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Following article posted Mar. 17, 1999 Vol. III No. 05


By Ronald D. Lambert, rdlamber@watarts.uwaterloo.ca



A Study of Genealogists & Family Historians
- Part IV


Ron Lambert, professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo, shares the final segment of his four part series entitled: A STUDY OF GENEALOGISTS & FAMILY HISTORIANS.

Part IV examines what family historians said about the scope of their active participation in family history, with special reference to their investment in genealogy, and their practices, accomplishments and identities as family historians. Part One shed new light onto who genealogists are. Part Two studies the elements which motivate so many people to undertake family history research. Part Three examines the factors associated with the family historian's emergent interest in genealogy.

The Family Historian Role
    "I have always liked the challenge of jigsaw puzzles and genealogy is historical jigsaws on a human scale. I seek patterns and trends in families; I want to add flesh and bones to the faded photographs and old letters. I try to find or imagine the reasons why people did what they did: their motivations, their successes, failures, rewards, disappointments. Truth is indeed more fascinating than fiction and in coming to terms with earlier generations and the family microcosm, we unravel truths about whole settlements, communities, villages and towns and even ourselves. The unremarkable eventually becomes remarkable. Although the ends justify the genealogical means to me, if I'm honest, it's really the hunt I enjoy."
This completes the series of articles presenting selected findings from a mail survey of 1,348 individual members of The Ontario Genealogical Society, conducted in 1994. The earlier articles profiled the OGS membership and their reasons for participating in the hobby. The first part of the present article is organized around the idea of the family historian role (fhr) and what respondents reported doing as family historians. The second part considers some of their practices and commitments to genealogy, highlighting the amount of time and money invested in it, favourite sources of genealogical information, volunteer activities, and so on. I conclude with a review of the major themes emerging from the papers. As a postscript, I extend an invitation to interested readers to provide additional information on their experiences as family historians.

Early in the project, I talked with many genealogists and asked them to tell me about their genealogical activities. These conversations led me to conceive of the family historian role as made up of five components:

  • researcher (searching for information about ancestors)
  • archivist (preservation of family artifacts)
  • registrar (recording information on the living family)
  • chronicler (sharing information on the family with the family)
  • identity (seeing oneself as a family historian).

    With this working definition in hand, I developed questions asking about the components for each person's parents' and spouses' parents' lines. Since respondents may be the family historian for one or more lines, I repeated the questions for fathers' and mothers' lines separately and, if respondents were married, for each of their spouses' lines, too.

    To illustrate each of the activity areas comprising the family historian role, I will draw on respondents' answers to the question, "what value does genealogy have for your?" Their words also capture something of what they found compelling in the role.

  • Researcher. For many genealogists, the process of researching a family's past is the most distinctive feature of the fhr. As the person greeting the reader at the beginning of this article conceded, "it's really the hunt I enjoy." The following person expressed a similar sentiment:
      Since I have started to search for ancestors, I became totally involved in research. I love every minute I spend whether it is telephone calls, writing or reading letters, genealogy meetings, reading newsletters, census reels or whatever. I finish with one idea and another is ready to begin. Sometimes I have several on the go at once and when I find a piece of information and prove it, it's almost as if I've won the lottery.
    Respondents frequently likened genealogy to crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles and mysteries, saw themselves as detectives and sleuths, and applauded the mental exercise and stimulation that it afforded. At the same time, one person cautioned, certain personal characteristics are required of the successful researcher:
      A quality of persistence is necessary in a family historian so that all leads are pursued in their hunt for relevant information. One becomes an explorer. The satisfactions of discovery - the payoff for persistence - become almost addictive as bits of information fall into place to form an image, as with a jigsaw puzzle. When one discovers the proverbial "needle-in-a-haystack" and sees a thread attached that leads along a new path, satisfaction is strengthened, especially when the joy of relatives reinforces the feeling.
    Another person savoured the thrill of discovery, while lamenting:
      But oh! the frustration and boredom. If I wasn't so stubborn I would quit today.
  • Archivist. In the life of the family, precious photographs, documents and other artifacts often disappear or are destroyed during the critical transitions between generations. Sometimes describing themselves as collectors and pack-rats, the diligent family historian attempts at these times to preserve endangered family records. The necessity of organizing and disposing of recently deceased family members' personal effects, we saw in the previous article, was a significant factor in introducing people to family history. One respondent described his archival duties in the following way:
      As the ones showing an interest in family history we have become the repository of most of the family archive's pictures, bibles, family histories, diaries, old correspondence, etc. It has been our objective to put much of this information in a form where it could be readily provided to other members of the families where there was an interest. We felt that if this were not done much of the early history of the families would be lost, in particular, the information on their roots in Ireland, Scotland and England.
    Two other respondents observed:
      My mother left a great deal of information on both sides of families, also photos. I have sorted, and tried to preserve, and identify these; it has been a very rewarding pastime, and I hope will enlighten my children, grandchildren, etc.

