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Ancestry Global Family History Report 2014

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Since Ancestry was founded in 1983, we’ve helped more than 2 million people to find out more about their family’s history, filling in the ‘whos’, ‘wheres’ and ‘whys’ behind who they are today.

At the time of writing this, we have digitised more than 15 billion historic records from 67 countries, containing everything from war medal recipients to criminal trials, censuses to passenger lists, and even a pub ‘blacklist’ from Victorian England. Our members have used these records to populate more than 60 million family trees, and it’s these that help demonstrate how family history can not only unearth things from our past, but also the present. Of those who have conducted genealogical research, almost half have found living relatives they didn’t know about, with a significant number actually meeting them face-to-face. This is evidence of how online genealogy – and technology as a whole – is helping connect and shape the modern family, evolving it into something we haven’t seen before.

The aim of this report is to show how knowledge of the past has impacted the present, and how a greater sense of ‘connectivity’ has changed the concept of the modern family within the six countries in which we conducted the study.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank The Future Foundation, who carried out the research on our behalf and uncovered some truly fascinating trends. This document forms the first part of a multi-chapter report, the full findings of which will be published over the coming year.

Report Highlights:
- In 2014, more than one in three (36%) online adults used the internet to learn more about their family history – double those in 2008 and forecast to double again by 2025.
- 67% feel knowing their family history has made them a wiser person
- 72% say it has helped them to be closer to older relatives
- 52% discovered ancestors they hadn’t known about

Published in: Business

Ancestry Global Family History Report 2014

  1. 1. NOVEMBER 2014 Ancestry Global Family History Report
  2. 2. 2 Contents Foreword Executive summary New family connections – past and present The rise of family history Family history matters Growing family histories Benefits for individuals and families How we are learning Types of records we use in research The future of family history research The extended family today Research methodology 345 12 14 556778 10
  3. 3. 3 Foreward Since Ancestry was founded in 1983, we’ve helped more than 2 million people to find out more about their family’s history, filling in the ‘whos’, ‘wheres’ and ‘whys’ behind who they are today. At the time of writing this, we have digitised more than 15 billion historic records from 67 countries, containing everything from war medal recipients to criminal trials, censuses to passenger lists, and even a pub ‘blacklist’ from Victorian England. Our members have used these records to populate more than 60 million family trees, and it’s these that help demonstrate how family history can not only unearth things from our past, but also the present. Of those who have conducted genealogical research, almost half have found living relatives they didn’t know about, with a significant number actually meeting them face-to-face. This is evidence of how online genealogy – and technology as a whole – is helping connect and shape the modern family, evolving it into something we haven’t seen before. The aim of this report is to show how knowledge of the past has impacted the present, and how a greater sense of ‘connectivity’ has changed the concept of the modern family within the six countries in which we conducted the study. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank The Future Foundation, who carried out the research on our behalf and uncovered some truly fascinating trends. This document forms the first part of a multi-chapter report, the full findings of which will be published over the coming year. One day, perhaps even this report will itself live on, online at a site such as ours, helping our future great-grandsons and great-granddaughters to better understand what life was like for us today. Dan Jones, General Manager International, Ancestry 18th November, 2014
  4. 4. 4 Executive summary Interest in family history has doubled since 2008 and is forecast to double again by 2025. A growing phenomenon, family history matters to global communities’ sense of identity. The Ancestry Global Family History Report interviewed over 6,000 people across six of the world’s largest economies in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Germany and reveals two thirds of people feel it has become more important than ever to know their family history. The rise of family history is being propelled by online family history activity – one in three online adults have used the internet to learn more about their ancestry. Increasing prominence of family history in the media, a growing presence of grandparents in young peoples’ lives, as well as greater reliance on extended family for support in life, are all making family history increasingly relevant to people. More than 60 million family trees have been created by Ancestry members, with more than six billion profiles within these trees. And as knowledge deepens, family trees are growing. The average person who has researched their family history has now discovered three additional generations of ancestors that their parents had not heard of and 16% can trace their family back to earlier than 1700. New family connections are branching into the present as well - almost half of people who have researched their family history (46%) have also discovered living relatives they never knew about, and one in 10 of these (9%) has actually met up with them. While the internet has certainly revolutionised how we share and access information, the direct passing of knowledge from older to younger generations remains the bedrock of family history and learning about our ancestry has brought deeper benefits to individual personal growth and strengthening ties within and beyond families. In this report we also look at the types of resources used to help us understand how family histories are being pieced together across the different territories, and what the future holds for family history research.
