On September 15, I wrote an article entitled, Survey: Please Tell Us About Your Experiences. I asked the readers of this newsletter to answer an online questionnaire about their genealogy interests, genealogy software, their computers and their Internet connections. I wrote:
I would like to ask for your help. I feel I can better meet your needs and interests if I can learn more about the experiences and the expertise of the readers of this newsletter. If you can answer a few quick survey questions, I can compile a clearer picture of the “typical online genealogist.” help me identify the "typical newsletter reader," I can then write articles aimed at that more reader's’ interests.
I know that lots of other people are also curious. The curious people include other genealogists as well as genealogy software producers, operators of genealogy web sites, and others. We want to know about you, the genealogist. A bit of knowledge about you and a few hundred other genealogists will help all of us focus our products and services to better service our customers.
I am delighted to report that 2,113 newsletter readers took the time to answer the questions. I believe the questionnaire produced some very useful information. I know I found a couple of surprises.
You can see the survey results at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d.
Here are some of the raw statistics, followed by my comments. I did delete some of the answers where the response was less than 1%:
Question: Which operating systems do you use for genealogy purposes?
Windows XP: 60.5%
Windows Vista: 25.3%
Windows 2000: 1.2%
Windows 7 Release Candidate: 1.2%
Macintosh OS X: 9.8%
Linux or UNIX: 0.7%
Comments: I don't see any major surprises in those numbers. The Microsoft products dominate the marketplace with almost 90% market share. I doubt if that surprises anyone.
I was a bit surprised to see that Macintosh accounted for almost 10% of the market amongst genealogists. Most industry articles I have read rate the Macintosh as having 4% to perhaps 8% of the market share, but the numbers appear to be higher amongst genealogists.
Question: Your favorite Windows genealogy program
Family Tree Maker: 35.4%
Legacy Family Tree: 16.1%
The Master Genealogist: 13.8%
Personal Ancestral File: 10.5%
Brothers Keeper: 2.3%
Comments: Obviously, Family Tree Maker dominates the marketplace, followed by Legacy Family Tree, The Master Genealogist, and RootsMagic.
I find it interesting that Personal Ancestral File is still hanging in there with 10% of the market. This free program has had no development in years, and the producers have announced they do not plan to ever update it again. However, the program apparently continues to have loyal users. A ten percent market share is rather good for a program that is no longer being developed!
The next most popular program, AncestralQuest, is actually a more modern version of Personal Ancestral File. I expected the loyal users of Personal Ancestral File to be migrating to AncestralQuest. Indeed, AncestralQuest is being developed and is vigorously developed. Yet AQ only has about half the market share of the inactive program.
In the comments section, several newsletter readers mentioned that they use no genealogy program at all, preferring to keep their records manually on paper. You can read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Please tell us your favorite Macintosh genealogy program
iFamily for Tiger: 3.8%
Comments: There's very little to comment on here: Reunion dominates the Macintosh marketplace.
I did note that quite a few people who listed "Other" as their program of choice then left comments stating they were using a Windows genealogy program, along with Parallels or VMware. You can read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Please tell us the name of your favorite Linux or UNIX genealogy program
Comments: Again, no surprises. GRAMPS is the preferred program for Linux-using genealogists by an 8-to-1 margin. Of the four individuals who listed "other," two use a Windows genealogy program, one uses an online program (The Next Generation), and one wrote his own genealogy program.
Question: Do you use an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch for genealogy purposes? If so, please tell us the name of your favorite genealogy program for the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch
Reunion for iPhone: 3.5%
I do not use an iPhone or iPod Touch for genealogy purposes: 93%
Question: Do you use as Windows Mobile genealogy program? If so, please tell us the name of your favorite genealogy program for Windows Mobile and Smartphone handheld computers
Pocket Genealogist: 7.2%
I do not use a Windows Mobile device for genealogy purposes: 90.5%
Question: Do you use an online genealogy program?
The Next Generation: 33.3%
Comments: Only 111 respondents answered this question, less than 5% of all those who took the questionnaire. I must admit that I am a bit surprised by that low response. Apparently, cloud genealogy is not as popular as I thought. I suspect this will change as cloud computing becomes more and more popular. However, the adoption of cloud computing for genealogy purposes probably will be slow.