      We take our camera copy stand along on every trip - the relatives we meet are thrilled to have us interested in copying their old pictures and hearing all their stories. (We do tape these.) We have over 1000 slides and have put on several presentations.
  • Registrar. It is easy to take the living generation for granted and to suppose that information about them will always be as close as the telephone and the post office. If not collected today, however, future generations may find this information elusive and unreliable. Looking towards the future, therefore, the family historian may feel a special obligation to document births, marriages and deaths in the contemporary family. The following respondents wrote of their interest in the present:
      [I h]ave given up on my research in the distant past because it is hopeless but [I] continue with current happenings.

      I am now in touch with relatives with whom I had little or no contact before. As these relatives are interested in our family, it has been extremely enjoyable for me to gather names of relatives.
  • Chronicler. Having conducted their research, genealogists record their findings and some of them prepare written family histories, sometimes just a compilation of family group sheets. Their frequent references to family history as a gift to posterity clearly imply a written history. Thus, one respondent wrote:
      I've made booklets (complete with family history, photos, newspaper clippings, etc.) for four children, two grandchildren, four nephews and spouses, three sisters. These books are updated occasionally. My grandchildren, great nieces and nephews find the books an asset for genealogical classes at school.
    Another respondent recognized the importance of writing, even though she found it less appealing than research:
      The search for new information is a powerful stimulant, and the rewards for success are high. There is nothing quite like the exhilaration felt when missing pieces of a puzzle are found. ... Writing it all up is not quite such a heady experience, but that is when it can be of value to other family members.
    For many family historians, however, sharing the results of one's research brings its own rewards, as the following two respondents testified. Family reunions provide a forum, one of them also noted, in which family historians can expect to find an appreciative audience.
      The experience of sharing information with relatives who are interested in family but are not researchers is and has been a pleasure beyond words.

      Some of my cousins and siblings are into the family reunion stuff, so every five or so years I get to shine for a day or so whilst I explain to them all my latest researches. But I really believe that some of the younger ones think that I'm just some sort of dotty old uncle for doing this stuff.
  • Identity. While the other components of the fhr focus on what people do, this one refers to their self-conceptions as family historians. I have previously quoted respondents who attached some prestige to the role of family historian, serving as the custodian for family artifacts, and being seen by family members as authorities on their families. Thirty-five percent of the sample, we have also seen, said that they did genealogy "because I enjoy being the family historian".

    Having identified the five components of the fhr, I asked respondents the following questions for each of their parents' lines and, if they were married at the time of the survey, for each of their spouses' parents' lines.
      1. How much research have you personally done on this line?
      2. Do you seek and collect old photos and documents, or copies of them, for this line?
      3. Do you seek and record information on the living generations of this line?
      4. Have you written or do you plan to write a family history on this line?
      5. Do [you see yourself] [relatives see you] as the family historian for this line?
    In order to compare how much of the role they performed across the four lines, I will report findings only for married respondents. In summary:

    72 percent of the respondents reported that they had done "a lot" of research on their fathers' lines, compared to 59 percent on their mothers' lines. Half as much effort was put into researching each of the spouses' lines, also favouring fathers' over mothers' lines. Men were more likely than women to do "a lot" of research on their fathers' lines; however, women were more likely than men to devote a lot of research to their mothers' lines and to both of their spouses' lines.

    17 percent of respondents, more men than women, said they had written family histories on their fathers' lines. Thirteen percent had done so for their mothers' lines, and less than 10 percent for each of the spouses' lines. Men and women did not differ for the latter three lines.

    more than 90 percent of men and women made a practice of preserving their fathers' and mothers' family artifacts. The figures for the spouses' lines were 10 to 20 percent lower, but in both cases women were more likely to archive their in-laws' records than men were to archive their in-laws'.

