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Survey to Examine Genealogists’ Internet Habits

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  • tolksteel@yahoo.com
    Survey to Examine Genealogists Internet Habits – Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak I ve been doing genealogy for more than thirty years now, and while I m grateful
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 19, 2004
      Survey to Examine Genealogists' Internet Habits
      – Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

      I've been doing genealogy for more than thirty years now, and while
      I'm grateful to have had the "old school" experience of conducting
      all my research via snail mail and on-site research, I couldn't
      imagine having to function without the Internet now. People tend to
      have strong opinions about Internet usage, but regardless of your
      perspective, there's no disputing that it's had a tremendous impact
      on the way we all do our personal sleuthing.

      And that's at least one of the reasons why Australian doctoral
      candidate, Kylie Veale, is studying "the activities, opinions, and
      attitudes of genealogists who use the Internet for genealogy" as
      part of her Ph.D. thesis. She hopes through an online survey to
      learn how genealogists use the Internet and to gain insight into the
      consequences of the development of genealogy as a significant
      Internet-based activity. The survey is open to any resident of
      Australia, the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom,
      Ireland, or Canada who uses, or has used, the Internet for any
      genealogy-related activity.

      About the Researcher
      Like many of us, Kylie is addicted to genealogy. She's been pursuing
      her own roots since 1994. In her case, the trigger event was
      learning that someone in her family had been a foster child. As she
      explains, "I guess the bug caught me then. I've also been using the
      Internet for the hobby since 1994, so I understand all the glories
      and pitfalls the Internet can bring to the pursuit."

      She elaborates, "Initially, during my Masters degree, I found myself
      incorporating my hobby of genealogy into my class projects, as it
      seemed sensible to combine my two passions: genealogy and the
      Internet. Therefore, I explored projects such as an interactive
      website for the adoption lifecycle, and looked at virtual
      representations of physical cemeteries to aid online genealogical
      research. Very soon, I started thinking about the entire use of the
      Internet for genealogy--the social and technological benefits of the
      medium to the millions of people around the world--which fell in
      beautifully alongside my academic and professional interest in the
      social aspects of the Internet. I'd also been a web business analyst
      professionally for several years, so I guess my personal,
      professional and academic worlds all fell together into a Ph.D. on
      genealogy and the Internet."

      Why Study Genealogists?
      Considering our numbers, genealogists have been vastly under-
      studied. Only a handful of in-depth surveys have ever pried into our
      motivations, our habits, and our demographics. Kylie has an
      interesting perspective of why that might be:

      "Genealogy has long been a debated a `lesser' pursuit amongst
      academic circles, particularly when pitted against history as an
      academic genre. However, genealogists such as Elizabeth Shown Mills
      have been arguing that genealogy can be embraced by history
      academics as a part of their methodology, not just the poorer second
      cousin. So in that respect, I am trying to raise genealogical
      awareness within the international academic circle.

      "When we look to the Internet as a medium, it is often heralded as
      a `boon' or having had a major technological, social and
      methodological impact on genealogy, though there is little
      documented evidence in any of these areas. I find studies about
      genealogical use of archives that touch briefly on the Internet, and
      small online surveys about specific tasks for a genealogy website,
      though again, no empirical research to really understand what this
      large group of users `do' on the Internet.

      "Genealogy has been found to be one of the largest leisure topics on
      the Internet, but I was very surprised to find that no one had fully
      explored the phenomenon--someone who can bridge the gap between
      academia and genealogy as a hobby or serious leisure. That is
      largely my aim. And of course, I hope that my findings will
      contribute to the improvement of the Internet world for genealogy."

      Toward this end, Kylie already has plans for sharing her results.
      During the running of the survey, she'll make some demographic
      statistics available on a page within her Ph.D. research website.
      When the survey is completed, she'll send a report to all
      respondents who indicated they wished to receive it, and, of course,
      she'll also write about her findings in assorted articles in both
      the academic and popular press.

      Help Kylie Help Us!
      Film fans will recognize that I'm borrowing a line from Jerry
      McGuire here, and, yes, the circumstances are entirely different.
      But the intent behind the words is the same. If you have perhaps
      thirty or so minutes to spare, please help Kylie with her Ph.D.
      research so that her findings might in some way ultimately benefit
      the world of genealogy. And let all your roots-seeking buddies know
      that they can also participate in The Internet Genealogy Community
      Study. There truly is strength in numbers and this is an opportunity
      to demonstrate ours.


      Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, co-author (with Ann Turner) of the
      recently released Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to
      Explore Your Family Tree (as well as In Search of Our Ancestors,
      Honoring Our Ancestors and They Came to America), can be contacted
      through www.genetealogy.com and www.honoringourancestors.com.

      Upcoming Events
      - Middlesex Genealogical Society
      (January 29, 2005, Darien, CT)
      - Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society
      (February 12, 2005, Pittsburgh, PA)
      - Fairfax Genealogical Society
      (March 12, 2005, Vienna, VA)
      - Lancaster Family History Conference
      (April 1-2, 2005, Lancaster, PA)
      - Central Jersey Genealogical Club
      (April 12, 2005, Mercerville, NJ)
      - Ohio Genealogical Society Conference
      (April 14-16, 2005, Akron, OH)
      - Oklahoma Genealogical Society Spring Seminar
      (April 30, 2005, Oklahoma City, OK)
      - Orange County Genealogical Society
      (May 14, 2005, Goshen, NY)
      - New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
      (June 18, 2005, New York, NY)
      - Iowa Genealogical Society Annual Fall Conference
      (October 6-8, 2005, Clive, IA)
      - Monmouth County Genealogical Society
      (November 13, 2005, NJ)

      Details and links to upcoming events.
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