Question: Do you use any social networks FOR GENEALOGY PURPOSES? Please check all that apply.
Comment: The question asked the respondents to check all that apply, so the total is expected to be more than 100%.
763 people answered this question, roughly one-third of all the respondents. I think this proves that social networks are very popular amongst genealogists.
At this point, the survey questions moved into other technical topics that indicate just how the typical genealogist use his or her computer.
Question: How do you normally connect to the Internet when at home?
Cable modem: 41.3%
Fiber optic connection: 6.2%
"Air card" 1.6%
Comments: Look at that dial-up statistic! Less than 4% of the newsletter readers use dial-up? I am amazed. Perhaps the truth is that dial-up users don't take surveys on their slow connections. Whatever the reasons, I would have expected a bigger number than 3.6%. Based on the responses, dial-up appears to be dead.
Question: How do you normally connect to the Internet when traveling? (Please check all that apply.)
From a hotel room, using an Internet connection supplied by the hotel: 48.9%
Via a "Wi-Fi" connection to any available "hot spot": 39.6%
From a public library: 24.7%
I never connect to the Internet from anyplace other than my home: 21.8%
From an Internet cafe (other than a public library): 11.2%
Via an "air card" provided by a cellular company: 4.8%
Comments: I am a bit surprised at how few people (21.8%) chose "I never connect to the Internet from anyplace other than my home:" Apparently, 78.2% of the respondents do check e-mail and perform other online tasks when traveling. I suspect this accounts for the large number of laptop, notebook, and netbook computers being sold these days.
Question: Which web browser do you prefer?
Internet Explorer on Windows: 47.4%
Firefox on Windows: 35.2%
Safari on Macintosh: 6.5%
Firefox on Macintosh: 4.3%
Comments: Wow! Now THAT was a surprise! Firefox is almost as popular as Internet Explorer amongst genealogists. I see that as a very good thing, given all the past security problems with Internet Explorer.
Question : Have you ever contacted Technical Support for your FAVORITE genealogy program?
Not sure: 3%
Please rate your experience
I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this response. I hear lots of grumbling about poor support from a wide variety of genealogy programs. However, nearly 77% of the respondents stated that their experiences were Good to Excellent, and even more had no reason to ever contact Tech Support. Perhaps the unsatisfied customers grumble a bit louder while those who were satisfied have nothing to complain about.
The question also had a space for comments where I invited everyone to share experiences. The results are far too long to summarize here, but they provide an interesting insight into customers' perceived experiences. You can find both positive and negative experiences at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Have you ever contacted Technical Support for ANY OTHER genealogy program, other than your favorite?
Don't know: 3.2%
Question: Please rate your experience when contacting the Tech Support department of this other program:
Question: Which online web sites do you use frequently? Please check all that apply.
Ancestry (including Ancestry.com, ancestry.ca, ancestry.co.uk, etc.): 84.5%
Library and Archives Canada: 16.7%
Yad Vashem: 2.3%
Those who checked "Other" offered a wide list of additional web sites in the comments section. You can read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Have you ever contacted Technical Support for any online genealogy web data web site?
Ancestry (including Ancestry.com, ancestry.ca, ancestry.co.uk, etc.): 57.8%
Please rate your experience:
Comments: The online sites apparently are not as successful at providing customer support as the software firms. You can read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
One comment caught my eye: "Response was immediate. I just couldn't figure out what they were trying to tell me to do." I wonder how often THAT happens?
Question: Have you ever attended a NATIONAL genealogy conference?
I have never attended a national genealogy conference: 63.3%
National Genealogical Society (in the U.S.): 24.9%
Federation of Genealogical Societies (in the U.S.): 19.2%
GenTech (now defunct): 6.2%
Who Do You Think You Are? (in London): 1.9%
Federation of Family History Societies (in England): 1.5%
Society of Genealogists (in London): 1.4%
AFFHO (in Australia or New Zealand): 1.2%
Comments: There are obvious marketing opportunities here! Nearly two-thirds of the respondents have never attended a national genealogy event.