  5. 5. New family connections – past and present THE RISE OF FAMILY HISTORY The last decade has seen phenomenal growth in engagement in family history on a global scale, largely driven by online activity as the internet has revolutionised how we share and access information. In 2014, more than one in three (36%) online adults used the internet to learn more about their family history – double those in 2008 and forecast to double again by 2025. The vast majority (81%) of adults believe family history has simply become easier to research these days. But what is driving people to find out more? FAMILY HISTORY MATTERS The strength of feeling that ‘family history matters’ is a global phenomenon found across all the countries studied. Two thirds (63%) of people feel it has become more important than ever now to know their family history – believing the past is important to understanding who they are today. Almost three quarters of respondents across the six countries (71%) have personally become more interested in family history in recent years, and 60% feel a personal responsibility to act as a ‘guardian’ of the family history. Younger people are being inspired to learn more through talking to older family members (55% overall, rising to 62% of 18-24 year-olds) – a trend expected to increase as more grandparents and even great-grandparents play an increasingly important role in families. 5 “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from” – Alex Haley, author COUNTRY % increase in users of paid for online family history since 2004 510% 1200% n/a – embryonic market, only 0.2% use paid for services 700% 644% 1300% Australia Canada Germany Sweden UK USA
  6. 6. Generational change in average length of family histories – 1984 v 2014 6 New family connections...cont. For older people, coming into possession of documents, photos or other materials has motivated them to piece together their family stories (47% overall, rising to 59% among those aged 65+). Broader media awareness and the rising popularity of television programmes about family history has also been a big influence in showing people where to start and what is achievable (29%). GROWING FAMILY HISTORIES Easier access and growing interest mean that far from disappearing into the mists of time, family histories are now being maintained and in many cases even extended. In fact, today’s older generations have now managed to surpass their parents’ generation in their depth of family history knowledge. The result is family histories are getting longer at a faster rate than ever. • A generation ago, the average family history stretched back 149 years (to c.1835), but today this has grown to 183 years, stretching back to 1831 on average • While 8% cannot trace their family history back beyond the 20th century, 29% can trace their family histories back to before 1800 and 16% to earlier than 1700 • The ‘oldest’ family histories are found in Sweden (averaging 202 years, stretching back to 1812), and the youngest family histories are found in Germany (averaging 162 years, back to 1852) • Australia has seen the greatest extension in family history of 51 additional years, stretching back from 1848 to 1827 COUNTRY Australia Canada Germany Sweden UK USA Base: All adults aged 18+ (6,024) Average length today (years) Average length in 1984 (years) Change in past generation (years) 187 185 162 202 179 184 136 153 145 156 133 169 51 32 17 47 46 15 And it’s not just in the past where new connections are being discovered. Almost half (46%) of people across the countries studied have also discovered living relatives they never knew about, and one in 10 of these (9%) has actually met up with them - so as a result of delving into history, family trees are branching into the present as well.
