The Online Genealogist

John Brugliera

The Online Genealogist is tired of hearing “Only 10% of the genealogy records can be researched online”

CGS_Iceberg                 Many thanks to CGS!

Nearly any time a “traditional” genealogist bashes the majority of research being done online, this is often used to back up their argument.  “Yeah!  Just a TIP of the ICEBERG!!”

Where are the citations to back up this wonderful graphic?  How is the tip size being calculated?  Where is the research and study data?  I’ve heard no crunching numbers.  And who keeps passing this along as fact?

First off, the 10% figure is nowhere to be found in this blog post.  Must be one of those extras added as the tale traveled.  Looks to be less than that on the iceberg itself, but as I won’t be breaking out my compass and protractor; 10% will work.

And I believe we’re strictly talking about United States records here?  The worldwide figure for records online is probably a tiny .0010% number.

With that, how accurate do I believe the iceberg portrayal to be?  Oh, about 10%.

First off, did you notice the date of that blog post?  Being into genealogy, of course you did!

27 Mar 2009

This was created over five years ago.  As a poster.  Which is still being sold online.

Genealogy records are being digitized as I type.  (And surely much much faster.)  Can you count how many have been added over the last 5 years?

No, I didn’t think so.  Neither can I, but I’d bet the big bucks that massive mystery number will at least double going into the next 5 years!

So, what percentage would I give the iceberg tip now?25Seriously!

But wait – it’s going to grow even more!…

There should be adjusted percentage points when the USEFULNESS of each record set is taken into account.  Which records will be most beneficial for the largest number of researchers?

Many of the biggies are online now.  Most US censuses, a nice variety of vital records, lots of city directories, a huge selection of newspapers and hundreds of wonderful historic maps are easily accessible via the internet for the viewing!

Q:  Which would be more likely to help us in our research, the 1880 Federal Census for Chicago -or- Member Directory of the Greene Street Philatelist Club of Beaufort, South Carolina, Autumn, 1727?

A:  Duh!

Q:  Shouldn’t census records alone make that iceberg tip even larger?

A:  Why, yes.  Yes, they should.

With the Usefulness Factor included, how large should the iceberg tip be NOW?


Not much of an iceberg tip now, is it?

There’s more information online than you think.  WAY more.  I know this because I keep finding more things online!

How many have gone to, typed in a name, got only a couple of search results and then cried “Online genealogy researching SUCKS!”.  Or they do a quickie Google search, not realizing how much of the internet Google can actually get at?  Isn’t it something like…10%?

No big secret to online family history research.  You have to know where to look.  And be able to get there quickly.  Oh yeah, and know genealogy.

OK, so maybe that 50% is slightly high, but regardless – that iceberg tip is no longer a valid analogy for online genealogy research material availability.  (You knew I had to be going somewhere with this fuzzy math.)

In any case, the above outdated and misleading poster needs to be TOSSED!!!!!

Or modified, at the very least…

Genealogy Research 2014with apologies to Elizabeth Gorrell

Others say it’s only 5%…*sigh*


If you don’t believe this, put me to the test.  I’m always up for a challenge!



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3 thoughts on “The Online Genealogist is tired of hearing “Only 10% of the genealogy records can be researched online”

  1. Marylene on said:

    “Great minds think alike” ^ ^
    Wholeheartedly agree with you John, the impact digitisation projects are having on genealogy research is impressive. As a librarian, I’d say we have to be careful to make those documents *findable* by everyone who’s interested in them and teach the general public on how to source them effectively. However, as a Web treasure hunter, I say “bring it on”!

  2. I’m sorry, but since we don’t know the volume of total records available and “usefulness” is subjective, I don’t think you can say that 50% of what a genealogist is going to want is going to be online anymore than 5-10% is offline. *With that said*, I believe there is more offline than online. Sure the census is online, but the majority of newspapers isn’t. Sure transcripts and indices of BMDs abound, but the actual image is harder to find online (if at all). Varying degrees of privacy laws, the difficulty of transcribing/scanning full diaries and narratives, and the areas around the U.S. and the world at large that have no digital records at all, suggest that not considering offline sources is to cut yourself off at the knees and keep the full story of your ancestor always out of reach. If you are just a name collector and a 10 year snapshot is good enough, well done you. But if you want to dive deeper and know why a relative chose as they did, offline resources are going to be imperative.

    Let’s go one step further and consider only what is available from one repository: the LDS. FamilySearch has a fraction of what is completely available from the genealogical endeavors of the church. No where near 50% of their collections.

  3. Had to pass this link along.

    Some excellent comments on there. Others? Errrrrr, uhhhhhh…

    Mission accomplished – heh.

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