    72 percent of the respondents made a point of recording information on the living generations of their fathers' lines, somewhat more than the 67 percent who did so for their mothers' lines. The figures were 58 percent for the spouses' fathers' lines and 52 percent for the spouses' mothers' lines, again with women giving greater priority to their husbands' lines than men did to their wives' lines.

    about 75 percent of the "ever-married" respondents, the same for men and women, claimed a family historian identity for their fathers' lines. Fifty-nine percent of men and 72 percent of women, however, saw themselves as family historians for their mothers' lines. Less than half of the respondents claimed to be family historians for their spouses' lines, but women were substantially more likely to do so.

    I said above that respondents seemed to see research as central to the fhr. I wondered whether respondents' self-images as family historians depended more on doing research than on recording information on living relatives, writing family histories and protecting family artifacts. This proved to be the case for all four lines. Writing family histories was the second important component, also for all four lines.

    We can summarize these findings in the following way: in general, respondents' lines were favoured over spouses' lines; fathers' lines were favoured over mothers' lines; and women were more committed to their husbands' lines than men were to their wives' lines. Doing research was the key to people's self-images as family historians for each of the four lines.

    Genealogical Practice

    I looked at several facets of respondents' involvement in genealogy. The figures presented here provide descriptive benchmarks for the OGS community.

    Investments in Genealogy. Respondents praised genealogy as a flexible hobby, in that one can pick it up or set it aside, depending on other obligations, spend as little or as much time and money as one wishes and can afford, work alone or in the company of like-minded genealogists according to one's taste, work on one's own families or on behalf of the genealogical community, and so on.

    Two questions probed how much time respondents devoted to genealogy. The first one asked, "How many hours have you devoted to genealogical activities, of all kinds, during the last full month?" At the low end, nearly 15 percent of the sample said they had devoted no time to genealogy during the preceding month; at the high end, another 15 percent said they had spent "41 or more hours (5+days)" on genealogy. Fifty-two percent of the sample had invested the equivalent of more than one complete (8-hour) day to the hobby during the previous month.

    A follow-up question asked, "Was this less, the same, or more time than you usually devoted to all genealogical activities in other months of 1993 to the present?" One-half of the respondents replied that the figure for the preceding month was typical. Another third said it was less than usual, while 15 percent said it was more than usual. Furthermore, those who spent very little or a great deal of time in the preceding month were most likely to report that this was abnormal.

    While men and women were quite similar in the amount of time given to genealogy, people differed somewhat by age. Eighteen percent of the eldest respondents said they had spent zero hours on genealogy, compared to 7 percent of the youngest respondents. Beyond this, however, the differences were rather small. Eleven percent of the eldest and 14 percent of the youngest respondents, for example, devoted five-or-more days to their hobby.

    I also asked respondents to estimate how much money they had spent on genealogy "in 1993 only". They were requested to
      include expenditures on memberships in genealogical societies; books and source materials; travel and lodging for genealogical conferences and research; photocopying and publishing; computer supplies; stationery, postage and telephone; fees for researchers; etc.".
    In asking for an estimate, I am aware that people cannot give an entirely accurate figure, in part because memory fails them and in part because the line between genealogy and other purposes, such as vacations, may blur.

    At the low end of the scale, 29 percent said they spent less than $100; at the high end, 10 percent reported expenditures over $1,000. About half the sample spent between $100 and $500.

    I checked whether respondents' sex, age, current marital status, income and employment status, individually or in combination, had any impact on how much money they spent on genealogy. As it turned out, only sex made a difference, with women spending significantly more than men in 1993.

    Sources of Information. Although genealogists have many different sources of information at their disposal, they find some of them more useful than others. The following question explored these preferences:
      Sources of information that genealogists sometimes use are listed below. Circle the number for every source of information that you used in all of 1993 to the present, only. If there are sources that you have used, but they are not listed here, enter them in the spaces provided in the table. If you have not done any genealogical research in 1993 to the present, check this box and go to question 11.
    Only 8 percent of the sample checked the box. Men and women did not differ appreciably in whether they had done any research in the 15-month period. There was a modest relationship with age, however, so that older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to say that they had not done any research. Only 3 percent of those younger than 40 were inactive, compared with 12 percent of people 70 years old and over.

