We all know of serendipity when it comes to genealogy – how things just “fall into place” or how we seem guided by an ancestor in our search for family history. I also believe something called a “genealogy wavelength” – meaning there are some in the genealogy community who are doing the same type of analyzing and processing of information at the same time.
Carol over at iPentimento and I either made the same observation recently or we are just sending each other telepathic signals across the miles. We are both wondering if there isn’t a perceived age demographic in the genealogy industry and perhaps even an age bias involved.
The Article Says One Thing . . .
My thoughts formed last night as I was reading the latest issue of Family Tree Magazine (November 2010) and specifically a great article entitled Closing the Generation Gap. In the article, five genealogists ranging from ages 13 to 26 are interviewed and share their thoughts about the genealogy industry and working within that industry as someone way below the age demographic.
But Do The Ads Say Another?
And while I read the article, I notice there were four full-page ads in this issue of Family Tree magazine from a company called firstSTREET (their byline is “for Boomers and Beyond®”). On page 42 is an ad with the headline, “Are you in love with your home, but afraid of your staircase?” Yes, it is for one of those chair lifts you install along the stairwell.
Over on Page 47 is a smiling woman selling another firstSTREET product – this time it is a chair lift for a bathtub. And finally on page 57, is a “New medical alarm can save you money, . . . and save your life!” again from firstSTREET. And oh, I almost forgot. On page 59 is an ad for a cell phone with oversized buttons from – guess who? – right, firstSTREET.
I do think that firstSTREET is targeting an older market and is smart to advertise in genealogy magazines like Family Tree Maker. The fact is that most readers of genealogy magazines are in the Baby Boomer age group.
Are Genealogists That Old?
Or perhaps they just fall down quite a bit. I know I do – for a variety of reasons – and sometimes out of sheer joy of finding an ancestor! But seriously, what is the age demographic for genealogists?
My observations may seem overly influenced by my social media activity but the fact is I do get out of the house occasionally. In fact, I think I’ve been to nine genealogy events and conferences – all out of town – since June! Here’s what I see:
- At conferences the demographic is mostly women (70%) and mostly age 50 and above. This includes various national and regional conferences that I have attended over the past year.
- When certain topics are discussed in presentations – topics such as social media or facebook – the age bar comes down a bit but not as much as you think! While the age 55 and above group makes up a small percentage of Facebook users, it is due to concerns over privacy that this group attends sessions about Facebook so they can learn how to use the program safely.
- The first season of the US-version of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC did not have any celebrity under the age of 40.
- When social media is involved at a genealogy event, most of the users and proponents are under the age of 55.
So What Is The Age Demographic for Genealogy?
Is it perceived or actual? How is it measured? Many questions come up especially when using personal observations – it depends on your own demographic. I find that attendees at conferences tend to interact with others in their same age group. When interaction does cross age groups, often it is to comment on either how young/old the other person is or to comment on how they do their genealogy. By this I mean whether they use social media and online research, or if they are doing all their work at repositories and without the use of a computer.
You’re Only As Old As You Feel
What I’d love to see evolve over the course of the next five years in terms of age demographics and genealogy is this: not so big a divide in the under and over-55 age groups when it comes to technology.
I think that both age groups of genealogists have much to offer each other: the younger set should not shut out older genealogists and write them off as “dinosaurs” or “luddites” who refuse to learn and use technology. The older set should not dismiss younger genealogists as less than serious because they choose to use social media to expand their genealogy research and experience.
So I think there should be a strong focus on the “technology” demographic rather than the “age” demographic in the genealogy industry.
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Disclosure: I am a writer for Family Tree Magazine and receive compensation for my submissions. Read all my material connections with genealogy vendors here.
©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee