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BSc (Hons) Information Technology

Genealogy and Privacy Issues in an Online World

Declan Greally

23/4/2015

Supervisor: Andrew Rae

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

IV

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION

LITERATURE REVIEW
1.1

Genealogy

1.2

Genealogy and Information Technology

1.3

Privacy Issues

PRIMARY RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

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19

2.1

Terms

20

2.2

Available Research Methodologies

22

2.3

Chosen Research Methodology

28

PRIMARY RESEARCH ANALYSIS

30

3.1

Demographics

31

3.2

Privacy

51

3.3

Genealogy

60

CONCLUSION

69

REFERENCES

73

APPENDIX

78

A:

Preliminary Questionnaire

78

B:

Final Questionnaire

80

C:

Supervisor Meeting Agenda Example

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D:

Supervisor Meeting Minutes Example

84

E:

Data from Preliminary Survey

85

F:

Preliminary Survey Demographics Results

88

G:

Final Survey Demographics Results

89

H:

Genealogy Website Rankings Data

90

I:

Genealogy Website Rankings Graph

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Table of Figures

FIGURES
Figure 1.1 - Top 15 genealogy website traffic-rankings over a five-month period (lower is better) - Alexa

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Figure 3.1 - Preliminary survey: Age vs. interest and research undertaken

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Figure 3.2 - Preliminary survey: Age of researchers vs. when they started researching

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Figure 3.3 - Final survey: The 40 countries that responded

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Figure 3.4 - Final survey: Age vs. interest and research undertaken

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Figure 3.5 - Final survey: Marital status and undertaking of research

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Figure 3.6 - Comparison: Percentage of each age group that had undertaken research

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Figure 3.7 - Comparison - Children: Percentage of participants who had researched

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Figure 3.8 - Final survey: Age and experience vs. perception of genealogy as a social activity

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Figure 3.9 - Preliminary survey: Why did you start researching your family tree?

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TABLES
Table 1 - Preliminary survey: Marital status vs. interest and research undertaken

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Table 2 - Preliminary survey: Number of children vs. interest and research undertaken

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Table 3 - Final survey: Number of children vs. interest and research undertaken

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Table 4 - Preliminary survey: Age vs. years of experience of researchers

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Table 5 - Final survey: Age vs. feeling of experience of researchers

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Table 6 - Final survey: Privacy matrix question

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Table 7 - Final survey: Privacy matrix vs. age

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Table 8 - Final survey: Privacy matrix vs. marital status

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Table 9 - Final survey: What are you most worried about [] your genealogical data on the Internet?

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Table 10 - Final survey: Social quantitative questions

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Table 11 - Preliminary survey: Why did you start researching your family tree? - Data

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Acknowledgements
The purpose of this page is to thank those that have helped me achieve the completion of
this dissertation.
The first person that I would like to thank is my supervisor, Andrew Rae, who has proven to
be of immense help throughout the creation of this body of work. Andrew helped to keep
me on track and motivated, was a fantastic sounding board for ideas for the project, and
actually initially proposed the idea of a project on the progress of genealogy in relation to
information technology. I certainly do not believe that my work would be of the quality that
it is without the massive assistance you provided, Andrew.
I would also like to thank Mark Stansfield for agreeing to moderate this project, although we
did not have much interaction with relation to this project, the lectures that you provided
throughout the year for the subject proved invaluable, allowing me to know exactly what
was required of the project. Alongside Mark, I also have to thank Carolyn Begg for stepping
in to moderate my presentation and I enjoyed answering the questions that you provided
during said presentation.
I would finally also like to thank my family and friends who supported me through the
production of this dissertation. The help of my parents, who have provided everything that I
could have needed and for supporting me through my education throughout my life, cannot
be understated and without them, I would not be able to produce a piece of work of this
standard of quality.

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Abstract
The purpose of this study is to analyse the human element of genealogy as information
technology has become an integral part of the field. The demographics of researchers are
identified and their fears about privacy are quantified using a two survey, quantitative
approach, with correlations drawn between certain demographical data such as their age,
marital status and number of children and their likelihood of having carried out research.
Conclusions are drawn on these through a comparison of the two surveys. The history and
future of genealogy is investigated through a combination of literature review and
qualitative survey approaches and predictions are made, alongside analysing the growth of
genealogy on the Internet as a social venture.

Introduction
Genealogy is an age-old discipline that has seen a rapid evolution as the Internet and
computers in general have become more widespread, available and advanced. For many
years, the art of genealogy was carried out in a manual and laborious way, with the only way
to gather information being to physically travel to or otherwise correspond with archives and
other such genealogical repositories. It was not until early 1994 following the public
release of the World-Wide Web (hereafter referred to as the web) in 1991 that the
Internet became a viable resource in genealogical research with Genserv becoming the first
publically accessible genealogy website (Christian, 2014). That is not to say that there was
nothing available prior to the release of Genserv as prior to the release of the web,
newsgroups were available for use with the first of these being net.roots (Christian, 2014).
With that being said, this paper is not written to discuss the history of genealogy on the
Internet, nor indeed of genealogy itself; but to analyse the effects that the introduction of
computers, the Internet and of information technology in general has had on genealogy as a
whole, with a special regard paid to the social consequences of this integration.
This paper aims to identify the demographics of those who undertake genealogical research
and analyse said demographics to reveal patterns and to investigate why people choose to
undertake genealogical research.
Privacy concerns continue to mount as the Internet becomes a larger part of genealogy,
especially since the appearance of DNA testing related to genealogy, with a portion of this
paper dedicated to investigating how safe this data is, what the data is used for and how
accurate it is and what the future holds for genealogy as a whole.
This paper is intended to address an apparent lack of academic interest regarding genealogy,
especially as pertains to the growth and various positive effects that information technology
has brought to genealogical research.
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1 Literature Review
Surprisingly, there has been little work of note carried out concerning the fusion of
genealogy and information technology and this has been noted by various authors (Bishop,
2008; Veale, 2004). As a result, the majority of this literature review focuses on different
aspects of genealogy, ranging from books discussing the history and future of genealogy as a
subject to the privacy policies included with the major companies in modern genealogy.
These works were chosen as through the collective information they impart, they combine
to help the paper fulfil all objectives of this study.
The following literature review is split into different categories, culminating in a concluding
section reflecting on the literature review as a whole.
The first section addresses the assorted works that discuss the history of genealogy, ranging
back to the very beginnings of genealogy up until modern day. Moving past the history of
genealogy, this section then discusses the motivations behind the mass undertaking of
genealogical research over the years.
The second section focuses on the merging of genealogy and information technology, first
explaining how this union occurred before moving on to examining the growth of genealogy
because of the Internet and discussing the future trends of genealogy on the Internet.
Finally, the literature review examines the core topic of this thesis, the underlying privacy
issues that have become a part of genealogy as it has evolved onto the Internet. It examines
who owns the genealogical data, how said data can be used in malicious ways and finally
discussing the integrity of said data.

1.1 Genealogy

This section investigates genealogy in a historical context, through analysis of the historical
literature available on the subject, defining genealogy as a concept and revealing the origins
of genealogy. The progress of pre-modern genealogy will also be analysed, with the reasons
behind the popularity booms in genealogy being explained in the context of the era.

Definition of Genealogy

(the study of) the history of the past and present members of a family
The above is the definition given to genealogy by Oxford Dictionaries (2015) and it is
exactly that. Genealogists are the people who undertake research into their ancestors and
family tree to discover how they are all interlinked. Saar (2002) believed that genealogy is
a form of writing history whereas Sharpe (2011) posits that purists draw a clear distinction
between the terms genealogy and family history:
Genealogists set out to develop a pedigree a family tree based on identification
of births, marriages and deaths. Family history is wider in scope, aiming to fill out the
branches of this tree through investigation of other aspects of our ancestors lives. It
involves genealogical, biographical and historical research
The word genealogy itself has Ancient Greek roots, stemming from the Greek words genea
() meaning race, family or generation and logia (-), a suffix that denotes the
study of a subject (Oxford Dictionaries, 2015; Teknia, 2015).

History of Genealogy

Early Written Genealogy


Written genealogy has an incredibly long history but there are differing opinions on where it
originated, with no clear agreed-upon answer. Garrett (2010) claims that:
The tracing of genealogical lineages in Western Europe dates back, at least, to St.
Matthews gospel which was first written in Greek.
Potter-Phillips (1999), holds a slightly different view; whilst examining the mentions of
genealogy within the bible, the author points to the fact that these references may have
been born out of the Roman culture of the time.
Genealogy was practiced by the ancient Romans to distinguish between the
patrician class (those with proven noble ancestry) and plebians[sic] (commoners).
The author goes further, pointing out that the ancient Egyptians and Chinese both had
dynasties, which could both be construed as genealogies, with both pre-dating the New
Testament of the Bible.
As history progressed through the ages, the discipline of genealogy was primarily used to
settle disputes over titles, land and wealth as a much political importance was affixed to
your bloodline, with said power and wealth passed down through the generations. Whilst
not without question, these pedigrees were generally accurate as Pine (2014) explains:
The truth was sometimes bent to suit some political end, but, on the
whole, medieval European records are genealogically valid. This is because they were
not primarily intended to supply genealogical information but to record land
transactions, taxation, and lawsuits.

Early Modern Genealogy


Unlike the origins of written genealogy, theories regarding the beginnings of modern
genealogy are relatively dispute free. It is generally agreed that modern genealogy
originated in the sixteenth century, in particular, arising from a law passed by King Henry VIII
in 1538 which required that ministers keep records of christenings, baptisms, marriages
and burials. (Potter-Phillips, 1999).
The following centuries were filled with upheaval within the nobility and society as a whole,
with literacy rates rising alongside an increased societal interest in history, leading to a major
growth in genealogical interest (Pine, 2014; Potter-Phillips, 1999). Various European
provinces soon began to keep records similar to British ones, with Potter-Phillips (1999)
suggesting that this was due to influences by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, the author
also states, In most countries, church parish registers pre-date any civil record keeping.
Little of note occurred for centuries, as it remained a steadily studied discipline with stable
interest levels. Genealogy received a boost following the American Revolution as citizens of
the USA sought to establish links to the heroes of the Revolution and to those who originally
colonised the New World. This lead to the creation of the first genealogical society in the
world; the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts in 1845
(New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015; Potter-Phillips, 1999). It was not until
1911 that a similar society was set up in the UK; the Society of Genealogists, set up in
London, England (Kennett, 2011; Society of Genealogists, 2015).

Pre-Internet Modern Genealogy


This author considers the start of modern genealogy, as we know it today, to coincide with
the turn of the twentieth century. This is believed owing to many major genealogical
societies being established during this time, such as the aforementioned Society of
Genealogists. It was also in this time-period that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day

Saints (hereafter referred to as the LDS Church) also known as the Mormon Church
began collecting and making genealogical records available, specifically, in 1894.
The LDS Church are based in Salt Lake City, Utah and believe that members can save
deceased ancestors and baptise them, leading to their collection of genealogical records. To
help achieve this aim, they set up the Family History Library, which is the largest genealogical
library in the world (Garrett, 2010; Utah, 2015).
In the early twentieth century, standardisation became a concern with the rise in
genealogys popularity as genealogists sought to make their field academically relevant.
Garrett (2010) stated that:
The need for standards resulted from a growing disdain of historians, librarians, and
archivists who viewed genealogy as nonscholarly[sic], error-filled works of family
pride.
Scholars viewed these attempts with disdain however, with an example communicated by
O'Hare (2002) citing an article from an edition of William & Mary Quarterly in 1942:
"[a]s a pleasant and harmless form of antiquarianism, the study of family history,
biography, and the tracing of genealogy are tolerantly humored but certainly not
seriously honored by historians and scientists."
Genealogy was seen as a quaint hobby but certainly not an academic subject, rightly or
wrongly, and it continued to increase in popularity steadily following the end of World War II
(Garrett, 2010), before exploding in popularity following the release of Alex Haleys book
Roots: The Saga of an American Family in 1976 and its subsequent award-winning miniseries in 1977. Pettinato (2014) revealed that:
Requests to the National Archives for genealogical material quadrupled the week
after the TV show ended.

The author also points out that the number of genealogical societies being inaugurated in
the USA increased drastically following the release of Roots. The release of Roots spurred a
worldwide interest in the subject and pushed the discipline to heights that it had not known
before.

In this chapter, the author defined genealogy before identifying the key factors that drove
the evolution of genealogy and studied the history of the genealogical subject as a whole,
starting at the beginning of written genealogies until the appearance of information
technology. The author identified genealogy as a steadily growing subject that struggles with
being academically accepted but has captured the imagination of the public and at times, of
the nobility and politicians.

1.2 Genealogy and Information Technology

This section of the paper is intended to review the available literature and evaluate
genealogy as a field since the introduction of information technology, and reveal how the
field has grown since said introduction, with special attention paid to the growth of
genealogy since the introduction of the Internet.

Beginnings

Genealogy appeared on computers in 1979 with the first piece of genealogical software
released, Genealogy: Compiling Roots and Branches, written by John J. Armstrong and cost
$250 ($813.19 adjusted for inflation or 537.14) (Eastman, 2002; US Inflation Calculator,
2015; XE Currency Converter, 2015).
Due to genealogical software became more popular and widespread following the
pioneering work of John J. Armstrong in the creation of Genealogy: Compiling Roots and
Branches, there arose a need to create a specification that allowed the transfer of
genealogical data between the various software on the market.
The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognised
this need and created the GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunications) standard in 1984
(Nurse, 1994). The initial problem to overcome was that only the program written by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could read this new standard, although over the
years, most programs came to read the .GED format utilised by the GEDCOM standard
(Eastman, 2014). Eastman (2014) further explains that GEDCOM required that the file was a
plain text file with a set, structured format with numbers preceding information to indicate
the position within the hierarchy that information sits, alongside a tag to identify the
significance of the information.
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In 1983, genealogy made its first appearance on the Internet with the creation of the
newsgroup net.roots (Isaacson, 1998) though it was replaced in September 1986 by soc.roots
(Christian, 2014). This was followed up by the creation of the first genealogical mailing list,
ROOTS-L, in December 1987 (ROOTS-L, 2010).
These were the early days of the Internet and it was not the most useful of resources to use
at the time, as Garrett (2010) explains:
genealogists could only access the services of their online service providers and
communicate with fellow genealogists who subscribed to the same provider.
However, these were only temporary issues, alleviated by the public introduction of the
World Wide Web on 6th August 1991 (CERN, 2015) but Garrett (2010) goes further,
identifying the issues that were present at the time:
These early forays into Internet genealogical research were further limited by the
text-based technology of the time, which made it impossible to view digital facsimiles
of records.
The first family tree was put online shortly after by Alan Stanier in June 1993 followed by the
first directory of genealogical resources on the Internet, The Genealogy Home Page in July
1994 (Christian, 2014).
In between these two events, Mosaic was released in March 1993 and is credited with
helping to popularise the World Wide Web. Mosaic was the first browser that was able to
display images on the same page as text, instead of having to click on a link to view the
image in a separate window (Boutell, 2006).
In one of the most significant events in the history of genealogy on the Internet,
Ancestry.com was released in 1996 and it rapidly became the highest-trafficked site on the
genealogical Internet, where it remains to this day (Alexa, 2015; Ancestry, 2015).

In a landmark move, Scots Origins was launched on 6th April 1998, becoming the first payper-view site for UK public records and in August 2001, they became the first to add the
1881 and 1891 census indexes and images to their records collection (Christian, 2014).
By 22nd April 2006, all available UK censuses were made available online with the addition of
the previously unavailable 1841 censuses and the collection was made complete in England
and Wales in January 2009 when the 1911 census was added, with Scotland following suit in
April 2011. (Christian, 2014)

Growth of Genealogy on the Internet

In late 1999, McClure (1999) stated that A search of the word genealogy on the Internet
results in over 5 million possible pages.. On 5th January 2015, a Google search showed that
this figure now stands at 92.1 million possible pages, with this number growing to 94.1
million results as of 22nd April 2015. This is an unsurprising amount of growth, given how
rapidly the Internet in of itself has expanded over the years. To give a more recent example,
Kennett (2011) identified that in August 2010, the Office for National Statistics revealed 10
million adults had never been online; making up 21% of the adult population within the
United Kingdom. In May 2014, the Office for National Statistics (2014) announced that the
number of adults that had never been online had dropped to 6.4 million, or 13% of the
British adult population.
Blogging about genealogy is also seeing growth through the years as Hill (2011) identified
that at the end of 2010, GeneaBloggers a website dedicated to blogging about genealogy
had 1,535 bloggers regularly posting on their website and by January 2015, that number had
risen to 3,056 (GeneaBloggers, 2015).
An article by GenealogyInTime Magazine (2012) included traffic rankings of the top 25
genealogical websites according to Alexas traffic ranking statistics, with the average traffic
ranking of said websites being 23,606. The author of this study (Genealogy and Privacy Issues
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in an Online World) carried out similar research on 19th November 2014 and found the
average traffic ranking at that date to be 19,168, a growth of 23.15%, when directly
compared to previous rankings, websites showed an average growth of 23.3%, discounting
new entries to the rankings.
Genealogy on the Internet is also growing in a more subtle way, through the undeniably
ageing population of the world.
Archives.com data and broader industry analyses indicate that users of genealogy
websites tend to be female aged 45 or older. This age group constitutes 62% of
Archives.com members.
(Hill, 2011)
That alone does not show growth, however, statistics released by the UK government in
February 2012 indicate that the population of the UK is ageing (Rutherford, 2012). Through
analysis of statistics given in said paper, it predicts that the population within the age group
of 40 and over will overtake those younger than 40 by 2025, with the average age of the
population to rise from 40 to 43 by 2035 (Rutherford, 2012). Further analysis shows that the
population of the age group of 45 and over directly relevant to the data revealed by Hill
(2011) will grow by an average of 1.83% over the average population growth until at least
2035, where the available predicted statistics end (Rutherford, 2012). Josiam and Frazier
(2008) also stated that:
The more a person has used the Internet and the older they are, the more likely they
are to use the Internet for genealogy research.
This leads to the overall conclusion that as the population ages and becomes more
accustomed to the Internet, interest in genealogy on the Internet will rise.

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The first recorded incidence of the term genetic genealogy appeared in a Dallas, Texas
newspaper known as Dallas Morning News in March 1989:
Of course, scientists have long known that we all carry a record of our roots in our
genes. It's just that the record in the rocks has been easier to read. Lately, though,
practitioners of genetic genealogy have found methods to search for the woman
from whom we all are descended.
(Siegfried, 1989)
Due to the increasing merging of genealogy and technology, commercially available genetic
DNA tests became available in 2000 following the launch of the companies Family Tree DNA
and Oxford Ancestors (Family Tree DNA, 2009; Oxford Ancestors, 2015). Surprisingly, the cost
involved in the testing was not prohibitively expensive when the technology first became
available, with Family Tree DNA offering mtDNA - mitochondrial DNA, DNA passed from
mothers to children (Phillips DNA Project, 2015) - tests for $219, with the equivalent test in
2015 costing $199 (Family Tree DNA, 2000; Family Tree DNA, 2015b).
Figure 1.1, on the following page, shows the rapid growth of genealogy websites related to
DNA, of particular note Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, who have improved their traffic
ranking by 6,815 and 5,281 according to the traffic rankings of Alexa respectively over the
five-month period between 19th November 2014 and 16th April 2015. It also shows that the
top websites within the genealogical world stay rather stagnant, or with slow but steady
growth. Of particular interest is that there appears to be a slight drop in interest going over
the Christmas season, although it recovers quickly going into March. A ranking of the top 25
websites with a comparison to 2012 can be found in Appendix H: Genealogy Website
Rankings - Data and Appendix I: Genealogy Website Rankings - Graph.

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Figure 1.1 - Top 15 genealogy website traffic-rankings over a five-month period (lower is better) - Alexa

The size of Ancestry.com as a whole cannot be understated, with seven of the top 15
websites shown in Figure 1.1 being owned by the Ancestry.com group, these being
Ancestry.ca, Ancestry.co.uk, Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com.au, Archives.com, Genealogy.com
and Find A Grave (Tester, 2014).
In summary, the field of genealogy has seen enormous growth since appearing on a virtual
format, and especially with the Internet. The gradually increasing penetration of the Internet
has made genealogy more accessible to people of a lower income and of the older, reducing
the need for expensive travel or cost at all, as it is very possible to carry out genealogical
research entirely free.
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1.3 Privacy Issues

This unit of the literature review is dedicated to reviewing the literature available on privacy
issues related to genealogy as a field, mainly evaluating the accuracy of data and the
databases that genealogical data is held on in the age of the Internet.

Integrity of Genealogical Data

Issues with the veracity of genealogical data is not a problem new to the Internet age of
genealogy but it is one was carefully watched as the Internet has become a larger and larger
part of genealogy as a whole. As Howells (1998) posited when genealogy on the Internet was
under its highest levels of scrutiny:
In the future, we will continue to find published information which is based on
hearsay and poor research methods entirely lacking in any source citations.
The key word in this statement being continue. There were also accuracy issues in regards to
earlier genealogical records, for example, Durie (2009) states that missing records are an
issue in early Scottish censuses, stating about the 1841 Scottish census:
Some parishes are known to be missing from the records. A lot of these are in Fife
because the records were lost overboard during their transit by boat to Edinburgh.
Even though people might have moved after census night, and therefore could be
counted twice, it was impossible to repeat the exercise for these fourteen Fife
parishes, which represented about 30% of Fifes census data, much to the fury of
genealogists ever since.
This process was repeated in the 1851 Scottish census, with seven registration districts going
missing. Interestingly in the aforementioned 1841 census, the ages of anyone over the age

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of fifteen were rounded down to the nearest five, creating inaccuracies within dates of
births (Durie, 2009).
Some authors have doubts about the authenticity of genealogical records on the Internet,
amongst them Kovacs (2001) who wrote:
One issue which should concern genealogists who find records on the Internet is the
authenticity of the documents. It is often difficult to ascertain whether or not primary
records have been altered (either inadvertently or intentionally) in the digitization
process.
There are also genealogical researchers who flat out reject online records as being valid as
explained in a paper by (Garrett, 2010), referencing a book written by Crowe, E. P. entitled
Genealogy Online:
In fact, according to Crowe, many professional genealogists refuse to consider online
records as authoritative: [t]heir attitude is this: A source is not a primary source
unless you have held the original document in your hand. And a primary source is not
proof unless it is supported by at least one other original document you have held in
your hand.
There is also the constant issue that when data is on the Internet, it is there forever, despite
any questions over the accuracy of said data. Bishop (2008) carried out a study analysing
exactly why genealogists carry out their research, prompting them to keep a diary and
record their experiences. It threw up some interesting anecdotes about errors in
genealogical research, with one researcher noting that she had found errors in a book but
decided against notifying the author of said book of the error; perpetuating a cycle of
erroneous information. Bishop (2008) writes:
One researcher shared her frustration at her inability to convince other researchers
to correct a piece of information about her great-great-grandmother. They have
[her] married 4 times and will not change their documentation. With each post to an

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online message board devoted to the family, this myth perpetuates itself! she
wrote.
Finally in this study, another researcher noted problems within census taking in the early
twentieth century:
I was so disgusted with my grandmother and what she told the census taker on the
1930 census, said one researcher. Her grandmother said she was born in California
and that her parents were from France; both pieces of information turned out to be
incorrect.
Veale (2004) identified several issues with genealogy on the Internet in her paper, noting
that groups such as the Internet Genealogists for Quality have been set up in response to the
volume of false genealogical data available on the Internet. A possible reason for this
proliferation is given by Veale (2004):
Thus the many genealogies published on the Internet have given rise to the quickie
genealogist those who go online to pursue their ancestry, and by using the work of
others, copy the information verbatim, disregarding basic genealogical methodology,
to regurgitate the material, mistakes and all, as their own
This all combines to give a negative perception according to Veale (2004):
Some of the negative perceptions include: concerns over information veracity and
quality; fears about intrusions into privacy and even the chance for identities to be
stolen; and the commercialisation of both amateur labour and previously free
information.
Even within genealogical software itself, there can be issues with data loss when exchanging
data between programs using dissimilar standards as Eastman (2014) explains:
Translating from one programs database to GEDCOM is sort of the same as
translating from one spoken language to another. The basics work, but subtleties and

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details sometimes do not translate well. Then, when translating to the third language
(the receiving genealogy programs database), more translation losses creep in.
In terms of the security and integrity of genealogical databases/websites, there has been
little to worry about. The biggest of these, Ancestry.com has only one incidence that the
author can find online of their services being compromised, and this was when their servers
were subjected to a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack in June 2014, although no
data was compromised (Dobner, 2014).
There was an incidence of the data of living people being released accidentally in relation to
genealogy however, by website run by the Irish government named IrishGenealogie.ie. The
website accidentally released the civil registry records of every citizen born or who married
in the State in July 2014 (Edwards, 2014).
Aside from these two incidents, genealogy websites appear to be mostly free from security
issues, whether this is due to good security practices by the services or just a lack of interest
from malicious instigators is questionable but ultimately irrelevant as it cannot be proved
either way at this point by the author.

Who Owns Genealogical Data?

Hoffman (2011) states that genealogy falls under the purview of intellectual property laws.
This means that the genealogical data that you create is copyrighted to you, i.e. if you create
a family tree online, that family tree is copyrighted to you. This is only the case if you add
some creativity to the tree, i.e. you can add some form of narration to the tree. This
essentially means that you own the data that you create in relation to genealogy, so long as
you have added a modicum of creativity to it (Hoffman, 2011).
One of the most contentious issues arising due to recent genealogical advances is the
ownership of DNA information if a genealogist submits their DNA to a testing lab to identify
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their heritage. Despite this, the reading of various privacy policies of DNA testing companies
such as Family Tree DNA, 23andme and AncestryDNA by the author has revealed that there
are no real issues regarding this, within the largest companies. Interestingly however, Family
Tree DNA do not seem to have put very much thought into their privacy policy (Family Tree
DNA, 2015a). The author posits this as the policy states:
Family Tree DNA also adheres to the Genetic Genealogy Guidelines as proposed by
the The[sic] Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee in January 2015.
This is interesting as The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee (2015) state at the start
of the second paragraph of their Genetic Genealogy Standards that:
These Standards are intentionally directed to genealogists, not to genetic genealogy
testing companies.
This chapter, more than anything, identified the sheer lack of literature regarding privacy in
genealogy. However, it also revealed the error-strewn past of genealogy, showing that
inaccuracies are not solely born of the Internet age for genealogy.

In the first chapter, the author examined the history of genealogy before studying the effects
that information technology has had on genealogy as a whole in the second chapter. Finally,
the third chapter focused on the integrity and partially on the ownership of genealogical
data and the websites that hold this data.
There is a surprising lack of information about privacy issues in terms of genealogy and the
author has found that even the most basic of questions have yet to be answered within
genealogy as an academic field.
The material discussed within the past three chapters and the material that has been
reviewed as a whole throughout the entire process has led to the final question of:
Are genealogical researchers worried about privacy issues within genealogy in the age of
the Internet and, if so, what worries them the most?
18

2 Primary Research Methodology


This chapter is intended to outline the possible methodologies that can be used to carry out
the primary research required for a thorough undertaking of the project, discussing the
features and limitations of the various methodologies available for use.
The intention of this chapter is to outline the optimal methods for the undertaking of a study
such as this one and to discuss the reasons behind the choosing of this methodology. The
underlying philosophical terms relevant to modern methodologies are also explained in
detail, to give a fuller understanding of the subject matter.

19

2.1 Terms

When discussing research methodologies, it is important to understand some of the terms


behind the subject matter and this section aims to explain the various terms required for a
full understanding of the methodologies. There are two main philosophical approaches to
methodologies and these are positivism and interpretivism.

Positivism

Positivism is generally regarded as being a scientific approach to research, using an objective


and measurable approach to every study.
Punch (2013) defines positivism as:
the belief that objective accounts of the world can be given, and that the function
of science is to develop descriptions and explanations in the form of universal laws
Bryman (2012) identifies that there are five key principles of positivism, and these are:
Phenomenalism the principle that only knowledge that can be perceived through senses
can be identified as usable knowledge (Mastin, 2008).
Deductivism the ability to create hypotheses that are testable and allow explanations to be
easily created (Bryman, 2012).
Inductivism the principle in which Knowledge is arrived at through the gathering of facts
that provide the basis for laws (Bryman, 2012).
Alongside these three principles, the fourth and fifth principles of positivism require that a
study be free from bias (objective) and that a clear distinction is made between scientific
statements and subjective statements.
20

Interpretivism

Interpretivism is generally seen as the antithesis to positivism by researchers. Whereas


positivism focuses on objective and scientific approaches, Murphy (2014) states that
interpretivism encourages researchers to explore the data and to come to an understanding
of why the people involved in the study made the choices that they did. Punch (2013) gives
the definition of interpretivism as being:
the philosophical position that people bring meanings to situations, and use these
meanings to understand their world and influence their behaviour
This shows that interpretivism has to be approached with a measure of subjectivity, as it is
important to discover the reasoning behind answers. Interpretivism also requires the author
of a study to not structure the data in a format that follows the researchers initial
assumptions (Murphy, 2014).

21

2.2 Available Research Methodologies

There are three main approaches to be considered when identifying an appropriate


methodology for the undertaking of primary research; these are given as qualitative,
quantitative and mixed methods (Creswell, 2003). This section is dedicated to exploring
these methods and aims to evaluate the individual methods strengths and weaknesses.

Quantitative

Quantitative research methods attempt to maximize objectivity, replicability, and


generalizibility[sic] of findings, and are typically interested in prediction. Integral to
this approach is the expectation that a researcher will set aside his or her experiences,
perceptions, and biases to ensure objectivity in the conduct of the study and the
conclusions that are drawn. Key features of many quantitative studies are the use of
instruments such as tests or surveys to collect data, and reliance on probability theory
to test statistical hypotheses that correspond to research questions of interest.
(Harwell, 2011)
Quantitative research is generally carried out in the form of surveys or through alternative
data gathering activities that have a focus on closed-ended questions (Creswell, 2003).
Creswell (2003) also identifies that quantitative research is post-positivist that is, it is an
empirically scientific approach to a study, focusing on the objective facts throughout a study,
although not to the rigid standards set by positivism, allowing for some manner of
subjectivity to be applied.

22

To give an example of a quantitative approach related to the subject matter of this project, a
survey could be created and then distributed to a large amount of people using the Internet
to gather demographical information, with questions ranging from asking respondents age
to asking if they have ever undertaken genealogical research.

Advantages
There are multiple advantages to choosing to approach a study with a quantitative
methodology, key amongst them being that a quantitative approach allows a large amount
of data to be collected relatively quickly. This can be in the form of an online survey
distributed to many respondents, which, aside from the initial time spent designing the
survey, essentially runs itself and allows responses to be collected passively without much
effort on the part of the researcher.
The data that is gathered through a quantitative approach can generally be easily quantified
and analysed as quantitative data is in the form of closed ended questions, which allow
responses to be tallied into easily read sets of data. Large-scale analysis can be carried out
using statistics software, such as Microsoft Excel, and it is relatively straightforward to carry
out this analysis, with a lot of the work carried out by the program automatically, although it
can be time-consuming (Punch, 2013).
Quantitative research such as surveys also appeal to the natural human preference for
numbers as opposed to having to fill out text boxes for questions (Creswell, 2015).
Due to the closed-ended nature of questions asked, quantitative results are generally
regarded as objective data as the raw data is free from misinterpretation, as opposed to a
respondent responding in the form of text, where tone could be important. This leads to
quantitative data being largely accepted as unbiased and mostly free from subjectivity.
Quantitative studies have better replicability than qualitative surveys, allowing multiple
researchers to carry out the survey, to further confirm or reject the original conclusions of
the study (Altermatt, 2008).
23

Disadvantages
A quantitative approach is not without its disadvantages however, with one of the major
criticisms levelled at the methodology being its inherent inflexibility. In many cases, a
researcher cannot identify every single category of response to a question, leading to
inaccurate responses being gathered, due to the respondent not agreeing with any of the
closed-ended options (Altermatt, 2008).
Creswell (2015) also states that quantitative research Is impersonal, dry and that it Does
not record the words of participants, possibly missing out on possible key information that
would have otherwise been gathered through a more personal, qualitative approach.

