Thursday, 26 February 2009


BY DICK EASTMAN in his Eastman's Genealogy Newsletter,
19 February 2009.

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

A newsletter reader this week sent an e-mail asking a simple question:

I have heard about surveys showing genealogy to be the 2nd most popular hobby in America. Now I need a citation on this statistic and can't find one on the Internet. Can you help?

In short, the answer is "No." In fact, I question the "fact." I don't believe that genealogy is as popular as often claimed. Let's look at the facts.

I have heard two slightly different claims:

1. Genealogy is the most popular (or second or third or fourth most popular) topic on the World Wide Web.
2. Genealogy is the most popular (or second or third or fourth most popular) hobby/personal interest in the United States.

I have no doubt that genealogy is very popular. For proof, I can point out that more than 40,000 people read this newsletter every week. and are some of the more popular sites on the Web with hundreds of thousands of users. Local genealogy libraries and Family History Centers serve thousands of patrons every day. The study of one's family tree obviously is a popular activity among Americans, but is it really the second most popular interest? Or tenth most popular? Or fiftieth?

The only reputable survey that I know of was published in American Demographics magazine in 1995. The survey reported that some 113 million adults in the US, or four out of ten of us, were at least somewhat interested in family history. This survey appears to prove that genealogy is one of America's most popular hobbies.

I do believe this article's accuracy, but I suggest you closely examine the question asked: "at least somewhat interested." If you approached 100 strangers on the street and asked each of them if they were "at least somewhat interested" in their family tree, how many would answer in the affirmative?

Now, what happens if you ask 100 strangers if they are VERY interested in their family tree or if they have ever done anything at all to discover more about their ancestry? I don't know the answer to that, but I suspect it would be much less than four out of ten.

While many people may claim to be "somewhat interested," I dare say that most of them have never been to a genealogy library or to a courthouse. Most have never cranked a single roll of microfilm in their lives. How many people in your neighborhood do that? Some may have looked at one or two free online genealogy databases to find people of the same last name, but does that count as being interested in genealogy? I don't think they are very interested if they have never gone beyond the simplest of searches.

The American Demographics magazine survey was conducted in 1995, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy. In that year, probably 90% of all Americans had never seen the Web. In fact, some had yet to hear of it. What a difference we have seen the the past fourteen years! Today we do know that genealogy is a very popular topic on the web. I suspect there are more genealogists today than in 1995.

In short, while the 1995 survey in American Demographics magazine may be interesting, I believe it is no longer valid. The genealogy world has changed greatly since 1995. I would not trust a survey that is fourteen years old to provide meaningful answers about anything that is popular on today's World Wide Web.

The other surveys that I am aware of were conducted by Maritz Research. These surveys asked similar vague questions:

1. Are you at least “somewhat interested” in tracing your family history?
2. Are you at least “somewhat involved” with genealogy?

Sixty percent of the respondents said they were at least “somewhat interested,” and 45% claimed to be at least “somewhat involved” with genealogy. That sounds promising. However, again, let's examine the questions.

What is the definition of "at least somewhat?" Does "at least somewhat interested" mean, "I remember grandmother talking about that?" Or does it mean, "I have a database on my computer or a notebook on the shelf containing the results of my own search?"

The other thing that bothers me about the Maritz Research is the fact that it was commissioned and paid for by Broderbund, the former producers of Family Tree Maker software. One has to wonder how accurate a survey is when the company paying the researchers has a very biased interest in the results.

The reports of the Maritz Research surveys always reported glowing results and then casually mentioned that Family Tree Maker was the best-selling genealogy program in the world. The same reports usually did not mention that the company that produced Family Tree Maker commissioned and paid for the entire survey.

I wonder what the percentages would be in response to this question:

Have you personally done any research on your ancestry in the past year?

To be sure, genealogy is very popular on the World Wide Web. A search for the word "genealogy" on Google returns more than 97 million occurrences of the word. Time Magazine even named genealogy as one of the four most popular topics on the Internet in its 19 April 1999 cover article. (Sex, finance, and sports were the other three.)

