DOI: 10.3390/genealogy8010003 ISSN: 2313-5778

Amateur Family Genealogists Researching Their Family History: A Scoping Review of Motivations and Psychosocial Impacts

Barbara A. Mitchell, Boah Kim
  • General Medicine

A rapidly rising number of people are engaging in family genealogical research and have purchased home-based DNA testing kits due to increased access to online resources and consumer products. The purpose of this systematic scoping review is to identify and elucidate the motivations (i.e., pathways, reasons for conducting family history research) and the consequences (i.e., psychosocial impacts) of participating in this activity by amateur (unpaid) family genealogists. Studies published from January 2000 to June 2023 were included in our review, using the PRISMA methodology outlined by the Joanna Briggs Institute’s (JBI) Reviewer Manual. A total of 1986 studies were identified using selected keywords and electronic databases. A full-text review was conducted of 73 studies, 26 of which met our eligibility criteria. The multiple dominant themes that emerged from the data analysis are organized into five categories: (1) the motivations for practicing family history research, (2) emotional responses to family secrets and previously unknown truths, (3) impacts on relationship with the family of origin and other relatives, (4) impacts on personal identity (including ethnic/racialized and family/social), and (5) identity exploration and reconstruction. Finally, these themes are connected to broader theoretical/conceptual linkages, and further, an agenda for future research inquiry is developed.

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