19 September 2008

Today's world of genealogy

It was a long long time ago. Before 9/11. Before 7/7. Before George W. Bush became US President and Stephen Harper became a Canadian political party leader. Before filming of the Harry Potter books started. Before even the dot com bubble burst, a firm called Maritz conducted a poll that found 60 percent of Americans are interested in their family history. That was in 2000 and interest in genealogy was up 15 percent from a similar poll in 1996.

On 17 September 2008 the Sidney, Nebraska, Sun Telegraph, took that stale poll information and ran an article with a headline "Genealogy Becoming America's Number 1 Hobby."

It's time the genealogical community stopped propagating this false, or at best outdated message. Dick Eastman penned a column on this in 2006. One of many good points he made is that "If genealogy were truly as popular as our nation's interest in sports, at least one genealogy magazine would have a circulation similar to that of Sports Illustrated." He goes on to name Newsweek, Oprah Magazine, Boating Magazine, Field & Stream, This Old House, Travel & Leisure Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Popular Mechanics, various movie fan magazines as more popular.

At the time Dick was writing I could go to my local Chapters bookstore and buy a copy of Family Chronicle, Family Tree, or Your Family History (Tree). Today there's not a single genealogy magazine on sale at Ottawa's South Keys Chapters store.

It does no good to pretend we're still living in the world of 2000, if the situation described was ever the case. Dick points out reasons why that portrayal may not have been reliable in the first place.

There are plenty of real advancements in family history to make it appealing and maintain interest. Access to resources, especially online, was never so easy. Technology has given us a tool to decipher the natural genealogical record inscribed in our genes, and we're becoming better at reading that record by the day. Local newspapers and books are being digitized and made searchable. There are more educational opportunities than ever. More people than ever have researched their, and other's family history, compiled it and are making it available to others. Family history is in no danger of disappearing just because it may not be the #1, 2 or 3 hobby. Companies and organizations that are nimble enough to move along with advances will prosper, unlike those who continue to live in that perhaps mythical long past world.

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