Qualitative

In contrast to quantitative research, Harwell (2011) infers that the qualitative methodology
is quantified through:
discovering and understanding the experiences, perspectives, and thoughts of
participants that is, qualitative research explores meaning purpose or reality
Altermatt (2008) concisely defines qualitative research as:
qualitative research involves observations that are transformed into records based
on the observers intuitive sense of what is important.
In essence, qualitative research is the antipode of quantitative research, focusing more on
the narrative of the information gathered as opposed to the facts produced (Creswell, 2015).
A qualitative approach is usually used to generate theories, as it gathers open ended
answers from respondents, allowing for researchers to generate a hypotheses based on the
answers given (Punch, 2013).

24

An example of a qualitative study in the context of this project, a qualitative approach would
be performing in-depth interviews, preferably face-to-face with genealogists from
genealogical societies, where possible. This would allow for an in-depth discussion on the
factors behind undertaking research and the future of genealogy as a whole.

Advantages
The most important advantage that qualitative research has over quantitative research is
that qualitative research can provide extremely detailed information on the subject in
question through a written description as opposed to purely numerical data. Data is not as
narrowly focused as quantitative data is, allowing for a more thorough analysis to be
performed (Altermatt, 2008).
Altermatt (2008) suggests that if a researcher is unfamiliar with the project at hand, a
qualitative approach allows a researcher with moderate knowledge to ask open questions,
which when answered, gives the researcher a greater knowledge of the subject, and allows
them to approach the project with a more narrow focus.
Creswell (2015) states that a qualitative study Is based on the views of participants, not of
the researcher, suggesting that a qualitative approach helps to mitigate the problems
associated with the pre-defined assumptions of the researcher designing the study.

Disadvantages
The biggest disadvantage of undertaking a qualitative study is that it becomes very difficult
to study a large subset of people, as each individual study requires a much larger amount of
time, as opposed to a quantitative study.
The nature of a qualitative study is such that it only provides soft data, which is highly
subjective and relies heavily on the participants of the study, reducing the ability of the
researcher to apply their expertise (Creswell, 2015).
25

Largely, the disadvantages of the qualitative methodology mirrors the advantages of the
quantitative methodology. Altermatt (2008) indicates that qualitative studies are susceptible
to confirmation bias as:
observers intuitions may lead them to seek out, notice, interpret, and remember
events that are consistent with their expectations
It is also much more difficult to analyse qualitative data as opposed to quantitative data as it
is generally in the form of words, instead of numerical data. It is still possible to quantify this
data, although it is extremely time-consuming, compared to quantitative data.
Qualitative studies are also difficult to replicate due to the in-depth, subjective nature that is
part of the methodologys core principles (Harwell, 2011).

Mixed Methods

As the name indicates, a mixed methods methodology combines aspects of both


quantitative and qualitative research methods. Creswell (2015) states that he believes mixed
methods research to be:
An approach to research in the social, behavioral, and health sciences in which the
investigator gathers both quantitative (closed-ended) and qualitative (open-ended)
data, integrates the two, and then draws interpretations based on the combined
strengths of both sets of data to understand research problems.
Mixed methods are generally considered a fairly new methodology, as indicated by Harwell
(2011), with its modern standards appearing during the early 1990s. No set, widely
accepted definition of the mixed methods approach exists, due to the contentious nature of
the methodology. The author agrees with the above definition however, as for it to be a
methodology of its own, the approach cannot simply attach the methods together without
any relevant linkage between them. Harwell (2011) posits that:
26

other authors say a mixed methods study must have a mixed methods question,
both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and integrated inferences
This definition meshes effectively with the definition given by Creswell, and these given
definitions are the definitions that the author agrees with. The opposite view is that a mixed
methods approach is any study with both qualitative and quantitative data (Harwell,
2011), which, in the authors opinion, is simply a study using both qualitative and quantitative
methodologies as opposed to a new methodology in its own right.

Advantages
A mixed methods approach allows for the most in-depth and accurate data gathering of the
three given methods due to the combination of both qualitative and quantitative
approaches to form a complete picture (Creswell, 2015).

Disadvantages
The major disadvantage of a mixed methods study is that compared to both qualitative and
quantitative studies, it is incredibly time consuming. This is in part due to the large amount
of planning that is required to effectively carry out a mixed methods study, and also due to
the complex data analysis required to successfully integrate the qualitative and quantitative
data (Punch, 2013).

27

2.3 Chosen Research Methodology

The chosen methodology for the purposes of this study was that of a quantitative approach,
with some elements of the qualitative methodology also. As the qualitative questions do not
directly link with the quantitative questions proposed, it is not a mixed methods survey.
A quantitative approach was chosen due to the large importance of gathering the
demographics of genealogical researchers, requiring a large volume of respondents,
rendering the usage of a qualitative approach to be inadequate due to the large time
required to carry out large-scale qualitative research. As two surveys are planned, a
quantitative survey is also ideal due to its high replicability, this replicability allows the
author to carry out two surveys within the time allotted; one being a preliminary survey to
gather a baseline result, to ensure that the final surveys results were not badly skewed.
Owing to the importance of the gathering of demographics, a quantitative approach was
chosen, as the gathering of demographics requires a relatively large sample size. The
quantifiable nature of the data is also helpful for the data analysis required to identify
patterns in those who undertake research as it allows the data to be analysed quickly and
thoroughly using programs such as Microsoft Excel.
Whilst a qualitative survey would have allowed for a much more in-depth analysis of
sections of the final project, for example, for investigating why genealogists carry out their
research, it would have been far too time consuming to carry out qualitative research to the
volume and ultimately quality required for an accurate demographics result.
The qualitative elements of the survey come in the form of open-ended questions at the end
of both surveys. With both surveys, the survey has been split into two separate pages, with
multiple choice questions on the first page, and text-based open-ended questions on the
second page. Participants will only advance to the second page if they indicate that they
have undertaken genealogical research at some point, as the questions on the second page
require some knowledge of genealogy. This decision was made because the author did not
28

want respondents closing the survey at the sight of text boxes and it was reasoned that if the
respondent indicated that they were interested in genealogy, the participants would be
more likely to answer said questions.

To summarise this chapter, the author has investigated the various methodologies available
to a researcher carrying out a study. Each of the three main approaches were evaluated,
with the advantages and disadvantages of each method revealed and contrasted. This
evaluation of methodologies was used to select an appropriate method to approach the
study in question with, with the reasons justified and outlined. The method chosen for the
study was that of a quantitative approach, with elements of the qualitative method as it
allows the author to assess the demographics of researchers with the appropriate volume.

29

3 Primary Research Analysis


This chapter is intended to evaluate the primary research that has been gathered
throughout the entire project timeline. The chosen format for the study was two separate
quantitative surveys, created using instant.ly, issued online through various social media
avenues such as Facebook and Reddit, and analysed using the inbuilt tools of instant.ly and
Microsoft Excel. Some data is also displayed using tools made available by info.gram.
There are three sections of data analysed in this section. The first section of data is the
quantitative data gathered to identify the demographics of those who undertake
genealogical research. The second section analyses both quantitative and qualitative data,
with a heavy focus on investigating the privacy issues associated with genealogy and how
participants feel about said privacy issues. Finally, the third section focuses mainly on the
qualitative data gathered, this section is dedicated to understanding the underlying
motivations and future of genealogy as a whole, with attention also paid to genealogy as a
social venture.

30

3.1 Demographics

This section reviews and analyses the demographical data acquired through the two surveys
issued for the purposes of this study. The author evaluates both surveys in their own rights
before comparing and contrasting them with each other in order to identify possible trends
within the genealogical community. As will become evident, the study received a large
contingent of responses from younger, single and childless participants. As such, the author
will not state overall shares per demographic as it is skewed by the lack of a normal
distribution, therefore, only the percentage chance of a certain demographic having
undertaken research will be evaluated, to prevent incorrect results.

Preliminary Survey

Introduction
The preliminary survey was taken by 310 respondents across 24 different countries. It was
distributed over the Internet using various social media such as Facebook and Reddit. The
survey tool used was instant.ly and select data was displayed in the form of an infographic,
using info.gram (see Appendix E: Data from Preliminary Survey). In total, 149 people
completed the entire survey, having answered yes to having undertaken genealogical
research and not leaving the survey prior to completion.
The survey overall comprised of nine closed-ended/quantitative questions, with six being
multiple choice radio buttons, two accepting numerical answers and one comprising of a
drop-down menu. Two qualitative questions were also asked, both requiring a textual
answer. Seven of the quantitative questions were placed on the first page, with the other
two quantitative and two qualitative questions asked on page two. All questions in the
survey were mandatory.
31

The survey was intentionally designed to have nothing but multiple-choice questions on the
first page, to avoid having participants deciding to end the survey without fully completing it.
Unfortunately, once greeted with the two qualitative questions on page two, 17.68% of
participants opted to leave the survey; however, this ultimately validated the authors
decision to split the questionnaire into two pages, as the demographics of those 32
respondents were still collected. A full transcript of the survey can be found in Appendix A:
Preliminary Questionnaire. The average time taken to complete this survey was 1 minute
and 48 seconds.
The aim of this survey was primarily to gather a baseline demographic for genealogical
researchers, to ensure that the final survey had something to compare to, in order to verify
that the final survey was not skewed towards any one demographic, and to be able to make
correct and valid correlations and conclusions based on the combined data. Appendix F:
Preliminary Survey Demographics Results contains the raw quantitative response data
from the preliminary survey, for reference purposes.

Age
The preliminary survey saw a large range of ages participating in the study, with participants
as young as 14 and as old as 70, with the overall median age of respondents being 26.5 years
old. For researchers, the minimum and maximum ages stayed the same, at 14 and 70 years
old respectively, however the median age increased by three and a half years to thirty.
Appendix F: Preliminary Survey Demographics Results identifies the shares that each age
group held in the survey.

32

Figure 3.1 - Preliminary survey: Age vs. interest and research undertaken

In Figure 3.1, above, the data shows a clear correlation between age and having undertaken
research, with a visible turning point being reached when participants were above the age of
24 years old. There is a slightly similar correlation with interest in genealogy and age,
although it is far less pronounced than with actually carrying out research.

