23 September 2012

Canadian genealogy survey and "Canadians and their Past"

At the BIFHSGO monthly meeting on Saturday Leighann Neilson from the Carleton University Sprott School of Business presented some initial results from the Canadian Genealogy Survey conducted in the Fall of 2011.

First, for context, Leighann used results from a telephone survey of more than 3,000 people on "Canadians and their Past", soon to be published in book form by the University of Toronto Press

In that survey the family past figured in responses to many questions; 74 percent  keep heirlooms to give to the next generation; 57 percent had visited places from the family’s past in the preceding year; 56 percent are producing a scrapbook, diary, cookbook, family history or home movies dealing with the past.

One in five survey respondents claimed to have done research on a family tree - based on population that's perhaps 5 million Canadian over age 18 who had done family history research in the past year.

15 percent had visited an archival collection, physical or on-line, for family history.

People were generally more interested in the history of their family as opposed to national, regional, or ethnic history.

Find those figures and more in a 2009 paper in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association here (pdf).

Switching to results from the 2011 Canadian Genealogy Survey, which was conducted online, there were 2,700 valid responses, 2,000 were from Canadians, the remainder from 27 other countries. Analysis has been delayed owing to the overwhelming number of responses, about 2,500 more than expected!

The results were compared with those of the Ron Lambert survey of Ontario Genealogical Society members from 1995. It did not appear to me that the results were markedly different: respondents were still a little over 60% female, median age over 60, just over 50% with a university degree; a median of 15 years interest in family history.  One difference was that the Lambert survey was of OGS members whereas only a little over one-third of those responding to this survey were members of a genealogical or family history society, and non-members were slightly older than members. Stay young -- join a family history society!

The survey found only 2% were interested in heritage societies (despite the survey being given publicity by UEL groups), and only 0.3% were looking for the rich and famous in their ancestry. That caught my attention as OGS is developing a Fathers of Confederation Society for genealogists who can prove they are descended from one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation.

A lot more figures were thrown at us which I'll try and sort through in the next few days. Perhaps before then Leighann will find time to post some of the results on the project blog at http://genealogyincanada.blogspot.ca/

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