Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Is Genealogy a hobby or pastime?

I know there are people who make a living from other people's hobbies. We were in a very large "hobby" and craft store the other day and there were lines of people at the checkout stands. Genealogy is often categorized as a "hobby" and there certainly are professional genealogists. But is genealogy really a hobby? From time to time you will hear a comment that says that genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies or that it is the second most popular hobby in the United States.

From the standpoint of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family history or genealogy should not be classified as a hobby any more than attending the Temple or paying tithing would fall in the "hobby" category. But for the rest of the world, is genealogy nothing more than a pastime or hobby?

If you do a Google search for the terms "top favorite hobby" you will get hundreds of websites listing hobbies, such as "The 50 Most Popular Hobbies" and "Top 10 Most Popular Hobbies of 2014." Over the past few years, I have written about this topic and every time I do such a search, I very seldom find genealogy included in any of the lists, unless the person compiling the list is a genealogist. I was interested in reading the comments on The 50 Most Popular Hobbies post to see a comment that said the following:
You forgot genealogy. A LOT of $$ is spend each year by ppl looking up their family history. Just a few years ago, the #1 hobby was gardening and the #2 was genealogy. I don’t consider watching movies a hobby. It what lot of ppl do that do not have hobbies. Walking isn’t so much a hobby as a form of exercise and keeping healthy.
This comment reflects the common statement about the #2 position of genealogy in the hobby universe. At various times, I have tried to trace down the origin of the statement about the #2 rank of genealogy as a hobby without success. See my post entitled, "Hobby Claims about Genealogy are Unfounded." But I am absolutely certain that sometime in the near future I will see the claim in print or hear someone repeat it in a conference somewhere. From time to time, the statement makes its way into print. Here is a quote from, a question and answer website answering the question as to "What are the most popular hobbies in America?"
Second only to gardening, Americans are jumping on the genealogy bandwagon by storm. As baby boomers move into retirement age, some of them seek a connection to their ancestors. Popular websites like and offer large databases of census and public record data for a monthly subscription fee.
There no authority cited for the conclusion. Given the vague definition of a hobby as a regular activity done for enjoyment during one's leisure time, it is obvious that the way some people do genealogical research would certainly qualify the activity as a hobby. But I have always had a difficulty in classifying what I do as a hobby. The breadth of human activities is always surprising to me, but genealogy is a fundamental social activity. But it seems to me, possibly because of my membership in the Church, that I cannot equate it with my other hobbies. I also think that classifying it as a hobby denigrates the religious importance of searching out our family history.

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