Thomas MacEntee over at High Definition Genealogy has written a very thought provoking article about the perceived age demographic in genealogy. He discusses a recent article in Family Tree Magazine that focuses on young genealogists while noticing that the surrounding advertisements target a much older generation.
Here are some of my thoughts in response:
I definitely believe that the age perception garnered from a genealogy conference is not accurate. As Tina and some of the other commenters to the blog post have mentioned, money is an issue. The older generation is the one with the expendable money and free time to spend on such events. Young adults (gen-x, gen-y) are too poor or too busy trying to build a career or going to school. And young(ish!) families have huge time and budgetary constraints. Until recently I was an under 40 genealogist (oh, how quickly time slips by!). While money was not always the issue preventing me from attending a conference, time constraints and managing a family definitely were. Though I would love to attend a national conference I have yet to do so.
The national genealogy conferences often come at times that are difficult for parents and gen-x/y students. The NGS conference typically occurs in April while school is still in session. Parents can't attend if they have K-12 students still in school. And most gen-x/y students are still attending college classes. Similar problems occur with the FGS conference, though it tends to vary its schedule in a more helpful way. Often FGS is held the same week as the start of K-12 school, a particularly stressful (yet joyous!) time for parents. This year however, it was held a few weeks earlier in August rather than September which was most helpful. Until the national conference organizers are willing to change the dates of the conferences the demographic won't change.
I think the same thing applies to magazine subscriptions. The older generation has the extra income to spend on such things. The younger folks, on the one hand get their information more from the internet rather than printed material, and on the other, they also seek out free sources on the internet to save money.
Where can we find an accurate metric measurement?
A demographic breakdown of Ancestry.com subscribers would probably provide a more accurate view of genealogists but it would still be skewed more toward the folks that have money. And it would exclude all the users who access Ancestry.com at libraries.
I don't believe there is any one source that can provide an accurate assessment of who genealogists are. The genealogical arena is broken down into too many "channels", in much the same way that the main stream news media shifted over the years from three major network channels to an information free-or-all on the internet. For instance, if we could analyze the viewers of Roots Television perhaps we would discover a much younger demographic and find those genealogists who prefer to absorb information through video.
The next question
Instead of analyzing traditional venues for a clue to genealogical demographics, perhaps the question we should be asking is where are today's genealogists getting their information? And what are they looking for while they are there?