I’ve heard that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby of several options. But can it really be the second most popular hobby, if it’s been listed next to several options? Or, for that matter, is genealogy even a popular hobby?
Genealogy is a popular hobby for those millions of people who are interested in it. Compared to other hobbies, it is somewhere between low to middling in its popularity, depending on what other hobbies it is being compared next to. Genealogy has experienced a general decline in popularity over the last few years but still has millions of fans.
Ready to see actual statistics and comparisons showing if genealogy is popular – and how popular it is? Keep reading – and let’s do this.
Why Genealogy is Popular
Genealogy isn’t as popular as other hobbies, but it’s still an awesome pastime. And it’s because genealogy’s so fascinating, rewarding, and thrilling – all rolled into one.
You get to play detective – and find out about real people and their stories. Doing so will also help you better understand yourself, your family, and your own experiences – by giving you a better historical background and context for your own existence.
Here’s a great way to illustrate the popularity of genealogy: look at the reactions from participants and viewers of popular genealogy TV shows (Breanne loves Who Do You Think You Are? and we both adore Relative Race).
We are all touched (and maybe even emotional) watching the visceral and raw reactions to big discoveries on these shows. Not so secretly, we all wish we could be on the show, finding out more about ourselves, too.
But those feelings and emotions can partly explain why genealogy is so popular. Doing genealogy is an emotional experience. Because whether we understand the feelings or not, we all feel a deep, emotional connection to our family.
We are all curious about the lives of our ancestors and family members. We crave the connection and the emotions – even if we don’t realize it. And being able to get that validation? It’s intoxicating, addicting, and soul-fulfilling.
Once you’ve felt that emotional connection, it’s enough to keep you going. Until you get to that point, though, the discoveries themselves are enough to motivate anyone. Finding out your ancestors are from another country, or had an interesting profession, or participated in a famous battle in a war… the possibilities and stories are endless.
And yes, this is when the cycle turns into a borderline addiction. 🙂 Welcome to the
dark awesome side of genealogy.
Genealogy Statistics Proving its Popularity
Now, given these trends, it would seem quite easy to say that genealogy isn’t popular. However, that’s just not the case. Let’s look at a few statistics that prove it’s still a popular hobby – to those who enjoy it.
FamilySearch.org statistics (source):
- It has 13.9 million registered users.
- Gets 7 million page views daily.
- Has an app with over 1 million downloads (per Google Play Store’s data).
Ancestry.com statistics (source):
- It has over 3 million paying subscribers.
- Gets over a billion searches monthly.
- Has an app with over 17 million downloads.
And that’s just for the two of the biggest genealogy websites – that are competitors. (To see which is best (and why), read our comprehensive comparison on the best genealogy websites.)
Let’s also take a look at how Google Trends rates genealogy as a trend over the last 12 months worldwide. The numbers on the left side of the graph indicate interest over time. A value of 100 indicates peak popularity – while a 50 would man a term is only half as popular. A score of zero means there’s not enough data (and probably very little interest).
Genealogy trends between 60-100 over the last 12 months. That means it’s pretty dang popular – and it’s a pretty steadily interesting hobby all year long. There’s very little seasonality, unlike something that can only be done part of the year (like a seasonally based hobby such as football or fishing).
In other words, genealogy is a popular and huge hobby with tens of millions of fans or more – it’s hard to get an exact number. Now let’s compare it to some other hobbies to get an idea of how popular it actually is.
Genealogy’s Popularity Information and Statistics
Genealogy is, and always will be, popular for those who enjoy doing it. But since the question is how popular it is – let’s compare it to some other common interests and hobbies.
I’m using Google Trends to do the comparison because it’s easy. It’s also public data, meaning anyone can go look up a trend and verify my results.
Furthermore, Trends gives me data (based on actual search queries) since 2004. I could also limit my searches to a shorter time period than “since 2004”, but using 16+ years of data will give us a better idea of the facts related to genealogy’s popularity.