    The sources are listed below according to the percentage of active researchers who reported using them.
      Censuses (80%)

      Living relatives (80%)

      Obituaries (79%)

      Gravestones (66%)

      Newspaper articles, announcements & advertisements (66%)

      Cemetery transcriptions (63%)

      Church records (59%)

      Government vital records (births- marriages-deaths) (57%)

      Old atlases & maps (56%)

      Old photographs (56%)

      Other genealogists (52%)

      International Genealogical Index (48%)

      Land records (48%)

      Local histories (46%)

      "Queries" in various publications (46%)

      Wills (38%)

      Family Bibles (38%)

      Family records & heirlooms (35%)

      City directories (34%)

      Research directories, e.g. the "Genealogical Research Directory" (32%)

      Seminars & workshops (32%)

      Archival documents (32%)

      Research guides or manuals (31%)

      Published genealogies (30%)

      Telephone books (27%)

      Ancestral File (25%)

      Military records (24%)

      Court records (21%)

      Tax & assessment rolls (19%)

      Funeral home records (17%)

      Miscellaneous lists of names (15%)

      Social Security records (9%)
    Having identified the sources they had used, respondents were asked for the four most valuable sources.
      Thinking of the genealogical research you did in all of 1993 to the present, which information sources circled above were most valuable to you?
    Fifty-four percent of active researchers said that censuses were one of the most valuable sources of information. A quarter or more of the sample judged four other sources among the most valuable: living relatives (33 percent), government vital records - bmd's (30 percent), obituaries (26 percent) and church records (25 percent). Apart from living relatives, on whose memories and stories respondents might rely, it is interesting that all of the other most valued sources were primary sources, in that they were created roughly at the time of the events they documented.

    Mail, Libraries and Archives. Two separate questions asked, "How many letters bearing on your own or others' genealogical research have you [written] [received] each month, on average, in all of 1993 to the present?" Fifty-three percent said they had written, and 43 percent said they had received, one or more letters per month.

    A third question asked, "How many queries have you published in genealogical magazines, newsletters and directories in all of 1993 to the present?" More than half of the sample said they had published no queries at all in the 15 or so months permitted by the question. While OGS offers members two free insertions per year in Families, not to mention comparable privileges in their Branch and other group memberships, only 17 percent had published one query and 13 percent had published two queries in the 15-month period.

    A fourth question asked whether respondents had "visited and used the facilities" of the Ontario Archives in Toronto, the National Archives in Ottawa, and the OGS Library in North York. Slightly more than 50 percent of the respondents had used the Ontario Archives and approximately 40 percent had used each of the National Archives and the OGS Library. As one might expect, where one lived was associated with usage of these facilities. Fifty-seven percent of Ontario residents had used the Ontario Archives, compared with 37 percent of members from other provinces and 31 percent of members from the United States. About 40 percent of Ontarian and other Canadian residents had visited the National Archives, compared to 16 percent of American residents. About 20 percent of non-Ontarians had visited the OGS Library in North York, somewhat less than half the percentage of Ontarians.

    Finally, a pair of questions asked whether there was a Latter-day Saints Family History Center "in your community or nearby" and, "How often have you used a Family History Center in all of 1993 to the present?" I left it to respondents to decide whether an FHC was in the community or "nearby" since I was not in a position to judge their accessibility. Slightly more than 90 percent of the sample had access to an FHC; of them, a third said they had not used it in the preceding 15 months, a third had used it one to three times, and a third had used it more frequently. Of those who did not have an FHC nearby, 30 percent had nonetheless used this resource on one or more occasions.

    Use of Computers. I asked respondents, "Do you use a computer for genealogy?", and of those who had, "What software (for example, PAF, WordPerfect, etc.) do you rely on most for genealogy?" In offering WordPerfect as an example, I wanted respondents to understand that non-genealogical software packages were acceptable answers if used for broadly genealogical purposes.

    Approximately 55 percent of the sample, 61 percent of the men and 52 percent of the women, said that they used a computer. Three-quarters of the respondents under age 50 used computers. Usage dropped to 64 percent in the 50 to 59 age category, 50 percent in the 60 to 69 category and 37 percent in the 70-and-over category. In dwelling on the relationship between age and computer usage, however, we should not lose sight of the impressive level of computer literacy demonstrated by the eldest genealogists.

    Approximately 45 percent of computer-users said that they employed Personal Ancestry File. Brother's Keeper, Roots III/IV, Family Tree Maker and Family Roots were nominated by 12, 9, 8 and 4 percent of users, respectively. About 12 percent cited a variety of other genealogical packages and nearly 10 percent said they used a spread sheet or data base package. WordPerfect and Word were mentioned by 38 and 6 percent, respectively.

