United States and Canada

Statistics and sociological studies confirm the familiarity of women as family history keepers in North America. Since the early twentieth century, women have predominated within family history groups. Today men generally make up from 29 to 35 percent of members of such organizations.[1] Among certified genealogists in the U.S, women also outnumber men. In Utah, for example, there are fifteen professional genealogists who are women and seven who are men. In Pennsylvania, there are seven women to three men. In Louisiana and Alabama, there are four women and no men.[2]  In the few studies that have looked to genealogical practices, men are also said to enter into family history work for different reasons than do women, reasons that impact a public/private schism in recordkeeping. Men begin genealogies in order to pursue a dream of publication or to fill spare time, whereas women tend to begin with an idea of connecting generations.[3] In projects shared by men and women, women also are more likely to assume roles concerned with sharing of photographs and other records among family and friends.[4]

[1] Pamela J. Drake, “Findings from the Fullerton Genealogy Study, A Master’s Thesis Project,” Fullerton, CA: Psychology Department, California State University, Psychology Department, 2001,  http://psych.fullerton.edu/genealogy/#RESULT (accessed January 16, 2009). Jean Cooper, “The Librarian and the Genealogist Should Be Friends” (presentation at the Virginia Library Association Annual Conference, Williamsburg, Virginia, October 20, 2005), http://www .vla.org/demo/Conference/05Conf/Presentations/IntrotoGenealogy.ppt (accessed October 5, 2008). Note that Cooper quotes statistics from ALA Library Fact Sheet 6:Public Library Use, 2002,http://www.ala.org/ Template.cfm?Section=libraryfactsheet&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=112163 (accessed April 7, 2006). Women make up seventy-seven percent, sixty-two percent, seventy-one percent, respectively) of current members from three genealogical societies studied extensively from 2006-2009 in Alabama and Louisiana, those studied in the ethnography mentioned below in footnote 11.

[2] “Find a Genealogist,” Board for Certification of Genealogists, http://www.bcgcertification.org/ associates/index.php (accessed March 15, 2009).

[3] Ronald D. Lambert, “Looking for Genealogical Motivation,” Families 34, no. 3 (August 1995): 158–159;  Lambert, “Profile of the Membership of the Ontario Genealogical Society,” Families 34, no. 2 (May 1995): 74–75. See also Roy Rosenzweig and David P. Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 23.

[4] Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle Brow Art, trans., Shaun Whiteside (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 19; Claire Grey, “Theories of Relativity” in Patricia Holland and Jo Spence, eds., Family Snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography (London, Virago, 1991),  107; Deborah Chambers, “Family as Place: Family Photograph Albums and the Domestication of Public and Private Space,” in Joan M. Schwartz and James Ryan, eds., Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination (New York: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2003), 97.


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