All data has been stripped of personal identifiers, too, making this data reliable yet not scary in a “somebody is watching you” sort of way. The stripping out of personal identifiers is important: Google Trends doesn’t give exact search query totals. Instead, it’s given a rating – from 0-100 of its popularity level (measured in interest over time).
Another important note: all data defaults to United States’ based searches. However, the trends for Worldwide searches are right in line with US-based searches. So I’m using the default US-based search settings unless otherwise noted.
Now, let’s look at genealogy’s popularity (as a search term) over the last two decades.
Genealogy as a search query was far more popular in 2004. Back then, it was popular enough to get a rating of close to 100. Since then, its popularity has dropped dramatically – from that 100 in 2004 to approximately 10 today.
That doesn’t mean it’s no longer popular – just that it’s only about 10% as popular today as it was in 2004. The current interest makes zero guarantees on the future, though.
I also wondered if genealogy (as a search term) would have a different trend than genealogy (the field of study). There was a slight difference in the exact popularity of searches, but the trends are exactly the same: both have decreased in overall popularity.
So much for that theory.
Then I looked up the popularity of genealogy vs geneology (a very common misspelling of genealogy). Data shows that while geneology is a common misspelling, it’s also got the same downward trend in popularity as its correctly spelled counterpart.
Okay, so from every angle, genealogy’s popularity has steadily declined since 2004. The word nerd in me hopes that means fewer people are misspelling it, but that’s not important right now.
But let’s do one more – let’s compare the terms genealogy and family history, as they’re both very different (and yet used synonymously). Let’s look at this comparison from a worldwide perspective, though.
Comparing these two is important because, for a large segment of the people who are big into genealogy, they actually call it family history.
And they both show the same general, downward worldwide trend since 2004.
These comparisons prove to me that the terms “genealogy” and “family history” have evolved into synonyms – at least as far as search queries in the general vocabulary. To me, they’re still distinct-ish – and kind of synonyms. But that’s a topic for another article.
Let’s now do a comparison to other hobbies and sports so we can get a better idea of what this data means.
Genealogy’s Popularity Compared to Sports
While I don’t follow professional sports, I know that they’re a very popular pastime. So let’s compare genealogy’s search popularity with that of college football – one of the most popular sports in the United States.
Compared to the search term of college football, genealogy hasn’t ever been truly popular. It’s at a 25 max – and has gone down over the last 16 years. Football, on the other hand, experiences a seasonal trending – while it’s playing.
There’s far less interest off-season, but that’s to be expected because there aren’t any games to watch. College football’s popularity has continued to grow each year – although it looks like this last year’s interest has stopped growing as dramatically.
Let’s do one worldwide comparison – of genealogy to soccer. However, since it’s the true football of the world (sorry, not sorry American football), let’s include that search query in our worldwide comparison, too.
So, yeah. Genealogy isn’t even visible when compared to football (soccer) and soccer. It’s definitely not as popular as soccer, then.
So let’s look at golf – a stereotypically less popular sport.
Dang. Genealogy can’t even keep up with golf, which is traditionally a super boring sport. I happen to disagree with that stereotype – I quite enjoy playing golf. I’m Scottish, so I enjoy connecting with my heritage while on the green – thus connecting golf and genealogy.
But just to prove it’s not just golf, here’s a very regionally specific sport – curling. This is taken on a worldwide level since I don’t personally know anyone who actively participates or watches that sport.
Generally speaking, I think it’s pretty safe to say that genealogy isn’t as popular as any sport. Because really – it’s getting beaten by curling.
Comparing Popularity: Genealogy and Porn
Another popular misconception is that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby when compared to pornography. I’ve seen so many articles making this claim. Let’s debunk that right now.
Compared to the popularity of pornography, genealogy barely registers on the scale.
Now, I don’t personally approve of porn as a hobby. However, the purpose of this article and graph isn’t to debate the morality of porn – just to show the prevalence and popularity of pornography in today’s society. And the facts are clear: porn is a very popular search query.
