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# Thursday, 06 December 2007
Don't Know Much About Family History, But We Want To
Posted by Diane

Lots of Americans say they’re interested in their family history, but many actually don’t know much about their ancestors, according to an survey released today.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said they’re interested in learning more about their families, but half could name only one or none of their grandparents, 60 percent didn’t know both grandmothers’ maiden names, and 22 percent couldn’t say what either grandfather did or does for a living.

Half the survey respondents had ever researched their roots.

This may be a bit unexpected: More young people than older people were among the 78 percent wanting to know more about their roots. Eighty-three percent of 18-to-34-year-olds were interested, followed 35-to-54-year-olds at 77 percent and those 55 and older at 73 percent.

Could be the older folks are already doing genealogy and know a lot about their families, so they’re not as worried about learning more.

The research firm MarketTools conducted the survey. Information about the number of respondents and how they were surveyed wasn’t available.

What do you think of the numbers? Click comment to share your two cents.

Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 06 December 2007 13:44:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
Thursday, 06 December 2007 14:02:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I appreciate your reporting on this survey, Diane. Where can I read more of the survey results? Are they posted at


Dean Richardson
Thursday, 06 December 2007 14:30:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
This does not surprise me. As with any major activity, it takes a lot of energy and time to be a genealogist. For instance, I know how to shot a basketball, but it doesn't mean that I know how to play basketball well or know all the rules. People who play and coach basketball are able to play well and understand the rules because that is what they are required to do to be successful. So it is true with genealogists.

When I began delving into my genealogy, I knew little more than most of these survey respondents. Certainly I knew who my grandparents were, and knew vague stories of ancestors from long ago, but it wasn't that important to me until I began reseraching. Now that I have done a fairly large amount of research on my family, I know who many of my ancestors were, where they lived, etc.

When I tell my relatives about their genealogy, they are usually interested in the information for the short time that I explained it to them and not for very much longer. Even after telling them the stories over and over again, they still get much of the information wrong. That's because it is not in their interest to remember all of that information. However, it is in my interest to know it and continue researching my genealogy.
Friday, 07 December 2007 14:46:37 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Dean, you can learn more about the survey in the press area of The Generations Network's Web site:
Allison Stacy
Friday, 07 December 2007 15:50:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I'm a non member volunteer at our local FHC and most of the patrons who come into the facility are in the 50 to 70s age group.
If the younger groups are doing their family history they must be doing it at the various data bases online,or their parents,grandparents etc. have already done all the research required.
They're probably more interested in sports,TV,music,IPods etc. at the moment,maybe they'll pick up the Genealogy bug later.
I didn't start until I was in my late 50s !

Frank McGonigal Ont.Canada.
Monday, 10 December 2007 09:15:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I agree with Frank's comment about the generaton being more interested in sports, TV, music, IPODS, etc. I think the interest in most folks comes out later in life, which is a bit hard to me to relate to because I was always interested in genealogy.

To insure we leave the right legacy, we need to build interest with the grandchildren and speak about our heritage at their level. Anyone from 15 to 45 is probably too busy with climbing the corporate ladder, building a career resume or retirement portfolio. We need to share our stories with this group, but I believe our focus needs to be on the next generation before the IPODS and television overtake them.
Thursday, 13 December 2007 16:16:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I only wish I had started when my grandparents and even great grandparents were alve. There is so much you can learn if they will tell you.
Thursday, 13 December 2007 16:17:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I was surprised at the figures you quote in the survey, about how interest in genealogy declines as people age. I would have guessed Baby Boomers would be the group with the greatest interest, but the group who ought to be most interested should be the middle group (35-54) because they are still young enough to know and talk to their parents, even grandparents. They should be the ones to talk to their family members while they still can, to learn their stories, to copy down remembered data. Sure, you can research online, and I've done much of that, but without that push that first-hand information gives you--from personal interviews, letters, family documents, etc.--you soon lose direction and enter the foggy area of educated guessing.

Just today, I emailed my first cousin about her grandparents' names. She was able to tell me only her grandfather's name for sure, but by coincidence I got a card from her first cousin saying she'd send more names but she did remember her grandmother's full name (because it was so unusual). Voila! A set of grandparents who I was able to find in the 1920 census. I could never have done it without the help of family members I can talk to.

This Christmas I sent everyone--family and nonfamily--copies of the family trees (pedigree charts) for my husband and myself and asked for help. Not only that, but I asked those who were not related to jot down what they knew so it would be there for their children.

Sandi Gill
Sandi Gill
Thursday, 13 December 2007 17:09:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
The finding that shocked me the most was that half of the respondents could only name ONE or NONE of their grandparents. Wow. And that 60% didn't know their grandmother's maiden names. I once read an article about genealogy in China (don't know how true it was) that said that most Chinese people can name all of their great-great grandparents. If true, they clearly are more in touch with their family history than Americans. Imagine how great on-line tree sites like Rootsweb would be if everyone here were that well versed in their family history.
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