Genealogical Research, Ancestry.com, and Archives
Type of Degreethesis
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Genealogy is one of the most popular leisure activities in the world. Until the 1990s, genealogical research was conducted either by visiting at or corresponding with physical repositories. The rise of the Internet, particularly the growing popularity of Ancestry.com, challenges archival institutions’ role as a main research location. To discover how much Ancestry.com has affected genealogical research and archives, this study includes a survey of genealogical researchers at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Although the survey yielded useful information, the results cannot be considered as representative of genealogists as a group because of the limited number of participants (thirty) and the administration of the survey at only one location. Instead, the survey serves as a pilot project to promote further study of Ancestry.com. The survey showed that most of the participants use Ancestry.com, yet relatively few have subscriptions to the Web site. Instead they use the free access available at the archives. Participants like Ancestry.com’s ease of use, speed, and access to numerous records. They consider the site another tool to help them in their genealogical research, a tool that will not replace their need to research at physical repositories. Survey participants continue to visit archival repositories to receive help from staff and to access original records and records not available online. Thus, while Ancestry.com has made genealogical research easier, it has not replaced the need to visit archives for the participants in the survey.