Online Family History Research in United States Grows by 14 Times in Past Decade

Decade Multi-country Study by Examines Changing Family Structures to Show Closer Bonds Between Children and Grandparents; Longevity and Birthrates Lead to Increase in Vertical Families

PROVO, Utah, November 19, 2014 – Over the past decade, online family history research has grown in the United States by 14 times, with two-thirds (63%) of respondents in a recent study reporting that family history has become more important than ever. They also say that this growth is motivated by a belief that knowing more about the past is a key part of understanding who we are.

Announced today by, the world's largest online family history resource, the new findings are part of the first chapter in its Global Family History Report, a multi-country study that examined trends in the family—both past and present—across six developed countries: the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.

According to the study, the relationships between younger and older family members have strengthened, with relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren growing closer in the past 50 years.* Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents reported feeling closer to older relatives, with half of older relatives saying they had drawn closer to young relatives as a result of learning more about their family.

“This shift back to vertical family structure is really interesting,” said Michelle Ercanbrack, family historian at Ancestry. “Vertical family structure, meaning multiple generations interacting with one another, was common historically because nuclear families often lived under the same roof. The rise in multigenerational relationships today has everything to do with advances in technology and medicine. As grand- and great-grandparents live longer and stay connected with social media, there are now unprecedented opportunities to engage with younger generations and pass on family stories.”

Younger people are among those inspired most to learn more about their family history through talking with older family members (55% overall). And the family knowledge held by older generations has expanded when compared to what their parents knew about their ancestors. A generation ago, the average family history stretched back 149 years, but today this has grown in the U.S. to 184 years.

Among those who have researched their ancestry in ways other than speaking to family, three of the most commonly used resources in the U.S. are photographs (81%), birth, marriage and death records, (66%) and letters (45%). Uncovering a strong family narrative and culture, however, emerges when family dinnertime conversations and historical records meet.

“The holidays are the perfect time to connect with family. If you are lucky enough to still have a living patriarch or matriarch in your family, take the time to sit with them and listen,” said Ercanbrack. “Whenever I visit Grandma, I love snapping pictures of family photos hanging on the wall or printing off census records from her life to start her talking and then recording the conversation we have with my smartphone. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about their life and gain some context to what led to your own unique circumstances.”

Capturing and sharing your family history is easy on-the-go with a mobile phone. The Ancestry mobile app is free and can help you discover, preserve and share your family history no matter where you are. Similarly, Shoebox by Ancestry is a great mobile app used to scan old paper photos and save them to your family tree. To download either or both before heading out for your holiday gatherings, visit and

To review the first chapter of Ancestry’s Global Family History Report, email

* The number of grandchildren with a close relationship with a grandparent has increased from 60 percent in the 1950s-1960s to 78 percent today, an increase of 30 percent.

Methodology: In March 2014, Ancestry approached the Future Foundation to pursue an original program of research focusing on the growing phenomenon of online family history research in six of the world’s largest economies: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden. A number of desk research resources have been consulted to compile the findings, these include previous survey research from Ancestry, census data from each of the six countries, nVision Global trend data and forecasts for internet uptake, use of social networking and other online activities, in each of the six countries, and Ancestry’s extensive genealogical archives. A total of 6,024 10-15 minute interviews were carried out with adults aged 18+ in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden (1,000+ adults aged 18+ per country) as part of its original quantitative research. In each country, interlocking age and gender quotas and broad income-group quotas were set to ensure the sample was representative of the general population by age and gender. Interviews were carried out online, using panel respondents recruited by Research Now, during June 2014. In instances where we believe our sample of online panel respondents to be representative of the general population (i.e., non tech-related matters such as ancestors, extended family, etc.), we interpret results as representative of the adult population in general. In other instances, where appropriate (e.g. when giving the percentage of all adults who have used the Internet for online family history), we have mapped survey results against other sources of data listed above (e.g., on the percentage of adults aged 18+ who are internet users in each country) and adjusted findings accordingly.

About is the world's largest online family history resource with approximately 2.7 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 15 billion records have been added, and users have created more than 60 million family trees to the core Ancestry websites, including its flagship site and its affiliated international websites. Additionally, offers a suite of online family history brands, including,,, as well as the AncestryDNA product, sold by DNA, LLC, which, along with its core Ancestry websites, are all designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

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