Gender
There was a fairly even split of genders amongst respondents to the initial survey, with
46.45% of respondents being male and 52.26% of respondents being female, with a further
1.29% of participants not identifying as either male or female. There does not appear to be
any relationship between gender and either being interested in genealogy or having
33

researched your family tree, with there being a 1% difference between males and females in
interest (male: 85.42%, female: 86.42%) and a 2.4% difference in having undertaken
research (male: 60.42%, female: 58.08%). The author did not feel that the data on those who
did not identify as either male or female was not sufficient to produce a conclusive
relationship, as only four respondents to the survey recorded themselves as such.

Marital Status
There was a significant skew in favour of those who were single, although this was
unsurprising, given the aforementioned median age of 26.5. The percentage share per
marital status is as follows:
Single:

50.32%

Living with a partner:

16.77%

Married:

28.39%

Separated:

0.65%

Divorced:

3.23%

Widowed:

0.65%

As the data above shows, those who have never married comprise 67.1% of the survey
participants, with the remaining 32.9% having married at some point in their lifetime and
these are the two groups that the survey will focus on, as they carry similar views.

Table 1 - Preliminary survey: Marital status vs. interest and research undertaken

34

As Table 1, on the previous page, shows, there is no significant correlation between interest
in genealogy and a persons marital status. There is a trend between marital statuses and
having carried out research, however. Those who have been married at some point in their
lives were found to be 41.03% more likely to investigate their family genealogy than those
who have never married. This was the strongest correlation of the preliminary survey. This is
due to 72.55% of those who have been wed indicating that they had undertaken research, in
contrast to the 51.44% who recorded themselves as having never married indicating that
they had researched their genealogy.

Children
The prevalence of young, single participants leads there to be a large skew towards
respondents having no children. 73.87% of respondents were childless, with only 26.13%
having children. This disparity led the author to collate all respondents with children into a
single category, as opposed to evaluating each separately. For posterity: 10% had one child,
10% had two children; 3.87% had three children, 0.97% had four children and 1.29% of
participants had five or more children.

Table 2 - Preliminary survey: Number of children vs. interest and research undertaken

35

Table 2, on the previous page, indicates no correlation between interest in genealogy and
the number of children that a person has, although there is certainly one with having
undertaken research. In this instance, Table 2 shows that 54.59% of those without children
had carried out some form of family research, and when all participants with childrens
responses were collated, it was revealed that 69.14% of parents have researched their
genealogy, a percentage increase of 26.66%.

Experience
Participants in the survey were also asked when they had first begun to research their
genealogies, as well as how many years of experience they had of research; this question
was only asked if they had indicated that they had indeed carried out genealogical research
at some point in their lives. The reason that two such similar questions were answered was
to identify if researchers judged their experience as going from their first experience of
research or from continuous research.
The median experience of respondents was five and a half years of experience if judged
going by age versus when they started their research, using the raw quantitative data. Many
respondents answered that they had zero years of experience, which is made clear in Figure
3.2 on the following page, with the longest amount of experience being 60 years.
Unfortunately, not all respondents answered this question correctly, with fourteen
respondents giving unusable responses.
The median years of experience of respondents as based on the bandings of experience
given (0-1, 1-3; 3-5, 5-10; 10+) was three to five years, which does not differ much from the
previous result, as the difference can be explained by the absence of the fourteen responses.

36

Figure 3.2 - Preliminary survey: Age of researchers vs. when they started researching

Figure 3.2, above, shows a scatter graph of all respondents ages versus when they started
researching, it is clear that many participants had little experience, with 49% of respondents
indicating that they had less than three years of experience. The largest contingent of
respondents indicated that they had their first taste of genealogical research before the age
of 18, with 34.81% of participants fitting into this section; this would indicate that many
researchers had their first experience of research whilst still in school, perhaps as part of a
school project.

37

Conclusion
The preliminary survey revealed that a given person was 26.66% more likely to carry out
research if they were a parent, 46.6% more likely to research their family tree if they were in
a serious relationship involving cohabitation and generally more likely to carry out research
as they age. It was found that the median amount of experience that researchers have is five
and a half years, with the largest segment of researchers having first undertaken research
before the age of 18. No significant correlation was found between gender and the chances
of having carried out research. Interestingly, it was also revealed that 70.48% of respondents
from the United States of America had carried out research but only 35.29% of participants
from the United Kingdom had done so, a huge culture shift, with Canada also leaning
towards the American result with 64.52% of their respondents also indicating that they had
undertaken research.

38

Final Survey

Introduction
The final survey was taken by 420 unique people, across 40 different countries (outlined in
Figure 3.3, below). It was distributed through the same channels as the preliminary survey,
to minimise differences in respondent demographics, to compare both studies adequately,
using the same tools. The tools used were instant.ly to create the survey, with it being
distributed through Facebook, Reddit, The Student Room, and through emailing genealogical
societies.

Figure 3.3 - Final survey: The 40 countries that responded

39

The final survey was more in-depth than the preliminary survey, with a total question count
of 16. There was a higher focus on qualitative questions throughout the survey, as it was
primarily intended for use in identifying the privacy issues that researchers feel are present
in genealogy since the advent of the Internet. Despite this, the survey also had a secondary
objective of confirming the results identified in the preliminary survey.
Following the completion percentage success of the preliminary survey, the author decided
that it would be appropriate to follow that example, and limit qualitative questions to the
second page of the questionnaire. The first page of the survey remained nearly identical to
the preliminary survey, with the only change being adding age bandings to the question of
respondents ages, instead of asking for their specific age. It was reasoned that this change
would increase participants comfort levels with answering the survey, as it decreases the
amount of identifiable data, without harming the data quality excessively.
Ten of the questions were multiple-choice questions with radio buttons, with a further
multiple-choice question with a dropdown box for an answer selector. One question
comprised of a matrix, with six different questions within this question, asking about their
levels of worry in relation to the categories. The other five questions were qualitative
comment-based questions, with two of these being optional. A full transcript of the survey
can be found in Appendix B: Final Questionnaire. The average time taken to complete the
survey was 2 minutes and 6 seconds, 18 seconds longer than the preliminary survey.
Unfortunately, the increased quantity of in-depth questions lead to a much higher survey
termination rate, with 41.18% of participants opting to end the survey upon viewing the
second page of questions, an incredibly high ratio. This lead to the final survey having fewer
participants completing the entirety of the survey, with only 120 finishing the full survey, a
decrease of 29 from the initial survey, despite there being an increase of 110 in the amount
of participants completing the first page of the survey.
Appendix G: Final Survey Demographics Data, reveals the raw demographic data gathered
through the lifetime of the surveys issuance, for reference.
40

Age
As this survey asked respondents for their age banding as opposed to their specific age, a
maximum and minimum age could not be acquired in this survey, however, the median age
banding for respondents in the survey was 25-34, with the median age banding for
researchers being the same.

Figure 3.4 - Final survey: Age vs. interest and research undertaken

Figure 3.4, above, shows a clear correlation between age and having carried out research,
although there is a bell curve correlation with interest levels, although the author believes
this to be the case due to the small sample size of those aged 65+. The jump in respondents
having researched their family history once they hit the age of 25 is nothing short of

41

remarkable, with a 111% increase in the likelihood of carrying out research when moving
from the age groups 18-24 to 25-34.

Gender
There was a similar split in the final survey to the preliminary survey, with a slight increase in
favour of females, as 44.05% of respondents identified as male, 54.76% as female with the
remaining 1.19% identifying as neither male nor female. Whilst there was no relationship
found between gender and being interested in genealogy, it was found that participants
were 16.73% more likely to carry out research if they were female. Again, as with the
preliminary survey, the author does not feel comfortable drawing conclusions with those
who do not identify as either gender as only five respondents out of 420 classified
themselves as such.

Marital Status
Appendix G: Final Survey Demographics Results indicates that there was a large skew
towards respondents classifying themselves as single, with 55.95% of participants identifying
as such. Following the example set in the preliminary survey, the author again splits the
demographics into two groups, those who have married (married, separated, divorced, and
widowed) and those who have never married (single, living with a partner). A relationship
was found between the likelihood of a given person being interested in genealogy based on
their marital status, with people who had married being 20.5% more likely to be interested
in genealogy than those who had never married, with the figures standing at 89.17% for
those who had married and 74% for those who had not.

42

Figure 3.5 - Final survey: Marital status and undertaking of research

Following the trend of genealogical interest, there was an extremely large correlation
between marital statuses and the likelihood of having carried out research. Based on the
aforementioned groupings, it was found that those who had married were 97.37% more
likely to have carried out research than those who had never married. Figure 3.5, above,
shows the percentage of participants having undertaken research amongst all of the
individual marital statuses. When grouped into having married and never married; the figure
for those who had undertaken research stood at 75% of those who had married in contrast
to 38% of those who had never married having carried out research.

43

Children
As with the preliminary survey, there is a large skew towards childless respondents, with
78.57% of participants stating that they have no children, with every other option under
10%. Full listings of shares can be found in Appendix G: Final Survey Demographics
Results.

Table 3 - Final survey: Number of children vs. interest and research undertaken

There is a direct correlation between people being a parent and being interested in
genealogy, with a parent being 13.95% more likely to be interested in genealogy than a
childless respondent is. In addition, there is a clear relationship between parenthood and the
likelihood of a given person having carried out genealogical research, as shown in Table 3,
above. Amongst participants, 67.78% of parents indicated that they had undertaken
research, whilst only 43.33% of childless respondents had done so. This revealed that a
respondent was 56.41% more likely to research their family tree if they were a parent.

44

Conclusion
The final survey confirmed many of the conclusions of the preliminary survey. A direct
correlation was found between age and the likelihood of a given person carrying out
genealogical research, with a noticeably large jump of 111% when moving between the age
brackets 18-24 and 25-34. A relationship was found between gender and the percentage of
respondents undertaking research; it was found that females are 16.73% more likely to carry
out research than males. The final survey also found that a given person is 20.5% more likely
to have carried out research if they have been married at one point in their lives, regardless
of if they remain married or not. This cross-section of people are also 97.37% more likely to
have researched their family history than those who had never married, according to the
findings of this study. Finally, it was also found that a given participant was 13.95% more
likely to be interested in genealogy and 56.41% more likely to have carried out some form of
genealogical research if they were parents.

45

Comparison and Conclusions

One conclusion that can be drawn with the surveys is that respondents were reluctant to
carry out surveys that required them to answer in the form of a text box, justifying the
authors decision to split the surveys into two separate pages. The data supports this
hypothesis, with 17.68% of participants deciding to end the survey upon seeing the second
page of the preliminary survey, which included two comment-based questions whilst the
final survey, with five qualitative questions saw 41.18% of the respondents close the page
upon seeing the second page of the survey.

