at these graphs, I haven't seen any significant change. The trend has always been down. On this graph it looks like interest has leveled off at between 8% and 7% of the historic high. Here is a screenshot of the last 12 months:

This graph supports the small seasonal fluctuation I have noted in past years. Interest reaches a high during the winter months and then declines over the summer to rebound again in the fall. With Google Trends you can look at any individual year and I note that recent years all show almost the exact same profile. 

Let's check up on the top four online database companies as measured by,, and Let see if any of them are bucking the overall trend.

Here is a composite chart since 2004.

This is a little bit confusing, but it clearly shows that has followed the overall decline. has some remarkable spikes and a definite upward trend as does but without the spikes. If we focus in on the last year, the chart becomes even more interesting:

Both and are making moves that put them above the usual leader, and is now clearly surpassing its historical rival also. Will these trends translate into changes in the Top 100 in the future? That is an interesting question. 

It is difficult to compare genealogy to another topic. The term "genealogy" is rather specific and limited in its application. There are other uses of the term besides family history, but it if we compare it to DNA for example, DNA has a much broader use. But here we go, genealogy compared to DNA. 

Searches for information about DNA show the classic periodic cycle. However, compared to genealogy, interest is constant and currently in a periodic high. There is no way of knowing if the current genealogical interest in DNA testing has had any impact, but here is what happens when we add the two large genealogy related DNA companies: and

It looks like there might be some activity in the last year. Here is a chart focusing on the last year.

Adding "DNA Ancestry" didn't change the graph significantly. AncestryDNA is at 0% and is at 3%. Genealogy is at 6%. DNA as a subject is at 82%. It doesn't look like the genealogy DNA market has made much of an impact yet on the companies. It also does not appear that's success in adding DNA products has translated into increased trending against the other major genealogy companies. 

How does blogging compare as a search term? Here is the graph.

This confirms my observations. How about comparing it to Facebook and Instagram?

Well, you could argue that Facebook is now so saturated that no one needs to search for it anymore, but you can almost not see the increase in Instagram searches. Let's take out Facebook.

Hmm. This chart seems to show what I suspect. Instagram is dramatically robbing people from the blogging community. Blogging is now out of fashion and Instagram is dramatically increasing. I am turning into an anachronism in more than one way it appears. 


  1. Are you equating google searches including the word genealogy to interest in genealogy? I rarely include the word "genealogy" in my google searches for family research...This article was helpful in understanding google trends:

    1. On the contrary, I frequently include the word genealogy when searching for my ancestors because that helps to limit the number and type of replies. Yes, I agree, I do a lot of "genealogical" searches without using the term. But it is one of the few terms that is not as ambiguous as most others for determining interest. Do you have another term to suggest?

  2. I think the google trends graph for showing the popularity of genealogy over the last ten years is misleading for two reasons:

    1 - The graph only takes into account google searches that include the word genealogy. As you stated, many genealogical searches are done without the word genealogy.

    2 - The numbers are reported as a percentage of total google searches, yet the number of google searches have gone up dramatically in the last ten years.

    Now that people use their smart phones to do google searches all day long, there are a lot more google searches happening. It's probably more useful to compare data from the last year.

    Also, you can add terms to the trends graph with the + sign, which indicates "OR." Maybe genealogy + family history + ancestry would be more inclusive.

    1. The numbers reported are a percentage of the total number of searches on the particular search term. 100% is established by the highest number of searches. The graphs do show the popularity of a particular term. I will follow your suggestion and show a variety of search terms in the aggregate.

    2. If the percentages were of the total number of searches, the numbers would not even register because of the huge number of searches done on all subjects. The graphs do not show the "popularity" of the term genealogy in comparison to every other search, but only its own searches. So, the number of searches for the term genealogy have declined.

  3. Hi again James - I shared your thought provoking post in my favorite reads of the week. Thanks for writing it!