Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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My thanks to everyone for all the positive feedback on the Rose Vrana article -- greatly appreciated.

One interesting phenomenon is that an overwhelming percentage of the feedback that the article has generated -- whether in the form of comments posted on Slate, e-mails sent to me, or requests to be added to the Permanent Record mailing list -- has come from women. This continues a trend that began last fall, when responses to the first five Slate articles also came primarily from female readers, by a ratio of about five or six to one.

Part of the reason for this, I'm sure, is that Manhattan Trade was a girls' school, so the stories I'm telling are women's stories. But I think there's more to it than that: As my research and reporting have continued, I've found that the de facto family historians for most of the families I've contacted have been women. Sometimes I'll track down a Manhattan Trade student's son, for example, and he'll say something like, "Sure, you can interview me, but the one you should really talk to is my sister. She's the one who keeps all the old records and photo albums." This has now happened so often that it can't simply be a coincidence. For whatever reason, women seem more connected to their family histories -- and, if the response to Permanent Record is any indication, to the concept of family history in general.

This has come as a bit of a surprise to me. For reasons not worth explaining here, nobody in my own family has been particularly interested in genealogy or family trees, so I didn't realize that there's a gender gap when it comes to this stuff. I mean, I'm certainly not trying to write the material with any kind of targeted gender appeal. And hey, I'm really into Permanent Record and I'm a guy!

Of course, just because most of the people responding to the articles are women, that doesn't necessarily mean that most of the people reading the articles are women. Maybe female readers are simply more likely to engage with the project in the form of comments, e-mails, etc.

I'd be interested in hearing what other folks have to say about this. Feel free to post your comments, whatever your gender.


  1. It works that way in my family. My mom has been really into tracing her lineage, along with a couple of her cousins -- one male, one female.

  2. Ironically, I latched onto Genealogy on my own as a young woman of just 22, more than 30 years after my father had traced his entire ancestry back 12 generations. I never knew he had an interest. Once I showed an interest, he donated all of his research to me! I've been in love with historical objects and the stories they tell ever since.

    I've spent the past decade scouring antique malls and yard sales for pieces of history I could tell the story for and reunite with families around the world. I am so intrigued and proud of the wonderful series you have written. All of the time and love you have poured into it is indicative of your excellence as a Journalist and a person of great integrity. I wish I had known of your story sooner! If you're looking for volunteers to help you track down more of the girls, just say the word. I'm endlessly fascinated by your stories. Thanks so much for sharing!