    Service to the Genealogical Community. Few people outside our families are as enthusiastic about our family histories as we are. For many of us, it falls to us to do our own research. We need each other, however, to create information resources, to educate us in how to do research, to publish our queries, and so on. And, on the evidence, we reciprocate.

    Several questions in the survey probed respondents' contributions to this communal side of genealogy. Service to genealogical societies was tapped by questions that asked, "Do you serve on the executive or a committee of any of the genealogical societies that you belong to in 1994?" and, "Did you serve in any such positions in 1993?" In each case, nearly 20 percent of the sample reported that they had served or were serving on an executive or a committee, although not necessarily in OGS. Women were significantly more likely to do so than men. Age, on the other hand, did not make a difference in people's answers to either question.
    Production of information resources, the second form of service, was probed with the following question:
      Did you produce in 1993 to the present, by yourself or with others, information resources intended for use by other genealogists? (Note: Information resources include such things as gravestone transcriptions, indexes of wills, various lists of names, and so on.)
    Approximately 30 percent of the sample replied positively. The figures for men and women were identical. While age did not make a significant difference, the relatively small group of respondents under the age of 40 were less involved than those who were older.

    A different way of capturing people's contributions to the larger genealogical community is to ask them how they divided their time among different purposes, as in the following question:
      Estimate how you divided your genealogical time among the following 3 kinds of activities in all of 1993 to the present: (a) Genealogical Research, in which you collected and recorded information and wrote about the families you were researching; (b) Genealogical Groups, on whose executives and committees you served; and (c) Creation of Information Resources, such as gravestone transcriptions and various indexes, intended for use by other genealogists. (Note: the percentages should add up to 100%.)

      Estimated percentage of time in 1993 to the present given to:
      a. Genealogical Research= ------
      b. Genealogical Groups= ------
      c. Creation of Information Resources= ------
    The resulting picture is clear. On average, approximately 80 percent of respondents' time was devoted to their research, and the remaining 20 percent was divided equally between genealogical groups and the production of information resources. Men and women and the different age groups did not differ appreciably in how they divided their time among these three kinds of activities.
    Genealogists sometimes serve others by doing research for them, though they are unrelated. To explore this form of service, I asked the following two questions:
      What percentage of your research time did you devote to the families of non-relatives in all of 1993 to the present? (Note: Non-relatives are not related directly or indirectly with any of your families, so far as you know.)

      [Those who had done research for non-relatives were then asked:] Why did you do research on non-relatives in 1993 to the present? (Circle all the numbers that apply)
    About 45 percent of the sample said they had devoted some percentage of their research time to non-relatives during the specified period. Of these people, slightly more than 70 percent said they had done so for their "own interest". The second major reason was for their genealogical group at 29 percent, with an additional 8 percent for various non-genealogical groups. Somewhat less than 5 percent said they did so for pay. There was a wide scattering of other reasons, but none was volunteered by more than a handful of people.

    In Review

    It bears repeating that the findings from the questionnaire survey of the membership of the Ontario Genealogical Society are applicable only to the genealogical community, and this within limits. Lacking comparable data for members of patriotic ancestral societies, such as the United Empire Loyalists and the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, we should not assume that the present findings apply to them, as well. Indeed, there is reason to believe that the dominant motivation of the two communities is quite distinct. Mindful of this limitation, I wish to highlight a few of the themes emerging from the findings.

    First, the membership of the Ontario Genealogical Society reflects the composition of Ontario society as it once was, not as it now is. This is a consequence of the fact that the available records of this province and this country will be most useful to people who can trace their ancestry through several generations in this jurisdiction. Whether OGS has any obligation to serve more recently arrived ethnic groups, and if so, how, remains an open question.

    Second, genealogists' interest in the past is firmly rooted in a desire to know their ancestors as people and to bequeath this knowledge to future generations. They see themselves as a bridge or a door between generations. At the same time, the data offered little or no support for some guesses about other motives. There was little evidence of a religious motivation, a desire for illustrious ancestry, or a pursuit of the illusion of stability. Nor was there any evidence of a nostalgic and wistful yearning for an ethnically simpler time.

