Myth: Is genealogy only for old people?

Have you ever heard that genealogy is for old people? Let’s see if that is statement is a myth or fact true!

At First Glance -- The Genealogy Myth is Fact

For most of my life, I have heard that genealogy is for old people. There has to be some truth to this, thus it would not appear to be a myth. After all, the majority of people at conferences and genealogical societies are north of 50, usually north of 65.

But at the same time, some of the rock stars of genealogy, like Tom Jones or Elizabeth Shown Mills, might be in their 60s and 70s. They have also been involved in the genealogy community for decades, and so at one time, they represented the younger crowd involvement.

Where are the Young Genealogists?

Genealogy has been a profession for a few, but a past time for millions. Like any other pastime, genealogy takes time, money, and sometimes some travel. These are things that may be in short supply for someone who is in their 20s or 30s and just starting a family.

Genealogy Magazines Sell to an Older Market

On the other hand, those who have retired from a career with kids out of the house may have an abundance of time, money, and willingness to travel, so it isn’t a surprise that many pick up the hobby later in life.

Several years ago, Thomas MacEntee looked at this issue and brought up an interesting dichotomy. In an article in Family Tree Magazine, genealogists under age 26 were interviewed about the industry and the age demographic. What Thomas pointed out in his blog was that while the article was geared towards a younger crowd, all of the advertising in the magazine was geared towards an older crowd, a much older crowd.

The Family Tree Magazine website ads clearly show that the average age of their readers is 62, and only 21% were men. So it isn’t just an older crowd, but an older female crowd.

Statistically Analyzing the “Old People” Genealogy Myth

As a younger male, let me take a different approach and try to show you some statistics to perhaps sway your perception a little. To begin, let’s look at RootsTech attendance demographics. RootsTech is the largest genealogy conference in the US. It also has a Tech component to it so you would expect it to attract a younger crowd?

Looking at the statistics, that isn’t the case.

The Female to Male ratio is slightly better than Family Tree Magazine, but the age demographics are skewed. At only 41 years of age, there are only about 15% of the attendees that are younger than me. Again, going to a conference requires time, money, and willingness to travel, which is not something that the younger crowd necessarily has in abundance.

Young Genealogists Like YouTube

Instead, let’s look at something that requires little time, money, or travel. Watching videos on YouTube. Demographics for Youtube are almost exactly the opposite of the RootsTech statistics.  It is predominantly male, with only a small percentage of the older crowd participating in YouTube in general.

Based on those demographic statistics, you would think that genealogy would be a bomb on YouTube. But what the world has learned in the last 20 years of the internet is that there is a niche for everyone on YouTube, and genealogy is no exception. Granted, it isn’t as popular as gaming or kids channels, but there are those who like it.

One Genealogy YouTube Channel’s Demographics

As we look at the demographics of our Family History Fanatics YouTube channel, we see some interesting data points.

First, the gender breakdown is the same as YouTube overall, which is the exact opposite of what the “typical” genealogy crowd is. Twice as many men as women watch videos on our channel.

Second, though is even more interesting. The age breakdown doesn’t follow the typical genealogy breakdown nor does it follow the typical YouTube breakdown. It actually looks a lot like an average swath of the adult population. It is amazing that every age bracket except the youngest is evenly represented.

MYTH BUSTING: Is genealogy just for old people?

Is Genealogy Only For Old People? Myth Evaluation

There is a lot of broad interest in genealogy but there is a definite divide in how people participate in that hobby. Conferences and printed publications appear to be dominated by older women. Men dominate the online world. While the younger crowd may not participate in the conferences and such, they still find time to learn and watch short videos about genealogy.

Isn’t it refreshing that family history has something that can appeal to everyone?

A black and white photo of happy elderly couple with question "Is genealogy only for old people?"

Author, Engineer, Educator. Andy Lee is the DNA guru of Family History Fanatics. He is also your knowledgeable but casual genealogy researcher.


  • DarleneH

    When I was in my 20s and 30s, in the 80s and 90s, I was a member of my state’s genealogical society and often attended conferences, always as the youngest person there, and usually by a lot. This is not a new issue.

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