google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html Monday Madness - Are We Overcoming the Genealogy Stereotype? | The Armchair Genealogist

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Monday Madness - Are We Overcoming the Genealogy Stereotype?

I would really like to see the stereotype of genealogists being crusty old farts with nothing better to do but look at dusty documents dismissed (since I consider myself neither old nor crusty). Tell a teenager that genealogy is about old documents, history, geography and old people and you will have turned them off completely. However, tell them genealogy is about unsolved mysteries, investigation, puzzles, foreign lands and dead people and you just might get a different response. Add in the element of the internet, and we may have a new audience.

There is something happening in my home, a shift of sorts. For the last 4 weeks, I have been sitting down to watch Who Do You Think You Are? Since there is rarely anything interesting on Friday evenings, and genealogy television trumps in my home, my dominance of the channel changer, on Friday nights for now remains unchallenged.

The executives at NBC would be happy to hear that they have a captured the attention of my 14-year-old daughter and my husband. Up until 4 weeks ago, the only TV show we uniformly sat down to watch together is LOST. When week 3 rolled around and my daughter was reminding me that WDYTYA? was starting in 15 minutes, I knew something was happening. I have quietly been sitting back and watching this shift in my household. My husband certainly will not plan his week around the show, but knowing we are sitting down to watch, he will join us and does enjoy the show.

Awhile, back I remember reading an article by Thomas at Geneabloggers about drawing in the younger set to genealogy. He remarked that the approach of the CSI shows, and how genealogy has many similar characteristics, could possibly be the angle that needs to be taken to draw in the younger generation to family history. I remember reading the article and agreeing completely.

Therefore, I have to wonder with my daughter’s interest in WDYTYA? perhaps that change is occurring -and by the way, she is a huge fan of the CSI shows.

Would she have found this show on her own if her mother had not been controlling the remote? If this show were up against shows that are more popular, would it hold its own? I doubt not. For now, it is doing very well in its Friday night time slot, and I believe offering up some family viewing that has been lacking lately in television.

However, I’m not assuming this change in my daughter is happening based purely on a passing interest in this recent TV show. She has shown some prior interest, particularly when it comes to tombstone hunting. I have two teenage daughters and they have both accompanied me to cemeteries, they love the mystery of looking for the tombstones (remember investigation, mystery and dead people). I believe this offers more evidence that an interest in genealogy, does lie beneath the surface.

A few weeks before the start of this show, I was discussing our family history book, and how many  booksI needed to order when it goes to print next month. I suggested that maybe I would purchase one for each of my daughters. My youngest was taken back, why would she want one of these books? - That along with the roll of her eyes convinced me she wasn’t about to take up my passion anytime soon.

A few weeks later the show started, and two weeks after that when I pulled out the book to proof read she picked it up. She sat quietly on the couch for 30 minutes, slowly turning every page. This book is full of graphics, pictures, and timelines, it is full colour and very appealing to the eye, and therefore draws you in (but that is a completely different post). Her interest in the family history book was another indication that she was turning toward the light.

What next, how do I keep this change happening? How do I keep her engaged? I think since technology and the computer is of utmost importance in keeping a teenager interested, I will introduce her to Since I already have a subscription, I can invite her to share mine and perhaps give her an ancestor to research along with some basic instruction to get her started. Is genealogy slowly creeping up on her and taking hold?

I realize perhaps WDYTYA? is not a show going after the young teenage demographic and this younger set is not in the position to purchase subscriptions to, a sponsor of the show. Nevertheless, I hazard to suggest that at the very least genealogy is starting to look cool to one such teenager. The dust has been shaken off; the experts on the show are not so crusty after all and perhaps the stereotype is falling away.

Imagine if the teenage population attached themselves to this show. Like other things teenagers touch, it most certainly will go viral. Perhaps if the WDYTYA? gets picked up for a second season, they may wish to consider a younger celebrity, say a Miley Cyrus, or one of those vampires, imagine the viewership, and what that could do for genealogy.


GrannyPam said...

There has been a small spark of interest around here, too. We do not have teenagers, but my supportive husband has watched with me, and a grown daughter has watched bits with us. This is the daughter that asks, "Do we have a relatives who are alive?"

Thomas MacEntee said...

Wonderful post Lynn - and I do think the CSI angle needs to be worked more in order to breakdown the stereotype of what a genealogy is.

Plus kudos for using the word "fart" in a blog post! I love it!

Sanjay Maharaj said...

I think you are on the right track in terms of repackaging and marketing what genealogy is all about to the younger audience. Use technology to leverage this effort

Heather Rojo said...

Loved your post! I had a special interest group on genealogy for Girl Scouts a few years back (a special interest group is a troop that forms for one short time- in this case for just several months) I had girls ages 12-17 come with a Mom, grandma, other relative and we had a blast! We visited NEHGS and the public library in town, and presented correctly those girls were hooked! I even had one girl (now a young woman in college) email me with a few questions last fall and I was happy she was still persuing her family history.

Mindy said...

Maybe you could recreate a show with one of your own ancestors for her, like a treasure hunt. Or maybe introduce her to Newspaper Archive (it is free through many libraries)...that's where I think the younger generation would excel.
I bet you're right about having any twilight or younger star on the show. Maybe even the characters from Harry Potter.

Mary said...

A fun post with a lot of good points. Good luck with your daughter developing more interest.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Pam,Thomas,Heather and Mindy, for your comments and for sharing in my enthusiasm to breakdown the stereotype.

mom said...

It really helped to have Kelley Clarkston and Jim Parsons , they were amazing and the teens relateto them.