    Third, some of the findings speak to the question of how affordable genealogy is. Is genealogy only for the well-to-do? Nearly three in 10 respondents enjoyed genealogy for less than $100 in 1993, and another five in 10 spent between $100 and $500. Moreover, their income and employment status had little influence on how much was spent on genealogy. A number of resources bring genealogy within the reach of most people. The Family History Centers are open to genealogists at no cost, and these were accessible to 9 in 10 respondents. Members of OGS and its branches can publish several queries per year as part of their membership, although this entitlement was not fully utilized. Personal Ancestry File, available at nominal cost, was used by nearly half of the genealogists using computers.

    Fourth, the results demonstrated a significant level of support for the genealogical community. Thus, a fifth of the respondents served their genealogical societies in some capacity in 1993 and 1994, nearly a third of them contributed to the production of information resources, and about a fifth of respondents' "genealogical time" was devoted to these two service activities. These findings, it bears repeating, do not apply to "free-lance" genealogists who are unattached to any genealogical societies.

    The fifth and perhaps over-riding finding has to do with the family historian role itself. One cannot look at the response rate and what people wrote in their questionnaires without concluding that, for many respondents, genealogy provides a valued role and focus in their lives. The fhr offers intellectual and emotional stimulation, an enlarged sense of self, a valued position within the extended family, companionship with other genealogists, and a perspective on time which unites the past, present and future. For some genealogists, it offers continuity with some of the skills practised in their work lives; for others, it compensates for deficiencies in their work lives. For both, it renews and enlarges the family, now extended in space and time, and offers reasonable assurance that the fruits of their genealogical labours will outlast them.

    Sixth, scattered through the findings, there is the suggestion that women's attachment to family history may differ in important respects from men's. Women seemed, for example, to take different rewards, largely social and intellectual, from the hobby. This was also reflected in their answers to questions about doing family history on their own and their husbands' lines. These differences are probably an extension of traditional differences in men's and women's family roles. Whether these differences in genealogical motivation and practice will erode in the future, with more fundamental changes in the family and men's and women's roles, only time can answer.

    A Postscript Inviting Further Information

    The project began with a number of questions, and it seems fitting to end this series of articles with some more questions. I invite interested readers to write to me at the Department of Sociology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, or by e-mail at rdlamber@watarts.uwaterloo.ca, about any of the following four questions:
      (1) Your Genealogical Discoveries or "Breakthroughs": Describe in detail one or more significant puzzles that you have personally solved in your genealogical research (e.g. an elusive maiden name, a family line that you were unaware of, etc.). In what sense was it a discovery or "breakthrough"? How did you accomplish it? What was the contribution of others to your discovery? How long had you worked on the puzzle? What was the key to success?

      (2) "Small World" Experiences or Coincidences: Describe in detail instances in which, through genealogy, you have experienced the "small world phenomenon" (e.g. discovering that your home was once occupied by one of your ancestors, discovering that your ancestors and a good friend's ancestors knew each other). How did this small world experience or coincidence come to your attention?

      (3) Family Skeletons and Black Sheep: Tell me whether you have encountered ancestors whose conduct offended community standards, yesterday or today. What was the offending behaviour and how did you handle it in doing family history? Why?

      (4) Former and Would-be Genealogists: Some readers may have abandoned genealogy or not yet taken it up. What led you to drop it or to hesitate?
    I would appreciate knowing your sex, age at last birthday, whether you are currently employed or retired, your membership in genealogical societies, and anything else about yourself that you think throws light on your perspective on genealogy and family history. As in the present articles, I am interested in group trends and not in individuals' answers. All names will be held in confidence.

    Since this article originally appeared in Families, I have established a web page at http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~rdlamber/genstudy.htm, where readers are invited to respond electronically to a revised list of the above questions.

    Endnotes


    1) This article appeared originally, with only minor differences, in Families, February 1996 (vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 11-25). Previous articles in this Families series were: "A Profile of the Membership of The Ontario Genealogical Society", May 1995 (vol. 34, no. 2), pp. 73-80; "Searching for Genealogical Motivation", August 1995 (vol. 34, no. 3), pp. 149-160; and "Becoming a Family Historian", November 1995 (vol. 34, no. 4), pp. 223-232. Again, I thank all those who completed and returned the questionnaire, making these articles possible. I also want to thank Marilyn Black Lambert for her helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article and Ryan Taylor, Editor of Families when these articles appeared, for his encouragement and assistance.

    2) The Ontario Genealogical Society was formed in Waterloo in 1961. Its membership was 1,960 in 1977, 4,595 in 1986, and 6,840 in by the end of 1993 (The Ontario Genealogical Society Strategic Plan, 1994, compiled by Alison Lobb, Mar. 1994, pp.4-5). The latter figure included 5,189 individual members, 489 family members, 1,041 associate members, and 121 institutional members.

