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Berkshire Family Historian
December 2002

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, December 2002 Contents

Membership Survey

Eddie Spackman

In recent years there has been much debate on the need to redefine the Society’s publications policy. As the computer becomes used as a research tool by an increasing number of members we decided to ask whether publications should be issued on microfiche, CD ROM, floppy disk, in paper form or on the Internet as Pay-per-View. To answer these questions we also needed to discover what proportion of members used computers. So it was decided to send a questionnaire with the June issue of the Berkshire Family Historian. The response exceeded all our expectations with over 1100 questionnaires returned. So what are the results?


The most popular with more than eight out often of those who answered was printed material. This was followed by seven out of ten for CD ROMs and around four out often for fiche and disk. Only a third opted for Pay-per-View. Fiche was relatively unpopular. It was interesting to note that members living in the Oxford postcode area were more in favour of fiche (no doubt related to the large number of parish registers and other research material available from the Oxfordshire Family History Society). Pay-per-View was the least popular and several indicated an unwillingness to pay for access to records over the Internet by credit, debit card or even voucher. But perhaps experience with the 1901 census will change the minds of some members. Although there was little difference in preference between the sexes it was apparent that older members were rather less in favour of computer media than younger ones.

Computer usage

It was revealing, and perhaps a little surprising, that eight out of ten of the sample use a computer for family history research and more than six out of ten use a computer program for storing their data. Also three-quarters of those over 65 use a computer. However, only half of nearly 1700 who have already renewed their membership supplied an email address. We are left to speculate why that percentage is so much lower. We would like to know why. Perhaps many use a computer at work and cannot use their email address for personal purposes. Or do a significant number use a computer in libraries, Internet cafes or at the homes of friends or relations? Of course some will choose to keep their address private and not to divulge it to us. It came as no surprise that Family Tree Maker is the most used program. It is used by four out of ten of those who told us which program they use, one out of five use Generations and just under one in ten use PAF and Brother’s Keeper. A few used word processors, spreadsheets or databases.

This is only a sample of the information from the detailed statistical summary that has been generated. It was a useful exercise and will influence the way we publish research material in the future. We would like to express our gratitude to all those who responded. If you have comments or would like more detail on specific aspects please email to or send comments to the email discussion group.

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Berkshire Family History Society 2002

created 10th December 2002