Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Genealogy Age Gap - My Take On It

Update:  I have been participating in some blog hops with my weight loss blog, which includes a lot of younger moms.  Some of them have picked up on my family history blog and they have come back telling me they are interested in researching their family history.  They haven't found the time yet, but they are interested.  These are women who are not genealogy bloggers.

I recently read this post written by James Tanner at Genealogy's Star.  I enjoyed reading his view on the reasons for the age gap and how to expand to the youth.  I would like to add my thoughts on the age gap.

I have a 40 year old daughter and an 18 year old son that are very interested in genealogy.  They are both educated and computer literate.  Those are two of the things that he mentioned are lacking.  I am sure those issues are a problem for a large group of people.  I really think the approach has a lot to do with it.  I know the show Who do you think you are?  first helped to spark their interest.  I know with it being shown on Friday evenings didn't help the ratings.  It think it would have drawn a lot more interest had it been broadcast on a better viewing night.  The commercials that has been showing are also getting people interested.  I believe has pulled many people in, because they can do it on-line.  The cost is prohibitive for many people though.

I don't consider my self an old person, I'm 58.  I have really been interested in researching.  My children are the ones who really activated me to do the research.  Since I have been working on this, I have seen a large interest in the younger members of my family.

I think the major issues that keep the younger folks from researching are how busy their lives are and the cost involved.

My daughter is a pediatrician with two young children.  She is so busy that time constraints do not allow her to spend hours searching for ancestors.  She has to run her children to all their school and sports activities, along with doing her job and taking care of her home.

My son is in high school.  He absolutely loves history.  He plans on studying it in college.  He is a teenager with a very active life, between friends, school, sports, and other activities there is very little time to search for his family history.  He did spend lots of time with me last summer in graveyards and libraries.  He is great with a microfilm machine.  It was his suggestion to do those things a good deal of the time.

My husband's sister has been calling me and is very interested, she just doesn't know where to start.  My niece who is in her twenties loves reading the stories on my blog, with two little children she has no time to do research and can't afford to pay a subscription to get information.

As more information becomes readily available on-line, I think it will encourage younger folks to take a look at their family history.  I know so many people know about, but more should know about  Family Search is an excellent area for on-line research with no cost.  The services they are adding make it an ideal place for younger people to start researching and developing their interests.

If schools would start incorporating a little bit of family history into their history classes at a young age I believe interest would increase in family history, as well as, regular history.  The students would feel a connection to history, it would not be just something in a book.  Maybe some genealogists could volunteer to spend some time in schools and showing the kids how to research.

My grandson who was nine learned some family history last summer, and he went to school in the fall and asked the teacher is they would be studying those areas of history, he told her he had family members involved.

I think the key is to show the younger people how interesting and available their family history is.   Some think it is all about spending days and days in a dusty old room digging through books.  Maybe a genealogist could volunteer to set up a program for children in the children's section of the library.  There are so many older people that are so knowledgeable about genealogy, find a way to share that knowledge with the younger generations.


  1. Betty, you have so many good points and suggestions. It's encouraging to know there are real people out there--at whatever age--who are interested in genealogy.

    The first thing that hit me was seeing the number of people, last Friday night, participating in what is called a "GenChat" on Twitter--an online, real-time conversation on a specific genealogy topic. While people of all ages are involved in these, you've got to know that a number of them are younger. Maybe not in their teens or early twenties, but young parents, college students, etc. It's so encouraging to know the medium itself will allow the subject to be opened to more people, once they learn of such events.

    Second, you have some good points about getting the word out to others. I know of a couple genealogists who have written material that can be used as textbook or auxiliary guide for teachers in grade schools up through high school. As teachers become familiar with those resources, again, we'll see a move toward more younger people becoming enthusiastic about genealogy.

    Training opportunities through local public libraries is a great idea, too, as you suggested. There are some county genealogical societies who are taking on such tasks in conjunction with their library staff, providing free training to those in the public who might be interested. Our local society has begun doing this, and it is rewarding to see the turnout.

    And it's true: while not everyone can afford the price tag of some online databases, FamilySearch is a website everyone needs to know about. There are several other free sites, too--admittedly smaller, but will helpful resources.

    Genealogy does have a steep learning curve, though, and just like the many obstacles that you mentioned hampering people, the time to learn can be another one. However, I've seen someone's eyes light up, the minute they see the scanned document of a great-grandfather's immigration papers, for instance. It's that connection with their own ancestor that inevitably cements that desire to continue looking--no matter what the obstacles!

  2. I find it hard to convert friends beyond the "I've been wondering about ..." phase. I don't want to do the work for them 'cos that's part of the fun, but I wish they'd tell me when they get stuck, a brick wall to them may only be a hedge to me!

    Younger friends are IT literate, but have so many other things to do, they are interested, but not willing (or able) to spend any time on something that sounds a bit like school work.

    The time constraint affects our Local History group too, you can't expect younger people to attend at 10am on a weekday. And the sight of ten or twelve 70 year olds gathered around the table has been known to make people run away!

    Good blog post, I wish there was an better answer, but at the moment it seems to be just wait until they are older, and keep letting them know you are there if they want advice.