    3) I did not report in the first article that 60 percent of the "ever-married" respondents (52 percent of the entire sample) were grandparents and 7 percent were great-grandparents. Fifty-six percent of those who had never been married said they did genealogy "for posterity (for children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces)". The figure was virtually the same for childless respondents who were or had been married. It rose to 72 percent for parents and to 81 percent for grandparents and great-grandparents. These differences were not simply due to age differences among singles, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This finding underscores the tendency for genealogists to think of the fruits of their hobby as a gift to future generations.

    4) Further thought and research may argue for a revision of this working definition.

    5) The response options for the research question were: a lot; some; none; don't know; for the archivist question: yes; no; don't know; for the registrar question: generally; sometimes; no; don't know; for the communication question: I have; I plan to; unsure; I won't; and for the two identity questions: yes; one of several historians; no; don't know.

    6) Including unmarried, separated, divorced and widowed respondents in the comparisons changed the results for respondents' parents' lines by only 1 or 2 percent.

    7) Performance of the fhr did not depend on respondents' age in any clear and regular fashion. Since these questions did not confine respondents to "1993 to the present" as other questions did, this meant that elderly genealogists could report doing "a lot" of research over a life-time of genealogy, although they might have done very little in the recent past.

    8) Respondents were given the following options to choose from: (0) zero hours; (1) 1-4 hours (up to 1/2 day); (2) 5-8 hours (1/2 to 1 day); (3) 9-16 hours (up to 2 days); (4) 17-24 hours (up to 3 days); (5) 25-32 hours (up to 4 days); (6) 33-40 hours (up to 5 days); (7) 41 or more hours (5+ days).

    9) Answering the questionnaire during the early weeks of April, respondents were probably estimating the amount of time that they devoted to genealogy during the winter month of Mar. . This may be the reason that a third of them said the amount of time given to genealogy in the preceding month was "less than usual".

    10) The time frame for this question was the calendar year 1993, and not "1993 to the present", to ensure that certain expenditures, such as membership fees in genealogical societies, were counted only once.

    11) The response options were: (0) $0-$50; (1) $51-$100; (2) $101-$200; (3) $201-$300; (4) $301-$500; (5) $501-$1,000; (6) $1,001-$2,000; (7) $2,001-$3,000; (8) over $3,000.

    12) Some respondents objected that 15-16 months (1993 through Mar. or April, 1994) was unduly restrictive. I imposed this limit for several reasons: first, the longer the time frame, the more sources would be checked, thus reducing variability in people's reports and thus the usefulness of the data; second, I wanted to determine whether veteran and novice genealogists differed in the scope and character of their involvement in the hobby; third, it was my hope that people would be able to focus more meaningfully on a recent and relatively short time-frame than on a time-frame extending over an indeterminate number of years.

    13) Respondents volunteered a number of other sources, but none of them exceeded 1 or 2 percent. For the record, 1 percent mentioned electronic bulletin boards.

    14) I included Social Security records because 12 percent of the sample were American residents and Canadians might use this source for American relatives.

    15) The question also advised respondents that multiple entries in an annual directory, such as the Genealogical Research Directory, should be counted only once.

    16) This question did not confine respondents to "1993 to the present", on the grounds that visiting these facilities might be a relatively rare event for many people. I was primarily interested in whether they had availed themselves of these services in person

    17) Response options for the first of these two questions were: (1) none (go to question 8); up to 10% of your time; (3) 10 to 25% of your time; (4) 25 to 50% of your time; (5) more than 50% of your time. Response options for the second question were: (1) as a favour; (2) for my genealogical group; (3) for money; (4) for my own interest (5) other (please specify).

    18) This is also the conclusion of J.P. Dulong in his unpublished doctoral dissertation, "Genealogical Groups in a Changing Organizational Environment: From Lineage to Heritage," Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 1986. Although mine is a sample of genealogists, I asked "Are you a member of any ancestral or patriotic societies, such as the United Empire Loyalists or the Daughters of the American Revolution?" Those who answered in the negative were then asked: "Do you plan to apply some day for admission to an ancestral or patriotic society?" About 12 percent said they were members and 7 percent said they intended to apply for membership. Members and would-be members of ancestral patriotic societies did not differ noticeably from non-members in their professed motivation for doing genealogy.


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