Figure 3.6 - Comparison: Percentage of each age group that had undertaken research

46

There is an incredibly strong correlation between age and the chances of a given person
having undertaken genealogical research. This is consistent with the findings of Hill (2011),
who identified that the majority of Archives.com users were aged over 45 years old.
Notice a peak in the age bandings 45-54 before dropping going into 55-64 on both surveys in
Figure 3.6 on the preceding page, more noticeably on the preliminary survey. The author
believes that this is due to the 1977 release of the TV mini-series Roots by Alex Haley, when
the participants in question would have been between the ages of 6 and 16, school ages,
where they could have been asked to undertake research as part of the project.

Table 4 - Preliminary survey: Age vs. years of experience of researchers

Table 4, above, and Table 5, below, certainly support this theory as there is a noticeable
jump in experience of those aged between 45 and 54 years old, indicating that they could
well have had their first taste of research in school, around the time of Roots release.

Table 5 - Final survey: Age vs. feeling of experience of researchers

47

The fact that there is also a marked drop-off with experience for 45-54 year olds with the
Very experienced option also suggests that they undertook their research in school many
years ago and thus do not regard themselves as very experienced. The discrepancy between
the data may be due to participants feeling that the original experience question in the
preliminary survey was based on when they first undertook research as opposed to
continuous research. This hypothesis is further validated by two participants in the age
bracket answering that they had carried out research as part of a school project and one 48year-old respondent, who, when asked why they started researching their family tree
answered:
I saw "Roots" and wanted to learn where my roots were.
Both surveys indicated that it was much more likely for a given person to have carried out
research if they were or had been married, with 72.55% in the preliminary survey and 75% in
the final survey of those who were or had been married having carried out research. This in
sharp contrast to the 51.44% in the preliminary and 38% in the final surveys, respectively, of
those who had never been married. The final survey also indicated that those who had been
married were also 20.5% more likely to be interested in genealogy.
This indicated that a given person would be 41.03% and 97.37% more likely to have carried
out genealogical research, respectively, if they were in a serious relationship. The author
believes that the discrepancy between the results of both surveys is owed in a large part to a
younger contingent of respondents answering the final survey, with 41% of respondents to
the preliminary survey being under 25 years of age, and 49% being of said age banding in the
final survey. This is significant due to the previously identified age vs. likelihood of having
carried out research correlation, which revealed that participants became more likely to
have researched their ancestors the older they became.

48

Figure 3.7 - Comparison - Children: Percentage of participants who had researched

A similar trend was noticed with likelihood of researching and having children, as evidenced
in Figure 3.7, above. In the preliminary survey, it was determined that a given person would
be 26.66% more likely to carry out research if they were a parent. The difference was much
more marked in the final survey, with people being 56.41% more likely to have researched
their ancestors if they had children. This was a much bigger discrepancy than the
relationship correlation and it cannot be fully accounted for by the age difference, this leads
the author to believe that whilst there is certainly a large correlation, it is not as pronounced
as the final survey indicated.
There was not enough of a difference over both surveys for the author to asseverate a
correlation between gender and having carried out research. There was a negligible
difference in the preliminary survey of less than one percent, whilst in the final survey; the
data suggested that females were 16.73% more likely to carry out research. This fits with Hill
(2011)s findings that the majority of Archives.com users were female. Despite this, the
reason the author does not draw a correlation is due to the final survey seeing a significantly
younger male population than female population, with nearly 55% of males surveyed being
under the age of 25 and just over 44% of females also fitting into that age bracket, which
accounts for the difference.
49

There were not enough respondents from all countries for the author to asseverate a trend
overall, there were enough respondents from both the United States and United Kingdom to
make a conclusion. Respondents were nearly double as likely to have carried out some form
of research if they were from the United States as opposed to the United Kingdom.
It was revealed that a genealogical researcher is most likely to be aged over 45 years old,
married with kids and living in the United States. All of those in that cross-section over both
surveys answered that they had indeed carried out research, with age proving to be the least
important factor of the four, with 94% of Americans that are married with kids that
answered the survey indicating that they had undertaken genealogical research.

To summarise, correlations were definitely proven between the likelihood of a given person
researching their ancestors and their: relationship status, age and if they had children or not.
It was found that people are significantly more likely to have carried out research as they
grow older, and that they are much more likely to have researched their family history if
they have had children or are in a serious relationship involving cohabitation of some form
i.e. being married or living with their partner.

50

3.2 Privacy

This part of the report is dedicated to evaluating the various privacy questions asked in the
final survey. Firstly, respondents perceptions of privacy concerning genealogy will be
investigated, followed by analysing what privacy issues they are most worried about with
genealogy on the Internet specifically. Finally, social medias role in the privacy argument will
be examined and quantified.

Perceptions

Participants in the survey were asked to complete a matrix question that required them to
select how worried they were about six different factors in genealogy on a five-category
scale. These factors were accuracy of genealogical data in general, accuracy of genealogical
data on the Internet, identity theft, privacy of living people, security of data and others
profiting from your data.
The results of this question can be found on the following page in Table 6. These results
show that the factor that the respondents were most worried about was accuracy of
genealogy on the Internet, with 51% of those questioned answering that they were either
worried or very worried. It is evident that the data being online is the major issue, as 36%
noted that they were either worried or very worried about genealogical datas accuracy in
general, 15% less than the option related to the Internet. Not all respondents thought that
this digital information was of poor accuracy however, with one respondent with intimate
knowledge of the digitisation process stating:
Having been involved in transcribing/digitizing records for FamilySearch.org, I don't
worry much about accuracy of digitized records. It's what people do or do not do with
those records when building a tree that concerns me.
51

It is not surprising that identity theft was the lowest ranked factor with only 22% of
respondents agreeing that it is definitely something to worry about, and 41% stating that
they are not worried at all by it due to the non-sensitive nature of the data available,
although not all respondents agreed.
We are close to the point of too much information being available. I was a victim of
ID theft. It is very easy to get the minimum information required for ID theft.
The author believes that most of the information that people would be worried about being
mined from genealogical data, such as date of births and mothers maiden name are
generally made freely available by people on social media anyway through poor privacy
settings. Surprisingly, the category that saw the least amount of participants indicate that
they were very worried about it was the accidental release of data pertaining to living
people. The author feels that it is the most dangerous section, in that it can be potentially
very harmful, whilst also being much more likely to occur than identity theft, and can in fact,
lead to identity theft. The author feels that this is especially surprising given previous
instances of this occurring, e.g. IrishGenealogy.ies accidental release (Edwards, 2014).

Table 6 - Final survey: Privacy matrix question

52

It was found that males are less likely to be worried about the factors regarding genealogys
privacy issues, with 35.32% of male participants stating that they were not worried, whilst
only 21.27% of females said the same. Women were also nearly doubly as likely to be
indecisive about their feelings on the subject, with 15.35% stating they were not sure, with
only 7.94% of male participants claiming that they were not sure. There was a slight skew in
favour of women being more worried overall, but it was not as significant as the other
relationships.
As Table 7, below, shows, there is no clear correlation between age and participants
comfort levels regarding the various privacy factors, and no conclusions can be drawn from
the below data.

Table 7 - Final survey: Privacy matrix vs. age

The study revealed that a given participant was much more likely to be worried about the
factors given if they were not a parent. Of the childless respondents, 37.86% responded that
they were either worried or very worried, whilst only 28.2% of parents indicated similarly.
There was a similar, but not as significant trend for classifying themselves as not worried
about the six factors, with nearly 7% more stating that they were not worried if they had
children, as 30.34% of parents revealed that they were not worried, whereas 23.66% of
childless respondents said the same.

53

The survey concluded that those who had never married much more likely to be worried,
than those who have previously married. Individual statistics can be found below in Table 8.
With the exception of those who are separated, which could be due to a low sample size,
and widowed, who had zero respondents; those who are currently married are the least
likely to be worried about any of the six factors, with only 7% stating that they were very
worried about the factors given.

Table 8 - Final survey: Privacy matrix vs. marital status

To summarise, the study concluded that certain demographics were more prone to worrying
about the privacy issues with genealogy. Women were found to be 66.06% more likely to be
worried about the factors given than men were, whilst women were also nearly doubly as
likely to be indecisive on their feelings on the subject. No relationship between age and their
comfort levels with genealogy was found through the study. Parents were found to be a lot
less likely to be worried also, with childless respondents 34.26% more likely to say that they
were either worried or very worried. Finally, it was found that those who had been married
were the least likely to be worried about the underlying privacy issues affecting genealogy.

54

Genealogy on the Internet

Once I find the name of someone, I can find their children or grandchildren on
Facebook. I can find out information and location on many of them because many
people have lax privacy settings.
The above was an answer provided by a participant in the final survey, in response to
question 13: How do you use social media in your research?
The key point addressed in the above response was the usage of poorly chosen privacy
settings, intentionally or otherwise.
Find information on family members without directly asking them that is voluntarily
offered on their profiles. Many people are adverse[sic] to providing any information,
even mundane to close relations they know well, but will put volumes online in a
public/semi-public profile. I also like to have a "profile" photo for individuals, which
aesthetically enhances my genealogy software, and often people choose high-quality
photos for their own public profile which matches perfectly what I am looking for.
Whilst it would appear that this response was not meant to tally in with the privacy
argument, it certainly emphasises the point that a lot of information about specific people is
available to anyone at any time on the Internet. Another participant also indicated that the
respondent gathered: Birth dates from Facebook.
Overall, six of the 41 who responded to the question explicitly indicated that they
successfully use Facebook to gather personal information about others. Note that this is not
to contact the relatives, but rather to gather their information without the other partys
explicit consent (public domain notwithstanding). This shows that this 14.63% of individuals
are able to mine information about unsuspecting people successfully, purely due to poor
security settings.

55

An overwhelming majority of 86.67% of respondents indicated that they carried out their
genealogical research primarily on the Internet.

Table 9 - Final survey: What are you most worried about [] your genealogical data on the Internet?

When given free rein to identify the problems they see with genealogy on the Internet, the
majority again indicated accuracy, although the second highest voted factor was the privacy
of living people, which had been the factor that had the lowest amount of participants
indicate that they were very worried in it during the matrix question.
Some respondents were not aware of all of the privacy factors; however, with one
respondent bot being aware of the possibility of identity theft using the data they collate
and submit through their genealogical research:
I have never thought about my research being used in identity theft until now, so
that's pretty scary.
Not all respondents felt that way however, with multiple participants submitting statements
similar to this response by one participant:
I don't feel the information available via genealogy puts anyone at risk.

