15 April 2007

Top ten genealogy words

Here it is, a definitive list of the top words used by the genealogical community, counted down from ten to one. I searched the contents of 31,127,950 messages in the Rootsweb mailing list database using their archives search engine. You may find a surprise or two.

TEN: Death
Appearing in 2,736,649 documents, death was slightly more popular than marriage, which may say more about marriage than death. Both were mentioned more than birth.

NINE: Daughter
Despite there being more women than men genealogists, males were mentioned more often than females. Daughters were mentioned more than mothers; every mother is a daughter but not every daughter a mother.

EIGHT: Genealogy
You expected Scrabble?

SEVEN: Father
That male preference again.

SIX: Date
Dates are fundamental. When did an event happened? Looking a bit deeper, here may be a good reason why May has four times more mentions than any other month. The next most frequently mentioned is June, also a woman's name. Is this where the gender balance gets restored? March – July all have significantly more mentions that the other months. December, closely followed by February, has fewest mentions.

More sons than fathers too.

FOUR: Census
The most popular documentary source. The word is found in 14% of Rootsweb mailing list messages.

THREE: Children
Where would we be without them? May they all grow up in good health ready to become happy taxpayers contributing to my pension.

TWO: Name
Genealogy is about names, dates and relationships. Finding a name is the most fundamental thing we do as genealogists. We rejoice when we identify another generation back, and fret about remembering colleague’s names.

ONE: Family
For genealogists it’s Family first. Many of us pursue our family history as a way to unite or reunite the bonds of family, or to see the ties that bind the larger family of mankind. Organizations recognize this with names like Family Tree DNA, Family Tree Maker, Your Family Tree and Familysearch.

Other words tested, in descending order of use were: History, Mother, Marriage, Search, Cemetery, Book, Research, Year, Birth, Living, Surname, Web, Index, Record, Child, Tree.

A few words were eliminated from the ranking. Stop words, like “the” and “a”, could not be searched. The most hits, over 12 million, came for the word “list”, next came “message”, both to be expected for messages posted to Rootsweb mailing lists, but not specific to genealogy.

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