My question is this: Does this high number of web sites reflect the true popularity of genealogy, or is it merely a reflection of the fact that today's genealogy programs can create thousands of web pages from one person's database? I suspect the answer is a blend of both.

The fact that 97 million web pages contain the word "genealogy" does not equate to 97 million people posting their own ancestry. In fact, it might be only tens of thousands of people using their genealogy programs to create thousands of web pages each.

If genealogy is truly one of the four most popular personal interests of Americans, we should be able to prove that by other means, right? We should be able to measure the dollars being spent, the popularity of local and national conferences, the number of magazines that serve this personal interest, and more. These are all tried and true measurements used by tens of thousands of marketing firms and others.

Let's start with magazines. If genealogy were truly as popular as our nation's interest in sports, at least one genealogy magazine would have a circulation similar to that of Sports Illustrated. Sadly, I do not know of such a genealogy publication. I could make the same argument about Newsweek, Oprah Magazine, Boating Magazine, Field & Stream, This Old House, Travel & Leisure Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Popular Mechanics, various movie fan magazines, and many more. There is no genealogy magazine in a list of the 100 most popular magazines of today. The magazine stand at your local drug store or grocery store probably contains no genealogy magazines at all. Larger bookstores typically do have genealogy magazines available, but not nearly as many as for other topics, such as sports, automobiles, needlework, camping, or pets. If I stop at the local magazine rack, I get the impression that more people are interested in poodles than in their ancestry.

How about national conventions?

The national Star Wars convention draws 40,000 to 50,000 attendees per year. The National Rifle Association's conventions attract 60,000+ attendees. The national convention of ham radio operators draws 25,000 to 30,000 attendees every year to Dayton, Ohio. A local health and fitness expo in Phoenix draws 70,000 attendees, and I suspect most of them live within 100 miles of the conference location. Local golfing, hunting, or fishing conferences near me regularly draw 10,000 people and, again, I suspect that most attendees live within 100 miles of the convention center.

Then there are hundreds of local and regional antique fairs, hot rod shows, boating shows, sportsmen's shows, and more. Many of these attract tens of thousands of people; some attract hundreds of thousands.

So, how big are the national genealogical conferences? In recent years, the two largest conferences attracted only 800 to 1,600 attendees each. Is this an indication that genealogy is one of the five most popular personal interests among Americans?

Side note: Other countries with smaller populations seem to attract more people to genealogy conferences. The annual Who Do You Think You Are? show in London typically attracts 12,000 to 15,000 attendees. However, not all of the attendees are genealogists; some are history buffs, others are military re-enactors, etc. The Biennale de Généalogie held in Paris in December 2006 attracted more than 16,000 attendees. The smaller Congrés de la Fédération Française de Généalogie is hosted annually in different cities in France and always attracts several thousand French men and women.

Finally, let's examine the businesses that serve this personal interest. I do not have sales figures available, but obviously the golfing industry serves a multi-billion dollar marketplace. So do firms that sell to hunting, fishing, gardening, health & fitness, pets, firearms, stamp collecting enthusiasts, and other companies that serve personal interests.

What is the total dollar amount spent on genealogy per year? While I am sure it is a significant sum, it must be a pittance when compared to the other personal interests just mentioned. Let's compare the money spent against that of other personal interests: golf, hunting, fishing, etc.

In summation, I will suggest that genealogy is indeed a very popular activity among Americans. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, people are actively looking for their family heritage. However, that number pales in comparison to some other personal interests that I have mentioned.

Do you believe there are more genealogists than that? Is genealogy one of the top five personal interests in America? I have one challenge for you: find some believable statistics to prove it!

Source: Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Please take note that the Annual General Meeting of our branch will be held at 14:00 on Saturday, 21 March, 2009 at o the Church of the NGK, Congregation: Ontdekkerskruin, Phillips Avenue, Discovery, Roodepoort.