  7. 7. 7 New family connections...cont. BENEFITS OF FAMILY HISTORY FOR INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES The majority of amateur family historians across the different countries (79%) simply enjoy their research as a leisure pursuit. However, learning about family history has also brought deeper benefits to people and families: Personal growth • 67% feel knowing their family history has made them a wiser person • 77% say it has helped them understand who they are • 66% say it has ‘given me more pride in who I am’ • 46% felt it had inspired them to be a better person Strengthening ties within and beyond family • 72% say it has helped them to be closer to older relatives • 50% say it has helped them to be closer to younger relatives (rising to 59% among 65+s) Learning more about family and community history • 52% discovered ancestors they hadn’t known about • 46% also discovered living relatives they hadn’t previously known about • 62% uncovered surprising details about the life stories of their ancestors • 65% have learned more about the history of their community and country HOW WE ARE LEARNING ABOUT FAMILY HISTORY So how do we learn about our family history today? The internet has without a doubt enhanced the way we share and access information – Ancestry alone holds more than 15 billion historical records worldwide - but direct passing of knowledge from older generations to younger ones remains the bedrock of family history and starting point for most. Visiting places of historical significance is important too. Of the international respondents who know something about their family history (97% of adults): Family learning • 92% say their parents taught them about their family history • 48% have learned something about family history from talking or writing to other relatives • 54% have looked at old photos, letters or documents kept at home “Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.” – Gail Lumet Buckley
  8. 8. 8 New family connections...cont. Places matter • 29% had been to visit places that their ancestors lived • 14% have visited a museum, library or archive to conduct family history research • 12% have learnt about family history by speaking to people in their local community (especially high (16%) in Germany, which tends to be lower on other methods) Online • 25% have directly researched their family history online using free sites or paid-for online services • 22% have got information, photos, or documents from family members via email or social networking sites • 10% have got information, photos, or documents from family members via email or social networking sites • In total, the internet has already played a role in family history learning for 36% of net users TYPES OF RECORDS USED IN FAMILY HISTORY RESEARCH Comparing and contrasting resources used across the different countries helps us to understand exactly how family histories are being pieced together, and also gives some insight into the community histories in those countries too. Among those who have researched their ancestry in ways other than speaking to family, two of the most commonly used resources globally are photographs (81%) and letters (45%). Images remain key to prompting memories and encouraging story telling, and we can learn so much about the way of life for our ancestors through old letters. However in the modern age of digital photography and email, how we pass down photographs and documents may well change – the key will be storing these effectively both off and online so they can be shared with future generations. Currently on Ancestry more than 200 million personal photographs, scanned documents and stories across the globe have been uploaded, helping to connect millions of members making their own discoveries. A quarter of people have referred to old newspapers in their research, and with the digitalisation of these archives underway in many countries and modern news already online we would expect this to remain as important a source, if not more in future.
  9. 9. 9 New family connections...cont. In terms of records, birth, marriage and death certificates (56%) are the most referred to across the world, and understandably so as these often provide the starting point for many family historians in their research. After this, almost a third have (30%) have looked at census records, and around a quarter have consulted church and military records. Globally, around one in six (15%) have referred to passenger lists or immigration records, while 7% have used court or occupation-related records. In general, younger family historians are more likely to have restricted their research to ‘personal’ materials like photographs and letters, while older researchers have accessed a broader range of materials. Notable country-differences are also apparent: • Germany appears to have a greater emphasis on personal photos and letters (with lower use of online resources, and greater reliance on local community knowledge) • The UK sees the highest proportion of family researchers accessing census records, church records and occupation-related records • The USA sees the highest proportions using BMD records, newspapers and court records • Australia’s family historians appear to be the most likely to make use of military records and passenger lists and immigration records (use of immigration records is unsurprisingly generally much higher in the US, Canada and Australia than in ‘old Europe’)
