24 July 2008

Genealogy on the decline?

In April 2007 I wrote on the rise and fall of the Rootsweb mailing list showing that annual posts to all lists in total peaked in 2002. Posts to DNA-Genealogy continued to increase to 2006, the last full year available.

Now, 16 months on, its clear that the trend of postings to the DNA group is following the same trend. The peak month was June 2006 with 2,756 postings. June 2008 had only 1,596.
That the peak for DNA posting came much later than for Rootsweb postings overall reflects the newness of this approach to genealogy.

How, if at all, are people meeting the need previously catered to by mailing lists?

The top of the graph to the left, from Google Trends, which goes back to 2004, suggests that increases in web 2.0 (yellow line) and social networks (green line), the usual suspects, are partly responsible for the decline in mailing list (red) and newsgroup (blue). But the declines start before those increases.

Blogs might account for some of the earlier trend, but there were very few genealogy blogs back in 2004, and even fewer in 2002 when the Rootsweb newsgroup decline started.

The top of the graph to the left, another showing search volume from Google Trends, is for genealogy (blue), sewing (red) and knitting (yellow). Search volumes for all three have declined, but genealogy, which had most volume in 2004, now has least.

Could it be that interest in genealogy is actually declining and its much proclaimed status as the second most popular pursuit on the Internet is another urban myth?

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