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distribution of genealogy internet traffic
This graph visually shows how #1 Ancestry.com dominates the field of genealogy. It sits by itself in the upper left hand corner of the graph. Ancestry.com gets about 39,000 visitors a day, with a sharp drop to #2 MyHeritage.com, which gets about 12,000 visitors a day. The #100 website on the list gets about 700 visitors a day.

To determine the amount of traffic to other genealogy websites that did not make the Top 100 List, we also performed the same calculation on the next 100 largest genealogy websites (which we routinely track to determine the top 100 websites). We found the next 100 genealogy websites in total received 42,540 visitors a day. This is about 1/6 of the amount of traffic of the top 100 websites.

Using this drop off in demand as a guidepost, and using some logarithmic math, we estimated the daily internet traffic to all genealogy websites to be very close to 300,000 visitors per day.

On an annual basis, this means genealogy websites get some 108 million visits a year. Although this can seem like a big number, it is small compared to many other endeavours on the internet. For example, Google gets well in excess of 108 million queries an hour.

Another method that has been tried before to measure the popularity of genealogy is to examine trends in the frequency of search terms on Google such as 'genealogy' and 'ancestry', as shown below.

popularity of genealogy

This approach has two serious flaws: 1) the trend is relative to the number of all searches that are conducted, which is constantly changing [i.e. as well as a fluctuating numerator, the denominator is also fluctuating] and 2) over time as search engines have become more powerful and people become more capable of using them, people are tending to use more focussed search terms (such as 'genealogy websites' instead of just 'genealogy'). Both factors introduce sufficient noise into the Google trend that it makes it impossible to decipher anything meaningful from it.

 

Translating Website Visits into Active Genealogists

We define an active genealogist as someone who visits a genealogy website on average at least once a week (this is a big assumption). We assume all visitors to a genealogy website are by direct visit, referral from a friend or referral by a search term related to genealogy. Thus, we count all 108 million visits a year to genealogy websites as being related to ancestral research.

With 108 million visits a year to genealogy websites, and assuming an average visit of once a week, results in an estimated 108 million/52 = 2.1 million active genealogists. That is, at any given time, there are about 2.1 million people in the major English speaking countries who are active in genealogy.

This calculation implicitly includes the use of social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter, which are being used more frequently for genealogy. The assumption is that someone using a platform such as Facebook for genealogy would also have to visit genealogy websites, and thus would be counted in the 2.1 million statistic for active genealogists.
a quick guide to social media for genealogists
Social media is starting to play a larger role in facilitating genealogy. The image above is GenealogyInTime Magazine’s quick guide to using social media for genealogy. Feel free to like, tweet, pin, copy or blog this.

There is a lot of uncertainty, of course, as to how frequently people visit genealogy websites. This can have a big impact on the measure of active genealogists. The discrepancy between 2.1 million active genealogists and the 11.2 million theoretical number can also be partially explained by the observation that many people tend to drift in and out of genealogy.

It is not uncommon for someone to be active in genealogy for a one or two year period and then put it aside for a couple of years before picking it up again. When someone is not active in genealogy, they would not likely be visiting genealogy websites, and thus would not be currently counted.

Another factor is that there is a significant portion of families who cannot or will not do genealogy. Many people simply feel their ancestors come from a part of the world that lacks good genealogy records.

As more records come online each year (particularly from less developed regions of the world), presumably this should encourage more people to trace their ancestors. This leads to the next question: is genealogy growing?


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