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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who are we? A Genealogical Perspective

Who are we? Along with the difficulty in defining genealogy at all, this is one of most interesting questions about being a genealogical researcher. The Mesa FamilySearch Library recently held a conference in Peoria, Arizona, on the westside of Phoenix, Arizona and gathered some interesting statistics on those who attended.

73% of the attendees were female and only 27% of the attendees were male. These numbers roughly correspond to my own observations. I could speculate as to the reason that the make up of the genealogical community is heavily populated with females, but my opinions would be dismissed as biased and unscientific. But in any gathering of genealogists, you are more likely to see a predominance of women over men.

The age statistics also reflect a heavy bias. Here are the numbers:

UNDER 20 6 2%
21-30 7 3%
31-40 12 5%
41-50 18 7%
51-65 62 25%
OVER 65 147 58%

One obvious conclusion about the male/female relationship is likely the age factor. More women live to old age than men. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study, "Life Expectancy at Birth (in years) by Gender," on the average women live 5 years longer than men in the United States. I would think you would have to discount the attendance numbers by the number of men who came to the conference simply because their wives required them to tag along. It is also interesting to note that the percentage of the total population of the U.S. over 65 is only about 14% so the number of women over 65 involved in very disproportionate. See The World Bank, Population ages 65 and above (% of total).

My own observations of the number of younger people involved directly in genealogy would place the number far lower than these attendance figures might imply. 


  1. I am fascinated by the same question. Who are the genealogists that make up our community? I would argue that these statistics only show those who attend family history conferences, not a full representation of people who actually do genealogical research. The younger generation may find it more difficult to get away from school, full time jobs, and taking care of children to attend conferences. They may also be more comfortable learning how to use genealogy technology on their own, rather than in a class setting. Certainly we may posit that retirees find it easier to attend a genealogical conference than non-retirees.

    My opinion about why more genealogists seem to be female has to do with the role of women in the home and mothering. Mothers traditionally focus on caring for the family. This brings with it the responsibility of passing on memories of family to children.

    1. All valid observations. But we find the same demographics for genealogical websites and so some of the possibilities are not as possible as they might seem.

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  2. Can you share the demographics that you have found for genealogical websites?

    1. I have in the past, but I suppose I can do it again. :-)

  3. I was only able to find this 2011 report from about the demographics of their users: