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 The blog of the GSV 

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The War of the Roses is over! ... and a preliminary report on what makes family historians tick

Bill Barlow
Expiry Date

The new year is getting underway at GSV. Before you over-commit to all the things you will be doing in 2019, check the GSV Events program. There is plenty coming up of interest. Maybe you have done enough research and writing it up for others to benefit should now be the main focus. The GSV Writers group can help with this. 


It looks like the War of the Roses is settled!

Yorkshire is reconciled to Lancashire joining the GSV's Counties of Northern England Discussion Group.

At the GSV the 'Counties of Northern England Discussion Circle' is expanding. From our February meeting the Circle will be open to members who have an interest in researching ancestors who were born, lived or died in the county of Lancashire. Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday 12 February commencing at 12.30 pm. Come along and join in the discussions.


And what does make family historians tick?

Last year via this GSV blog we called on family historians to participate in a study of 'what makes them tick'. This research - Motives and Profiles of Family Historians - is being undertaken by Susan Moore, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Swinburne University and Doreen Rosenthal, Emeritus Professor, University of Melbourne. Since retirement, they have focused on researching aspects of their own life stage (if that can be called retirement).

The researchers extend their thanks to all those who took part and they have prepared a preliminary summary of their analysis.

They are continuing to analyse their research and are intending to write a book, which will follow their previous books New Age Nanas: Being a Grandmother in the 21st Century (2012), Grandparenting: Contemporary Perspectives (2016) and in 2018, Women and Retirement: Challenges of a New Life Stage, and The Psychology of Retirement.

Nearly 800 participated in this study of family historians throughout Australia and a summary of their findings has been provided, from which the following snapshot has been taken.

Who responded?

The 775 who completed surveys were aged between 21 and 93 years, with the average age being about 62 years. The large majority (85%) were women, probably a reasonably accurate reflection of the gender imbalance in this area. Most participants were married or in a long-term relationship (72%) but 12% were single, 11% were divorced or separated and 6% were widowed. Most were born in Australia (92%) and the rest were born overseas. Just over 80% had at least one child, and just over half had at least one grandchild. Interestingly, 22 people in the sample (about 3%) were adopted or conceived via donor egg or sperm.

Interest in family history

The researchers report: 'Interest in family history was intense among this group. Participants spent on average around 6 to 8 hours a week on their hobby, but some spent many hours longer than this. A few indicated that family history research took up most of their waking hours. More than half (59.5%) assessed family history as more important or much more important than their other leisure pursuits.'

From their initial analysis of the respondents it appears that our main family history activity is working on our family tree (98% - sometimes or often). Whilst 70% of us write about it for the family, only 22% of us convert that writing to magazine articles or blogs.

Almost all of us (95%) talk to the family about our findings and about half of us admit to sometimes, or often, talking about it 'even if people seem bored'. At least that half recognises this (there could be more that don't even notice). It is not a money-making business - only 5% of us sometimes or often 'do paid work' in family history.

The planned book about us will be interesting. It may even help us think about how we promote the benefits derived from an interest in family history to those who are less represented: younger people, those born outside Australia ... and men.