13 May 2008

Ancestors and Ancestry

The latest issue of Ancestry magazine, published by The Generations Network Inc, arrived at my door on Friday. It's the May/June issue. I went to place it in the pile of other genealogy magazines, the top one of which was the June issue of Ancestors published by The (UK) National Archives and Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd, and then wondered how they compare.

Superficially they're similar, glossy and full colo(u)r. Ancestry is 8" by 10", with 66 pages plus the cover. The cover price is 4.95 US dollars. Ancestors is slightly larger, the A4 metric format. That's 210 by 297 mm , or 8-1/4" by 11-2/3". The issue has 74 pages plus the cover. The cover price is 3.50 UK pounds, 6.82 US dollars.

For the arithmetically inclined, Ancestors costs about 3.5% more on a per unit page area basis than Ancestry. I was surprised the difference is so small as UK prices are often much greater for comparable products. Part of the reason must be that while this issue of Ancestry has 12 pages of advertising Ancestors published 17 pages. Ancestry's ads are mostly full page spreads for products and services of The Generations Network. Ancestors has a wider variety of advertisers including may smaller ads for genealogy research services focused on a county or group of counties.

Feature Content
Both magazines have regular and feature content. Ancestry also has categories Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with additional content as well as further categorizing the feature material. Of the four feature articles in Ancestry two "Getting Free Dirt on Their Hands" and "Shotgun Weddings" are US social history and of no direct interest to me. They were generally interesting; I probably wouldn't have taken the time to look at them if not for doing this posting. "Before My Very Eyes" reports on experience with two commercial photo-scanning and enhancement companies. Again these are US companies so of little direct interest. "Returning to Their Medicinal Roots" with its photos of food, comments on chicken soup and "an apple a day" stretched the bounds of what's suitable for a magazine titled Ancestry.

Ancestors has eight feature articles, two of them part of a DNA Special. Chris Pomery, author of two British books on DNA, provides a readable explanation of Genealogy of the Genes. Heritage Tests: Revelation of rip-off recounts writer Penny Law's experience with DNA tests by three companies for ancestral origins. Ancestry also had a DNA article in the Tomorrow section. You wouldn't need to be British to benefit from these. The remaining Ancestors features are mainly social history, some too specific to be of anything but general interest.

Some of the regular Ancestry columnists had material of value to me. I enjoyed Colleen Fitzpatrick's analysis of an old photograph. It was annoying that the reproduction in the magazine was too small to allow you to deduce the same things she did. Megan Smolenyak's item in her Honoring Our Ancestors series was also instructive. The editors omitted identifying her as the author, except on the contents page.

In regular content Ancestors has a second good article, not specifically UK-oriented, by Chris Pomery, The Novelty of Networking. It also has book reviews and an Ask the Experts sections.

Despite the superficial similarity the magazines are different in that both are squarely targeted at their respective UK and US markets. It's unlikely I'd have seen this issue of Ancestry if it hadn't been included as a freebie with my Ancestry.com world subscription.

It wasn't until I read the masthead list of editors and contributers that I twigged to another difference. Women are just over one-third of names on the Ancestors list, nearly three-quarters for Ancestry. On visual appearance alone Ancestors, with maps, diagrams and images of old documents and steel-plate engravings would sit happily on the newsstand with the computer and technology magazines. Ancestry, with pictures of food and softer colours would not look out of place alongside homemaker magazines.


Anonymous said...

Pardon me? Are you saying, John, that women genealogists write more or only about food? Hardly!

As an example, I just received the current issue of 'Digital Genealogist'- a U.S. based publication, (Vol 2 # 3) & a quick count of this issue shows 17 authors - 9 men & 8 women - no recipes there and the Editor is a woman. (Of the Editorial Board & regular contributors, it looks like 8 women and 5 men.)

I think you need to look at the focus and strategies of the companies that publish these magazines more closely - lots of recipes at myfamily.com, for instance, which is part of The Generations Network.

JDR said...

Diane: More women than men are involved in family history. It just makes good commercial sense for publishers to take into account the audience.
There is no reason why women genealogists could not write about any aspects of the subject. I've not studied the experience. For instance, do men rather than women tend to write about military topics in family history?