56

As previously identified however, the key concern regarding genealogy were fears about
accuracy, with 31.67% of respondents identifying that it was their biggest concern, as Table
9, on the previous page, shows. This was reflected through the responses of multiple
participants, with the major fear being that genealogists that undertake research on the
Internet do not see the value of proper documentation, and do not support their research
with appropriate citations and documents.
Two participants in particular, felt very similarly about the situation, with the first stating
that their main concern was:
I'm mostly concerned about misinformation being spread by those that don't support
their research with documentation.
The second participant was not so much worried about the research being invalid for the
purposes of their research, but people copying the participants well-researched work and
adding poor quality research to the family tree, thereby lowering the overall quality, with
the respondent stating their worry to be:
That it will be copied with no reference to the original research and that others will
degrade my work through a poor academic take on citation and source verification.
Another participant also had worries about the academic integrity of genealogical research,
but their main concern was that of their research being lost as all of their work is stored
online, as they describe:
I'm worried that it [genealogical research] might be lost. Most of my research is
collected on Ancestry.com and I'm worried that something might happen to the site
and all my years of research will be wiped out. I'm not very worried about security
though. Although, I have had problems with people stealing pictures/information
from me and adding false information for the public.

57

A participant also pointed out a possible privacy issue that could arise from the prevalence
of DNA usage within the genealogical community, companies using the DNA tests for
monetary purposes:
Personally, I am worried about the accuracy of records, not finding important
documents and of course, any kind of privacy issues being infringed. (I mean DNA
tests being used against us by the health care establishment and insurance
companies in the future and the like)
The author does not believe this to be a very real fear at this point, however, as multiple
studies so far have shown that the DNA data that these companies gather is largely unusable
and at best, inaccurate at predicting medical conditions and such, although it is interesting
to contemplate this possibility.
One respondent thought slightly outside of the box when posed this question, as they
indicated that increasing privacy levels would actually hinder their work going forward, as
opposed to being a positive change for genealogy as a whole, as they responded:
I'm more worried that other people's privacy settings will make it more difficult for
me to find information.
This is because many genealogists use websites such as Facebook to gather information such
as dates of birth, familial links and photographs to round out their family trees with a full
complement of information.
However, not all genealogists are worried about these privacy issues, with 16.67% of
respondents revealing that they are not worried at all about any of the factors given, and
that they believe genealogy to be a safe venture to undertake, with one participant saying
that they have:
No worries. My genealogical work is freely available to all who seek it. What others
do with it, I have no control.

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To summarise, the biggest area of concern for genealogists is the accuracy of data on the
Internet, with 31.67% of participants in the study agreeing on this. The privacy of those who
are still living was the second most identified fear within genealogical practices, with 18.33%
saying that this was their biggest fear. A sizeable contingent of respondents also said that
they had no worries whatsoever with genealogy as it stands on the Internet, with 16.67% of
participants stating that they had no worries whatsoever about their privacy as relates to
genealogy on the Internet.

59

3.3 Genealogy

This segment of the report is dedicated to assessing the human element of genealogy,
attempting to understand the motivations of the researchers and evaluating why they
choose to research their ancestors and the methods that they use to do so. As a part of this
section, the viability and growth of genealogy as a social venture will also be determined
alongside making a prediction for the future of genealogy, using participants responses to
give a realistic estimation.

Social Genealogy

Participants were asked in the final survey: Does interacting with others form a large part of
your enjoyment of researching? This question was asked to form the basis for this section
and it was slightly surprising when only 34.17% of respondents indicated that it was (see
Table 10, following page).
It was initially reasoned by the author that this result might have been slightly brought down
by the 13.33% of respondents who revealed that they did not primarily use the Internet for
their genealogical research. Whilst there was indeed a slight discrepancy between those who
use the Internet and those who do not, it was not as large a divide as the author had initially
anticipated.
Although only 25% of those who did not use the Internet indicated that interacting with
others is important to their enjoyment of researching, 35.58% of those who said they
primarily used the Internet for genealogical research indicated similarly, which indicated a
noteworthy percentage increase of 42.32% but in the context of such low percentages, it is
not particularly significant.

60

Interestingly, only 43.9% of those who indicated that they see genealogy as a social venture
use social media in their research, which would begin to indicate that the rise of information
technology is not a major influence in the perception of genealogy being a social venture.
Further damaging the hypothesis, only 61.11% of those who use social media and see
genealogy as a social venture indicated that they used social media to connect with others,
further diluting the numbers of those who could be construed as seeing genealogy as a
social activity due to the Internet.

Table 10 - Final survey: Social quantitative questions

There was also no correlation between gender and seeing genealogy as a social venture, as
36% of males saw it as such with 34% of females viewing it the same. There is a correlation
between marital statuses and how you see genealogy as a social activity, however, with a
participant being 101.52% more likely to see genealogy as a social venture if they have never
been married. This is because only 22.41% of people who have been married see it as a
social activity, whilst 45.16% of those who have never been married see it as so. There is also
a relationship between being a parent and perception of genealogy, as a given person is
more likely to see genealogy as social if they are a parent by 49.26%, with 38.27% of
respondents without children, 25.64% of parents indicating as such.
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There is also no real relationship between experience and genealogists viewing the social
aspects of genealogical research as important, as Figure 3.8, below, shows. Finally, there was
no relationship found between age and participants viewing genealogical research as a social
activity was found seeing genealogy as a social venture, as Figure 3.8, below, shows.

Figure 3.8 - Final survey: Age and experience vs. perception of genealogy as a social activity

To conclude, information technology cannot be definitively credited with furthering


genealogical research as a social activity as there is no conclusive evidence linking
participants using the Internet as a social tool for genealogy in appreciable volumes. The
most telling evidence is that only 43.9% of those who see genealogy as a social activity also
using social media in their research.
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Motivations of Genealogists

This section is dedicated to finding out why genealogists carry out their research, aside from
the obvious answer of because I wanted to find out who my ancestors were.

Figure 3.9 - Preliminary survey: Why did you start researching your family tree?

A running theme throughout the entire study was the importance of family to genealogists,
unsurprisingly, and it was of no shock that family was the biggest factor outside of general
curiousity in why genealogists decided to undertake research, with 39.57% of respondents
acknowledging that the direct influence of family members was the major factor in them
starting to research, as Table 11, on the following page, shows.

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Table 11 - Preliminary survey: Why did you start researching your family tree? - Data

This was through a multitude of factors (seen above in Table 11), such as family tradition,
with one respondent explaining that they had began researching their genealogy because:
One side of my family has regular reunions at which they elect officers, including
family historian and a separate officer that manages the family tree.

64

A few respondents had the future of their family line in mind when they chose to embark on
their research, as opposed to the history, as they wanted to impart the story of their
ancestors onto their children, with one respondent simply stating that their reason behind
starting was the Birth of my daughter. Another respondent agreed, explaining that they
started researching their family tree because:
I wanted to be able to tell my children where they came from and who their
ancestors were.
Some participants simply had their interest stoked by hearing stories told by their older
family members, as one participant in the study remembers:
I would look at old pictures with my grandmother and listen to her tell me who they
were.
A portion of respondents were also purely interested in finding out where they fit in within
their family, and in the world in general, with one respondent having a large interest in
discovering the patterns and such which defined his family:
I felt that through understanding and relating my ancestors, I might better
understand myself and my immediate family. I find it interesting to trace
characteristics, behavioral patterns and appearances through the generations.
Additionally, due to the emergence of the Internet I felt uniquely empowered to
unearth information about my family that previous researchers could not have found
without the aid of technology.
For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, genealogical research is a
core component of their theology. They believe that by researching their ancestry, they can
post-humously baptise their ancestors, thereby saving them. Multiple respondents
explained that this is why they began researching their family history, for example:
Member of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doing family history research
as part of religious beliefs and practices.
65

The author reasoned that many people saw their first exposure to genealogy occur whilst
they were still at school, through the medium of a school project, for example. Indeed,
multiple respondents (7.19% of participants) claimed that they had received their start when
in school, for example, one participant revealed:
At first for a school project, but it grew into a hobby for finding out who my family
was, what they did, what were their lives like and where my family came and why.
For some participants, their motivations beginning to research their family history were not
as light-hearted as other genealogists as it became necesseary to investigate their ancestry
due to historical deception within their families. Two respondents stated that this was the
reasoning behind their research, one of which simply stated:
My parents lied about our racial background
The other respondent that intimated this, however, was more forthcoming with information;
revealing that his familys ancestry lay in Germany, and during the time of the World Wars,
his family understandably decided to hide their ancestry to avoid persecution:
After my grandmother died, I was made aware by an older relative that our family
had been lying about our ancestry since the 1910's because we were really German
and didn't want to be persecuted during both world wars.

To summarise, there are many reasons why genealogists undertake their research, and
largely, researchers start through either general curiosity about their ancestry, which
comprised 47.48% of participants. The second most popular reasoning behind starting to
research a family genealogy is at the urging of family members or friends, consciously or subconsciously with 41.73% of respondents stating that this is why. Aside from this, 7.19% of
participants stated that they first investigated their genealogy as part of a school project and
the remaining 3.6% were introduced to genealogy through their religion, the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints.
66

Future of Genealogy

This purpose of this section is to make a reasoned prediction about the future of genealogy
as a whole, with relation to information technology. This section could be approached with
the angle of a near sci-fi approach, imagining a Star Trek like scenario wherein you can just
plug a bit of DNA into the system and immediately have access to your entire family tree,
spanning back centuries. However, the author prefers a more realistic approach towards
predicting the future of genealogy in relation to information technology. As part of the final
survey issued for the purposes of this project, a question was included, which asked
respondents about their opinions towards the future of genealogy. This gave responses that
varied from the incredibly forward-looking such as:
Automated DNA mapping of ancestors through integration with family trees in a
large online database, enabling quick and accurate identification of ancestors, going
back even beyond the written genealogy record.
For every response that looked towards an exciting future, however, there were also many
looking for seemingly basic improvements over the years in the field, such as:
Even greater access to records and documents that not only give names and dates,
but help fill in the life stories. The first round of documents to be digitized and placed
online were those with the highest density of names, but the lowest amount of
personal information. As we move into indexing wills, obituaries, pension papers,
military records, old newspapers, etc, we begin to get a better picture of our
ancestors, and understanding how they lived will be much easier.
Respondents were not without their fears of the future however, as people are naturally
afraid of the changes that technology will bring to the field of genealogy, one response that
sticks in the mind is the following:
I think criminals will get smart and start using it more often.

