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Dublin 4, Ireland

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Networking for Leisure:
Community and Information Seeking in Genealogy

Dr. Crystal Fulton
School of Information and Library Studies
University College Dublin

Phase 1: Summary

Purpose of the Study:

The Networking for Leisure project was initiated to explore the information seeking behaviour of adults who are researching their genealogy, in particular their Irish ancestry, in their leisure time. To understand the information world of amateur genealogists, this study explores the interpersonal networking of this group and the extension of their social networks to other areas of their lives, such as lifelong learning.

Networking for Leisure employs a variety of methodological approaches and data collection techniques to exploring the question of information seeking in leisure. Phase 1 of the study, funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS), involved gathering data through the Internet and in telephone interviews.

This report summarizes the findings of Phase 1 of the study. In the meantime, research in subsequent project phases is ongoing and results will be posted on the project web site in due course.

Phase 1 - Participants:

85 amateur genealogists participated in the listserv discussion during this phase of the project, of which 24 people participated further in telephone interviews.
Interviewees were located in major Irish Diaspora destinations, including Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom.
Majority of all participants were married
Participants often researched family trees for themselves as well as for their loved ones.
Nearly all participants were aged 50+. The oldest participant age was in the nineties.
Participants were generally split between retired persons and people employed full-time and in the later stages of a career.
Nearly all participants were working or had worked in positions, which required a minimum of basic and often more advanced information skills, including business and banking, health services, education, and legal services.
80% of participants had achieved one or more higher education qualifications. However, only a few participants considered themselves to be expert researchers:
The majority of participants reported incomes of up to 40,000 euro per annum.

Phase 1 - Findings:

Community existed as a whole network of amateur genealogists, but also as small communities of people researching the same family names within the larger genealogical community. While some participants did adopt roles as information leaders or champions, the majority of participants were focussed on information retrieval.

A central focus of the hobby was ongoing learning in support of the variety of research and technical skills needed to pursue the hobby effectively. Participation in various circles of research existing in this hobby facilitated learning among members.

Amateur genealogists in this study were very often not information poor. Participants were, on occasion, frustrated by problems, such as lack of immediate access to information. On the hand, participants were strong users of the Internet, and emphasized instant access to information and people as the main advantage of this resource.

For more information about ongoing research or to participate in Networking for Leisure, please feel free to contact the project leader at:

Dr. Crystal Fulton
UCD School of Information and Library Studies
University College Dublin
Belfield, Dublin 4

Project Web Site: www.ucd.ie/gennetstudy
Email: gennetstudy@ucd.ie or Crystal.Fulton@ucd.ie
Telephone: +353 1 716 7593