In recent years there has been much debate on
the need to redefine the Societys
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.
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 Brothers Keeper. A
few used word processors, spreadsheets or
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.