  10. 10. Types of records seen by those researching family history COUNTRY Total Australia Canada Germany Sweden UK USA 10 New family connections...cont. 81% 56% 45% 30% 25% 24% 24% 15% 15% 7% 7% 3% Base: All who have actively researched family history * Birth, marriage and death records (other than church) 80% 61% 41% 28% 21% 32% 25% 26% 14% 8% 9% 2% 80% 55% 38% 28% 24% 22% 24% 18% 17% 5% 9% 4% 91% 55% 57% 6% 20% 19% 20% 4% 18% 5% 5% 1% 74% 33% 41% 21% 37% 9% 13% 9% 13% 6% 4% 7% 80% 63% 44% 50% 27% 28% 24% 12% 10% 7% 10% 3% The future of family history research The relevance of family to our sense of identity and security is ongoing, and the desire to understand our lives better through our connection to the past is only expected to continue as new generations of amateur family historians seek their own answers. Improvements in technical infrastructure and data resources, and (slowly) rising levels of disposable incomes and consumer spending also feed into the forecast that growth could continue along the rapidly rising path it has taken over the past six years. The ongoing development of consumer offers (e.g. the development of increasingly advanced apps, family tree-related software, marketing models, increasingly flexible pricing models, etc.) and in areas such as mobile technology will contribute to improved access to resources and ultimately making it easier for people to further explore their family histories. The emergence of increasingly vertically-structured and increasingly ‘networked’ families are also expected to drive further participation, which we go on to explore further in the next section of this report. 81% 66% 47% 41% 20% 31% 34% 23% 16% 12% 9% 2% Old photos BMDs* Old letters Census records Church records Military records Old newspapers Passenger lists / immigration records Other archives / records Court records Occupation-related records None of the above
  11. 11. 11 The extended family today THE FAMILY CONNECTION, PAST AND PRESENT Family history research not only helps people find out about where they have come from, but also impacts the present. Of those who have learned more about their family history, as a direct result of their family history studies: • 26% made contact with relatives they had not seen in a long time • 18% made contact with a relative that they had never met before • 9% actually met a relative they had never met before as a result These numbers are significant, suggesting that family history research is having a substantial impact on sustaining extended family ties today, both in pushing back the boundaries of our historical knowledge but also pushing out the boundaries of our living family. Yet online genealogy isn’t the only way that technology is bringing families together. The research found that 44% of internet users use the internet as their main way of keeping in touch with extended family members they don’t see regularly. Size and shaped of extended families today Today the average adult in the global study has an ‘active’ extended family of 17 people, yet within this average there was found to be enormous variation, with family sizes ranging from the non-existent to more than a hundred in number: • 6% have no extended family • 61% have a total extended family of fewer than 14 people • 15% have families larger than 30 in size, with just over 1% having more than a 100 • Largest ‘active’ extended family was found in the USA, the smallest was in the UK and Sweden In order to help describe how the extended family has changed and the geographical variations we have developed a typology of the modern family. Based on the findings, today’s extended families can be categorised into one of nine groups based on their size, the regularity with which they see each other, and their emotional closeness.
  12. 12. 12 The extended family today...cont. These nine typologies are as follows: • 6% of adults have no extended family at all • 22% are categorised as ‘few and far between’, who are small, see very little of each other and don’t have a positive feeling towards each other • 13% form the ‘few, far but faithful’, who despite being small and not seeing much of each other, retain a very strong emotional bond • 13% make up ‘Claustrophobic clans’ who are small in size and see a lot of each other, but don’t have a strong emotional connection • 7% comprise the ‘Tight Team’, who are small, see a lot of each other and have a strong emotional connection • 7% form the ‘Loose Network’ group, which is a big family, whose members neither see much of each other nor have an emotional connection • 13% are in the ‘Big Strong Network’ group, meaning that they are large in size and have strong emotional connections, but don’t have much ‘face-time’ • 7% are included in the ‘Difficult Relations’ category, meaning that while they are large in size and see a lot of each other, the emotional connection between them is relatively low • Finally 13% of us live in ‘Big and brotherly’ families, which are large, see a lot of each other and have strong emotional connections The tables below reveal the prominence of these family types in each country, the key measures used to define them and how they’ve grown or declined in prominence over the past 30 years. Prevalence of each family typology, by country Australia Canada Germany Sweden UK USA 7% 23% 13% 14% 7% 8% 12% 7% 9% 5% 17% 12% 8% 8% 6% 15% 9% 19% 7% 28% 12% 15% 5% 9% 9% 7% 7% 7% 20% 15% 11% 7% 7% 14% 6% 13% 7% 22% 15% 10% 7% 6% 12% 7% 15% 4% 21% 9% 18% 8% 7% 12% 7% 12% DESCRIPTOR No contact with extended family Few and far between Few, far, but faithful Bothersome bunch Tight team Loose network Big strong network Difficult relations Big & Brotherly No extended family (6%) Tight team (7%) Big and brotherly (12%) Few and far between (22%) Loose network (7%) Big strong network (13%) Bothersome bunch (13%) Few, far but faithful (13%) Difficult relations (7%) SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH SEEN REGULARLY KEEP IN TOUCH
