28 March 2012

Genealogy Activity Survey: databases, social networks and TV

Between March 19 and 25 responses from 150 people to a survey on genealogy activity were received.

This survey covers a highly selective group of engaged enthusiasts. To put them (us) in perspective, Ancestry claims 1.7 million subscribers; a typical episode of the present US series of Who Do You Think You Are? gets 5.8 million viewers. If an activity does not rate highly with this group, and the activity is aimed at the enthusiast market, it's missing the boat.

There were 133 responses from America (twice as many from Canada as the US), 14 from Europe (13 from the UK), 2 from Australia and 1 from Japan.

Respondents were asked to "indicate the most recent time period in which you've been involved in the following genealogy activities."

                                             Week   Month   Year   Decade  Never
Used a commercial
genealogy database.              82%      9%       6%        2%         1%

If you were looking for one number to illustrate the impact of databases on how people do family history it would be that 82% of respondents had used one in the past week. In the US the figure was 86%, Canada 84% and the UK 77%. For those who had not been to a multi-day genealogy event in the past year it was higher still - 88%.

Social Networks

                                            Week   Month   Year   Decade  Never
Used a social network
for genealogy.                       40%     14%     13%        3%       30%

While 40% overall had used a social network in the past week the UK had a greater use at 69%, Canada slightly less at 35%. Note that less than half the number of respondents had used a social network in the past week as used a genealogy database which should not be a surprise. Ancestry has an Alexa rank of 766; myheritage.com, the highest ranking genealogy social network is 3,179th on Alexa. Based on the higher penetration in the UK there's further opportunity for social networks in American genealogy.

                                            Week   Month   Year   Decade  Never
Watched a family history
oriented TV program
(such as Who Do You
Think You Are?)                  50%     21%     16%        3%       11%

The US version of WDYTYA was airing around the time of the survey. Overall 50% answered one week comprising 73% of US respondents, 44% of Canadians, and only 23% in the UK where reruns of a previous US series were showing.

Viewership within one year was 87% overall, 95% in the US, 84% in the UK and 81% in Canada perhaps reflecting the absence of a Canadian version of WDYTYA or any comparable Canadian programming.

The 11% who had never watched any such genealogy themed TV program were also much less likely to have used a social network than in the survey as a while.

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