1. Welcome

2. Apologies

3. Minutes of the previous AGM

4. Matters arising

5. Reports

5.1 Chairman's Report

5.2 Membership Secretaries' Report

5.3 Treasurer's Report

5.4 Report on the National AGM held at Bloemfontein on 7 th March, 2009

6. Election of new Management Committee

7. Closure

8. Refreshments

Please note that Derek Rubidge has other commitments this year and is consequently not available for re-election. The situation of our Vice-Chairman, Bob Saunders is still unclear. He is planning a stint overseas in the not too distant future. While he is still here, we should make the most use of his excellent services. We trust that he will again accept nomination as Vice-Chairman. All other committee members are available and eligible for re-election.

Gerard Marloth has agreed to join the committee as Membership Secretary as has Penny Evans who was invited to be spokesperson for new/beginner members. They were consequently co-opted in December and have already made their presence felt.

This does NOT mean that no other nominations for existing positions can be submitted. Any member may be nominated for any position. Please let us have such nominations as soon as possible. We have no specific nomination form. Nominations must just show clearly who is nominated for which position and give the names of the persons nominating and seconding the nomination and the assurance that the nominee is available and willing to be elected.

The minutes of the previous AGM are attached as are the financial statements for the year 2008 will be available at the meeting.

We look forward to seeing you at the AGM. Your voice and vote is IMPORTANT!

Friendly greetings,

L.G. Rinken

Chairman, West-Gauteng Branch, GSSA.

NS. Ons vertrou dat ons Afrikaanse lede sal verstaan dat hierdie skrywe slegs in Engels uitgestuur word.

NOTULE VAN DIE ALGEMENE JAARVERGADERING VAN DIE TAK, GEHOU OM 14.00 OP 15 Maart 2008, in die Ned. Geref. Kerk Ontdekkerskruin, Philipslaan, Discovery, Roodepoort.


Lucas Rinken (Voorsitter); Barbara Bouwer; Celia Bayliss; Milford Juniper; Louw du Plessis; Kriek Fourie; Margaret Humphries; Bob Saunders; Richard Ford; Dennis en Minnie Pretorius; Derek Rubidge; Graham Southey; Danie Jacobs; Ds. Hennie le Roux; Frans en Donna Viljoen; John en Iris Stephens

VERSKONINGS: Louise Dick; Valda Napier; André Heydenrych


Die voorsitter heet almal hartlik welkom.


2.1 Verjaardae: Hy wens die volgende lede hartlik geluk met hul verjaardae wat voorlê: 17 Maart: Milford Juniper; 2 April Bob Saunders; 11 April Barbara Bouwer; 12 April Don McArthur (vorige spreker)

2.2 Komiteevergadering: Sal nie volgende Saterdag gehou kan word nie, maar die nuwe komitee sal die volgende datum aankondig.


Op voorstel van Danie Jacobs, gesekondeer deur Richard Ford, word die notule as gelese beskou en GOEDGEKEUR.

4. VOORSITTERSVERSLAG: Die voorsitter lê sy verslag aan die vergadering voor. Dit word GOEDGEKEUR.


6. FINANSIËLE VERSLAG: Aangesien die verslag nie vandag beskikbaar is nie, sal dit aan lede gesirkuleer word.

7. VERSLAG OOR DIE ALGEMENE JAARVERGADERING VAN DIE GGSA: Die verslag oor die AJV van die GGSA te Potchefstroom op 1 Maart 2008, word deur die sekretaris aan die vergadering voorgehou. Dit word GOEDGEKEUR.

8. VERKIESING VAN TAKBESTUURSKOMITEE: Die voorsitterstoel word deur Dennis Pretorius ingeneem. Nominasies word gevra vir 'n

VOORSITTER. Lucas Rinken word deur Richard Ford voorgestel, gesekondeer deur Danie Jacobs. Lucas word gelukgewens en neem weer die voorsitterstoel in.