67

One participant had a very interesting take on the question, tackling the scenario from a
cultural standpoint as opposed to a technological standpoint:
Probably be the same as it [genealogy as a whole] was, maybe less important in the
U.S due to the normalization of intercultural marriage.
Of course, there are two ways to evaluate this section, the first being the near future and the
second being the distant future.
The author believes that in the near future, many more records and databases from many
different locales and eras will be digitised and made available online, most likely in the form
of a pay-per-view service, la ScotlandsPeople. The author also believes that Ancestry.com
will continue to grow through the acquisition of many of the smaller genealogical websites,
perhaps targeting a DNA service to shore up their newly launched DNA wing and utilising the
experience of the taken-over business.
DNA tests and companies themselves will also become more widespread and accurate,
although the author does not believe that their cost will change much, due to the price
having changed very little in the past decade and with no indications that this will change in
the near future.
In the distant future, genealogy as we know it could look entirely different. It is entirely
possible that genealogy as we know it today could become obsolete, as a global DNA
genealogy database could become a reality. Such a database would offer a complete
ancestry when DNA is submitted to the database, providing users with instant access to their
entire family tree dating back many generations, without having to do any research of their
own.
DNA could be collected upon the birth of a person to populate this database, preferably in
some form of an opt-in system as mandatory DNA taking feels a bit too 1984-esque. There
could be a negative side to this however, with medical insurance companies for example
attempting to gain access to this data in order to use it for valuation purposes, although as
science stands just now, that data is inaccurate at best at identifying medical issues.
68

Conclusion
The intention of this chapter is to summarise and explain the findings of this paper.
This study sought to answer questions about the demographics of those who research
genealogy, how researchers felt about these privacy issues, why researchers carry out their
work and examining the future of genealogy as well as examining how information
technology has contributed to the growth of genealogy as a whole. The main research
question posed as a part of this study, following the literature review was as follows:

Are genealogical researchers worried about privacy issues within genealogy in the age of
the Internet and, if so, what worries them the most?

The study has concluded that researchers are indeed worried about privacy issues in the age
of the Internet and the factor that worries them the most is the accuracy of the genealogical
data that they use. The next largest concerns of genealogical researchers are the security of
their data and the privacy of living people.

It was found that genealogists are most likely to be worried about the accuracy of their data,
with 51% of researchers responding that they were worried or very worried about the
accuracy of their data on the Internet, and 31.67% of respondents identifying accuracy as
their major concern. The factor that people were least likely to be very worried about was
the data of living people being accidentally released, which was of a surprise, as it has
happened before, by governments, no less, although researchers then went on to state that
the factor that they were second most worried about was the privacy of living people. The
security of online data was also of major concern to participants, with 39% stating that they
were either worried or very worried about this, the second highest response percentage.
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Social media was revealed to be the weakest point of a given persons privacy as multiple
participants identified that privacy settings on others social media profiles were lax,
allowing them access to data such as their family connections, date of births etc.
It was also found that males are less likely to be worried about the privacy factors stated,
with men being 66.06% more likely to say that they were not worried about the factors than
women were. There was also a relationship between being a parent and comfort levels, with
childless respondents being 34.26% more likely to state that they were worried or very
worried about the given factors. Finally, a correlation was also found between those who are
married and their perceptions of privacy, with married people being less likely to be worried
about the privacy factors of genealogy than any other marital status.
In regards to the demographics of genealogical researchers, it was found through the two
studies that were released as a part of this study that people are more likely to carry out
genealogical research of some format if:

They have been married


o The preliminary survey revealed that a person was 41.03% more likely to
carry out research if they had been married, with the final survey putting this
figure at 97.37%.

They are a parent


o The preliminary survey revealed that a person was 26.66% more likely to
carry out research if they were a parent, with the final survey putting this
figure at 56.41%.

They are female, but only slightly


o The final survey found that females were 16.73% more likely to carry out
research than males.

They are over the age of 45


o There was a very large jump in levels of demographic having carried out levels
when moving from 18-24 to 25-34, with a 53.77% percentage increase in the
preliminary survey and a 111% percentage increase in the final survey.
70

o Roots by Alex Haley, released in 1977, had a noticeable effect on the


popularity of genealogy, with a noticeable spike in those who had undertaken
research in the 45-54 age bracket. This age bracket would have been of school
age at the time of release, with the author concluding that researchers had
carried out research in school given long years of experience, but a feeling of
inexperience overall.

From the United States of America


o Nearly doubly as likely to have carried out research if from the United States
as compared to the United Kingdom; the only other country with sufficient
responses to draw conclusions from.

Therefore, a genealogist is most likely to be female, aged over 45 years old, married with
kids and living in the United States of America, this was in line with Hill (2011)s findings
within the demographics of the users of Archives.com.
Genealogy has grown extensively through the introduction of the Internet to the field, and
multiple respondents alluded to this in their survey responses. Despite this, it was concluded
that there was no definitive link found between the growth of information technology and
social genealogy, as there was no major difference between participants choice to use the
Internet for genealogy and seeing genealogy as a social activity. It was also found that of
those who use the Internet and see genealogy as social, they did not use social media for
this purpose, further weakening the argument.
The major motivation behind genealogists beginning their research is general curiosity about
their family history, followed very closely by influence from family members, whether that
be family tradition, older relatives telling them stories or the birth of their children.
The future of genealogy is up in the air and open to speculation, however, the author
believes that it will not be anything revolutionary for a long time, with the most likely route
being the digitisation of more obscure databases and record collections.

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Whilst an equal distribution was not available, the major value of this study is that it has
positively identified trends within the demographics of genealogists and laid them out in an
indisputable objective format. This research could be of valuable use to a newer genealogy
company, so that they know what demographics to target to get an efficient return on their
investments in advertising. Privacy fears were also identified, allowing genealogy companies
to realise where they need to allay concerns, to improve the services that they provide
customers. In terms of future studies, there has been incredibly little written academically
about genealogy and information technology, so the vast majority of the paper becomes
useful, although in particular, the demographics section can be used to support further
findings, with the quantitative survey open to improvements and being replicated.
The author recommends that for future research, a qualitative study be carried out to assess
the feelings of professional genealogists as opposed to everyday researchers more
thoroughly. Given more time, an even distribution of respondents would be incredibly
helpful in solidifying findings, as there were little responses within subsets such as those
aged 65 and over, possibly skewing findings. The author would also recommend a study
focusing on different countries in particular, as it would be incredibly interesting to see how
countries with a rich history such as Greece or Egypt see genealogy as opposed to the newer
countries such as the United States of America. Finally, the author believes that a much
higher volume of respondents would produce much more accurate results, as time and
financial constraints prevented this from being possible with this study.

72

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Appendix
A: Preliminary Questionnaire

Page 1
Q1. What is your age?

Q2. What is your gender?


a. Male
b. Female
c. Other/Prefer not to say

Q3. What is your marital status?


a. Single
b. Married
c. Living with a partner
d. Divorced
e. Separated
f. Widowed

Q4. What country do you reside in?


a. Drop-down list of countries

Q5. How many children do you have?


a. None
b. 1
c. 2
78

d. 3
e. 4
f. 5+

Q6. Are you interested in genealogy?


a. Yes
b. No

Q7. Have you ever undertaken any genealogical research?


a. Yes
b. No

Page 2 Respondent advances to this page if answers Yes to Q7.


Q8. How much experience do you have with genealogical research?
a. 0-1 Years
b. 1-3 Years
c. 3-5 Years
d. 5-10 Years
e. 10+ Years

Q9. Why did you start researching your family tree?


a. Text box input.

Q10. How do you carry out your research, i.e. what services and methods do you use?
a. Text box input.

Q11. At what age did you begin to research your family tree?
Link to survey - http://www.instant.ly/s/ZhhWZ
79

B: Final Questionnaire

Page 1
Q1. What is your age?
a. 0-17
b. 18-24
c. 25-34
d. 35-44
e. 45-54
f. 55-64
g. 65+

Q2. What is your gender?


a. Male
b. Female
c. Other/Prefer not to say

Q3. What is your marital status?


a. Single
b. Married
c. Living with a partner
d. Divorced
e. Separated
f. Widowed

Q4. What country do you reside in?

80

Q5. How many children do you have?


a. None
b. 1
c. 2
d. 3
e. 4
f. 5+

Q6. Are you interested in genealogy?


a. Yes
b. No

Q7. Have you ever undertaken any genealogical research?


a. Yes
b. No

Page 2 Respondent advances to this page if answers Yes to Q7.


Q8. How experienced would you regard yourself as being in regards to genealogy?
a. Very inexperienced
b. Somewhat inexperienced
c. Average
d. Somewhat experienced
e. Very experienced

Q9. Does interacting with others form a large part of your enjoyment of researching?
a. Yes
b. No

81

Q10. Do you primarily use the Internet for your genealogical research?
a. Yes
b. No

Q11. OPTIONAL: How has the rise of information technology affected how you carry out
your research?
a. Text box input.

Q12. Do you use social media in your genealogical research?


a. Yes
b. No

Q13. OPTIONAL: How do you use social media in your research?


a. Text box input

Q14. How worried are you about:


Options: Not Worried, Somewhat Worried, Not Sure, Worried and Very Worried
a. Accuracy of genealogical data in general
b. Accuracy of genealogical data on the Internet
c. Data about living people being accidentally released
d. Identity theft linked to genealogy
e. Security of your online data
f. Your data/research being shared for monetary gain

Q15. What are you most worried about in regards to your genealogical data on the
Internet?

Q16. What do you see as being in the future for genealogy?


Link to survey - http://www.instant.ly/s/QnJHh
82

C:

Supervisor Meeting Agenda Example

Student: Declan Greally

Supervisor: Andrew Rae

Meeting Number: #

Date/Time: TIME - DATE

PROGRESS
Over the last fortnight, the following tasks have been completed:

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

The following tasks identified two weeks ago have not been completed or problems/issues
have emerged that require attention:

Incomplete Task 1

Incomplete Task 2

Incomplete Task 3

AGENDA FOR FORMAL MEETING


1. Discuss progress since last meeting.
2. Discussion Point 1
3. Discussion Point 2
4. Set tasks for next meeting.
5. Set date for next meeting.

83

D: Supervisor Meeting Minutes Example

Student: Declan Greally

Supervisor: Andrew Rae

Meeting Number: #

Date/Time: TIME - DATE

MINUTES
The following tasks and issues were discussed and specific actions agreed:
1. Item 1
2. Item 2
3. Item 3

PLAN
The following tasks have been agreed for the time between now and the next meeting:

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

84

E:

Data from Preliminary Survey

Link to infographic - https://infogr.am/gender-6957692555

Marital status of respondents

85

86

Interest in genealogy and research statistics in relation to marital status

87

Interest in genealogy and research statistics in relation to children

F:

Preliminary Survey Demographics Results

88

G: Final Survey Demographics Results

89

H: Genealogy Website Rankings Data

Raw data of website traffic rankings - Alexa

90

I:

Genealogy Website Rankings Graph

Rankings of top 25 genealogical websites since 2012 - Alexa

91