There is simply no way that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby compared to porn – not given that gaping hole between the two of them.
So let’s compare the popularity of genealogy to several other, less polarizing hobbies.
Genealogy’s Popularity Compared to Popular Hobbies
One pastime I love is gardening. So let’s look that comparison up.
Well, genealogy used to be more popular than gardening. Now it’s on par – unless it’s gardening season. Then it looks like even those of us who enjoy genealogy do get out to garden more often. Or, at the very least, we’re searching gardening terms more often during the warm seasons.
Next, I had to look up genealogy vs. horticulture. Because if gardening beat genealogy, surely genealogy could beat the subset of horticulture. Yup – genealogy has horticulture hobbyists beat in search popularity. Barely.
But let’s not stop here. Let’s do a group comparison (on a worldwide level) of some popular crafting hobbies.
So genealogy is about as popular as quilting (maybe slightly less popular) but significantly less popular than either crocheting or drawing.
Next, let’s check out some trending searches’ popularity and compare them to genealogy – just so we can really see where genealogy falls on the popularity scale.
Comparing the Popularity of Genealogy and Trending Searches
Next, I decided to look up the popularity of genealogy queries compared to that of the popularity of trending searches.
It’s an election year, so let’s look at presidential election based searches. Looks like genealogy used to be more popular – but now they’re about the same. Except for during an election year – and then it’s not a surprise that presidential elections become hugely popular.
At the time of publication, 2020’s spike in presidential election searches hasn’t hit yet – but it should be here soon. Genealogy doesn’t stand a chance.
Let’s look at two more trending searches: kale (which I don’t particularly enjoy eating despite its purported health benefits) and keto diets.
Looks like kale’s heyday wasn’t as big as I thought it was. Even so, it’s currently more popular than genealogy, which is sad (to me, anyway!).
Keto is a popular search term. We’re not going to argue for or against it here, as this is a genealogy website. This graph is simply to show you that, compared to keto, genealogy barely registers on the scale.
Will Genealogy Be Popular in the Future?
Does this mean that genealogy will continue to on its current trajectory? Or will it become more popular in the future?
I’m not entirely sure. I would guess that things will at least stay where they’re at – if not improve. Google Trends shows that it’s a hobby with staying power – even if overall interest levels have gone down since 2004.
However, as technology changes and genealogy continues to become more accessible and appealing to more people, it will keep on keeping on.
Here’s proof of that – look at the interest in both genealogy and DNA worldwide.
Looking at our DNA is a huge topic right now. It’s getting more and more people interested in who we are on a molecular level. That’s pretty awesome. Sure, it’s still not as popular as soccer. But that’s okay – because it’s still hugely popular for those of us who are interested in it.
Genealogy’s Popularity with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Finally, a note about genealogy and the members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
A large portion of genealogists (including us) are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogy is, very literally, part of our religion.
Genealogy will forever be a popular thing to do among members because of our enduring belief that families can be forever. In order to help our families be together forever, though, we do have to perform the research, rediscover who they are, and then perform vicarious ordinances on their behalf.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who has work done on their behalf will accept it. Rather, it gives them a choice: to accept or deny the work done for them. That’s an involved topic for another post, though.
Suffice it to say that genealogy always has been (and always will be) amazingly popular to members of the Church. And so even though the global popularity of genealogy may be on the decline, that’s okay. There are still tens of millions of people who will keep doing the research for the rest of humanity.
So, fellow members of the Church, keep on doing that genealogy. We’ll keep it showing up on the Google Trend charts and keep it on everyone’s minds as best we can.
Conclusion: Genealogy is Popular
So is genealogy popular? You better believe it. It’s not as popular as most sports. And it’s definitely not as popular as pornography. It’s barely as popular as some crafting hobbies.
Even so, genealogy is still popular with millions of people worldwide. And that’s enough to say that genealogy is most definitely a popular pastime. For some of us, at least.