ONDERVOORSITTER: Bob Saunders word deur Richard Ford voorgestel en deur Kriek Fourie gesekondeer. Hy word ook eenparig verkies. Hy word gelukgewens.

TESOURIER: Kriek Fourie word deur Lucas Rinken voorgestel, gesekondeer deur Danie Jacobs. Hy word eenparig verkies. Hy word gelukgewens.

SEKRETARIS (Notulerend): John Stephens word deur Danie Jacobs voorgestel, gesekondeer deur Bob Saunders. Hy word herkies en gelukgewens.

SEKRETARIS (Sosiaal en fumksies): Margaret Humphries word deur Lucas Rinken voorgestel, gesekondeer deur Barbara Bouwer en word eenparig verkies en gelukgewens.

BIBLIOTEKARIS: Aangesien Louise Dick gevra het om nie weer verkies te word nie, word Graham Southey versoek om die werk te doen. Hy willig in. Dit word GOEDGEKEUR. Hy word gelukgewens.

ADDISIONELE LID: Derek Rubidge willig in om die pos te vul. GOEDGEKEUR. Hy word gelukgewens.

9. VERSLAG OOR HOBBY-X: Die voorsitter noem dat dit nie vanjaar so voorspoedig gegaan het nie. Daar is 17 nuwe lede gewerf, waarvan ongeveer 13 vir ons tak is. Hy bedank almal wat daar gehelp het en in die besonder vir Bob Saunders en Richard Ford met hulle insette vir die stalletjie.

10. UITSTALLING VAN CELIA BAYLISS SE WERK: Een van ons lede, Celia Bayliss, vertrek op 1 Mei 2008 na die Kaap. Die voorsitter het haar versoek om haar skitterende genealogiese werk te kom uitstal en ons daaroor toe te spreek. Sy doen dit kortliks. Daarna verdaag ons om haar hoogstaande uitstalling te beskou en daaroor vrae aan haar te stel. Haar werk word deur almal absoluut bewonder.

11. VERVERSINGS: Die vergadering verdaag om verversings te geniet. Die dames word hartlik bedank vir die heerlike verversings.

NOTULE AS GELEES BESKOU EN GOEDGEKEUR OP...................................... 2009.


Friday, 13 February 2009


By Bob Saunders, vice-chairman

Greetings fellow genealogists

This newsletter is a first in a slightly different format, which we hope you will find more informative than previously, and to which we hope you will respond by being more interactive with the branch and committee.

The upcoming meeting:

The February meeting is one which the committee would really wish to see EACH and EVERY member of the society present -- even more so than the AGM (if needs be), as we are faced with a serious dilemma, in as much as we are not attracting our members regularly to our meetings, and we can only imagine that the talks we have planned and presented to date have not:

a) inspired you to want to attend, or
b) the subject matter does not interest you or
c) the topics presented are not addressing your needs (as members old and young, experienced or novice or somewhere in between these parameters).

So the question that has to be asked is this:

a) What do YOU want from your society?
b) How can YOUR committee best serve your interests and needs from your branch.
c) What can WE do to inspire you to participate more regularly or
d) What can WE change to suit the needs of those among you who have not ever attended a meeting or
e) WHAT aspects, if you did attend one, left you disillusioned about what you experienced?

To make the workshop a success, it is essential that each participant provides an input on as many of these aspects as possible. So please put on your thinking caps and help us to steer the programme in a direction that you believe will be beneficial to you specifically and the branch as a whole.

Should you not be in a position to attend the meeting, please do not simply ignore the letter. Your opinion still counts and we are relying on you to give us feedback by means of a return e-mail if you know you will be unable to attend so that these ideas can also be presented to the committee and others. Where there is a common theme, the answer is simple, and we will attempt to address these immediately. Where there are less common or unique requests/suggestions, we may have to debate the merits and take a vote on the relevance to the branch as a whole. Please do not remain silent on any issue of contention, or any suggestion. Every contribution will be considered.