  13. 13. 6% 22% 13% 13% 7% 7% 13% 7% 13% 13 The extended family today...cont. No contact with extended family Few and far between Few, far, but faithful Bothersome bunch Tight team Loose network Big strong network Difficult relations Big & Brotherly Summary of key measures, by extended family type Percentage of adults within each type of extended family Overall size (number of people in extended family) 'face-time' (# seen regularly vs. # kept in touch with) Strength of family feelings number extended family seen regularly number extended family kept in touch with none - - 0 0 35% 14% 29% - - 30% - - - - - - - 13% 4% 3% 7% 3% 48% 48% 12% 20% 24% 19% 36% 20% 82% 47% 23% 28% 3% 5% 8% 3% 48% 35% 16% 15% 26% 23% 41% 26% 84% 36% 30% 23% 5% 6% 11% 4% 45% 46% 20% 23% 37% 30% 50% 28% 84% 54% 34% 34% 5% 7% 11% 2% 52% 39% 23% 19% 35% 28% 49% 24% 89% 48% 37% 29% 80% 55% 76% 30% 13% 22% 76% 52% 70% 43% 17% 23% 83% 63% 68% 51% 17% 20% 90% 64% 62% small low weak 2 4 small low strong 3 4 small high weak 5 1 small high strong 7 2 large low weak 10 19 large low strong 12 22 large high weak 22 6 large high strong 27 8 Emotional ties Professional and practical support Other information % agreeing "Maintaining ties with my extended family is important to me" % agreeing "one or more of my best friends are extended family members" % agreeing "I am proud of my family name" Basic characteristics % who have helped a member of my extended family to get a job, work experience or a reference % who have been helped by member of extended family to get a job, work experience, or a reference Any professional support given and/or received (% agreeing with either statement above) "I'd probably give an extended family member a job even if they were not quite the best candidate" "If a distant relative needed a place to stay for a night in my local area, I would help them out" "The most frequent way I keep in touch with rarely seen extended family is email/social networking" % saying there is one family member who is seen as the 'head of the family' % who have conducted any 'direct' online family history research
  14. 14. 14 The extended family today...cont. The growth in the family typologies since 1984 1984 2014 DESCRIPTOR No contact Few and far between Few, far, but faithful Bothersome bunch Tight team Loose network Big strong network Difficult relations Big & Brotherly 6% 27% 7% 11% 7% 9% 11% 8% 15% 6% 22% 13% 13% 7% 7% 13% 7% 13% Overall there has been a general shift from the larger extended family types to the smaller ones, while at the same time the maintenance of relatively strong emotional ties. This mean that the biggest growth has been in the ‘few, far but faithful’ extended family, which has almost doubled in size in the past generation, from 7% to 13%. A general increase in emotional connections between relatives has similarly also led to the large ‘Big Strong Networks’ to also increase in prevalence (up from 10% to 12%). This is due, in part, to technology, helping to keep families emotionally close via social media, despite not having much ‘face time’. Another factor is the increasing prominence of grandparents, which help cohesion by uniting relatives under a clear sense of ‘the family’. Three quarters of respondents (72%) said that they feel closer to older relatives as a result of leaning more about their family history. ‘Verticalistion’ of the extended family Higher life expectancy has led to there being more grandparents overall, with the number of children who say that have a ‘close relationship’ with a grandparent increasing by almost a third (30 per cent) in the past 50 years. As well as living longer, with more grandparents and even great grandparents at the ‘top’ of the family, parents are also choosing to have fewer children – with the core family unit now containing 1.9 children, compared to 2.4 two decades ago. This has led to a ‘verticalisation’ of the family tree, meaning that while we have more senior members at the top, we have fewer siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins stretching out horizontally.
  15. 15. 15 Research methodology Introduction In March 2014, Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, approached the Future Foundation to pursue an original programme of research focusing on the growing phenomenon of online family history research in six of the world’s largest economies: The United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden. Desk research Future Foundation drew upon a number of desk research resources in putting together this research programme: • Previous survey research from Ancestry • Ancestry’s extensive genealogical archives • Census data from each of the six countries • nVision Global trend data and forecasts for internet uptake, use of social networking and other online activities, in each of the six countries Original quantitative research A total of 6,024 10-15 minute interviews were carried out with adults aged 18+ in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden (1,000+ adults aged 18+ per country). In each country, interlocking age and gender quotas and broad income-group quotas were set to ensure the sample was representative of the general population by age and gender. Interviews were carried out online, using panel respondents recruited by Research Now, during June 2014. In instances where we believe our sample of online panel respondents to be representative of the general population (i.e. non tech-related matters such as ancestors, extended family, etc.), we interpret results as representative of the adult population in general. In other instances, where appropriate (e.g. when giving the % of all adults who have used the internet for online family history), we have mapped survey results against other sources of data listed above (e.g. on the percentage of adults aged 18+ who are internet users in each country), and adjusted findings accordingly.
  16. 16. 16 research methodology...cont. Forward-looking forecasts This report contains forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing Ancestry’s views as of any subsequent date and we assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements for any reason, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

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