Of the NATIONAL conferences you have attended in the past, were they worth the money?
Not sure: 13.8%
Please feel free to offer any observations concerning NATIONAL conferences.
You can read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question. You will note that the comments varied widely. I did see lots of comments about the high costs of attending.
Question: Are you likely to attend a NATIONAL genealogy conference sometime in 2010?
Not sure: 26.3%
Question: Have you ever attended a state, regional or large ethnic genealogy conference?
I have attended a conference or more than one, but am not sure if they were state or regional: 3.3%
Question: Of the STATE, REGIONAL or LARGE ETHNIC conferences you have attended in the past, were they worth the money?
Not sure: 8.7%
Question: Please feel free to offer any observations concerning STATE, REGIONAL, or LARGE ETHNIC conferences.
There are many comments listed, far too many for me to summarize here. However, I would suggest anyone involved in genealogy planning should read the comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Are you likely to attend a STATE, REGIONAL, or LARGE ETHNIC genealogy conference sometime in 2010?
I am not certain, I am still contemplating attending a conference: 28.1%
Question: Have you ever attended a LOCAL genealogy conference or seminar?
Question: Of the local conferences or seminars you have attended in the past, were they worth the money?
Not sure: 6.1%
Question: Please feel free to offer any observations concerning LOCAL conferences and seminars.
Again, there are lots of useful comments but far too many to summarize. You can read them at http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=SwmWRaKUuM4RQLxECer67us4xDKNPKigUA_2bG5pgMyIc_3d by clicking on SHOW REPLIES directly under the question.
Question: Are you likely to attend a local genealogy conference or seminar sometime in 2010?
Not sure: 27.8%
Comments about the last few questions: It appears clear (to me) that genealogists like local conferences! Many more people attended these and are likely to go again in the next year. In contrast, when we shift to the regional and national scene, the reports become less positive. It seems that the farther the events are from home, the fewer genealogists attend them and plan to attend in 2010. The higher travel costs obviously have an impact here, and maybe the greater time commitment as well. In addition, perhaps genealogists have higher expectations from large events, which could also contribute to their somewhat lower satisfaction. Even so, it is encouraging to see that most people who have attended any type of conference believe that the events were worth the money spent. Between the numbers and the comments, I’d say there’s room for improvement at every level.
Question: Please describe your GENEALOGY EXPERTISE:
Newcomer (I am new to genealogy and am learning the basics.): 2.4%
Intermediate (I have been tracing my family tree for a while and am comfortable with many of the techniques used.): 71.0%
Advanced (I am an expert genealogist): 26.6%
Question: How long have you been researching your family tree?
One year or less: 0.6%
One to five years: 8.2%
Five to ten years: 19.1%
Ten to twenty years: 31.5%
More than twenty years: 40.6%
Question: Please describe your TECHNOLOGY EXPERTISE:
Novice (I am technology challenged): 2.8%
Intermediate (I am comfortable with technology and am able to use most popular technologies, although some things still baffle me.): 41.6%
Advanced (I am comfortable with most all technologies used today and am always interested in learning about new technologies): 39.5%
Expert (I often advise friends and family members about the latest technologies): 16.1%
I am delighted with the results of this survey. I learned that this is a technology-savvy group that has been researching their family trees for years. More than 90% of those who took the survey have been researching their ancestry for more than five years. In short, this is exactly the audience I expected.
I was surprised, however, to learn that almost everyone uses a broadband connection and that a high percentage of people check e-mail and perform other online tasks while traveling away from home. Dial-up Internet access is almost non-existent amongst the genealogists who took this survey.
The mix of genealogy programs is more or less as I expected. I was surprised, however, to learn that few people are using the online genealogy services, also known as "cloud computing."
I hope that genealogy vendors, society managers, conferences organizers, and others will study these responses carefully. I believe there is a lot of valuable information here concerning YOUR customers.
To everyone who took the survey: Thank you for your time and efforts. You have helped me focus my topics for future newsletter articles.