Next month's meeting:

The March meeting is our Annual General Meeting and will take place on 21 March 2009. Please note that we need to have your nominations for the committee if you believe you have a likely and willing candidate. We will welcome all nominations to which the nominee has consented, as we would like to see some new faces on the committee. If you wish to volunteer services, we will find a nomination for you. Many hands make light work and we could use some fresh ideas too.

Please note that all paid up members are eligible to vote and we would really appreciate a great turnout for this event. AGM's are notoriously shunned by the majority of people for the wrong reasons. We will make ours as light as possible despite the need to make the various reports and execute the necessary formalities. Please show your support by attending and making your voice heard by casting your vote on the motions, and the election of the committee.

Those of you who have not as yet renewed your membership, January was when your subs fell due, so please bring your membership up to date by paying your subs and completing the renewal form as soon as possible - preferrably at the February meeting. We will have the necessary forms at hand and a willing treasurer (or substitute) to receive the funds. Remember this can also be done electronically if this suits you better.

Future Meetings:

Your committee is in the process of planning for the year, but a lot depends on the suggestions which will arise from Saturdays workshop, in determining the direction we follow for the year. We still have the Ben Leach talk in hand, which we are sure Ben will gladly deliver in due course once he has fully recovered. Sterkte Ben, ons sien uit na jou toespraak in die nabye toekoms.


Ek will graag die Noord-Transvaaltak komplimenteer deur om n idee uit hulle nuusbrief te "steel" en by ons eie nuusbrief in te sluit. Hulle het n spesiale deel wat hulle "hoenderveloomblik" noem, waar lede se stories oor 'n hoendeveloomblik beskryf is. Ons het almal 'n storie of tien oor ons eie navorsing en natuurlik daai een deurbraak oomblik of ongelooflike gelukkige vonds of wat ookal om met ons medelede te deel, om 'n waarskuwing te gee, 'n bietjie moed in te praat of selfs 'n bietjie raad te bied. Ons vra julle om ook hieroor te dink en bydraes te bied vir publikasie. Laat weet asseblief van julle stories wat ons dan onder "interessanthede" sal plaas. Die stories kan net uit 'n paar paragrafies bestaan of 'n langer. Onthou, dit gaan oor ervarings te deel.


We have a small library which is being constantly augmented with books via donation and of course purchase. We are anxiously awaiting to receive a substantial donation from a collection, but more about that in the next newsletter. Graham Southey is our librarian. Between him and Lucas Rinken, our chairman,, they are busy catalogueing our current collection. Please make use of this underutilised resource. There are many magazines for light reading, a fair number of historical type books for more intense reading, and then there are the very serious tomes such as the SAG's for study and research purposes. All of these are at your disposal. Should you find any books in your own collection that you no longer need or want, and these are of some merit and historical significance, please also consider donating these to our library. You will duly be acknowledged for your contribution.

Don't forget that we are still looking for those parts of your research that are complete to be added to our collection either in an omnibus that will be compiled from time to time depending on volume or your very own publication whether it be hard copy or in electronic format. You never know who may benefit from that material in the future - and you will have had a hand in it.


Dit is die nuwe voorgestelde formaat van ons maandelikse nuusbrief,. Ek vra asseblief vir kommentaar en kritiek asook bydraes vir die toekomstige uitgawes, waarin ons byvoorbeeld verjaarsdae sal kan aankondig, nuwe lede verwelkom, huldeblyke publiseer en meer. U voorstelle en nuusbrokkies sal ook verwelkom word. Soos nuwe idees hulle verskyning maak, sal ons die brief uitbou.

Greetings from your committee with the reminder of this months meeting on Saturday the 21st February a 2pm (14h00) at the NG Church Ontdekkerskruin, Phillips Avenue, Discovery, Roodepoort.

Remember your R5 contribution for refreshments, for which we thank Margaret Humphries heartily for co-ordinating and arranging every month. Much is discussed and shared over those cups of tea and plates of eats. So be sure to get your share of the action.

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