The USGenWeb Project, Free Genealogy Online
Home About Us States Projects Researchers Volunteers

USGenWeb Project - Release 5 10/04/96

Overview of the USGenWeb Project

The goal of the USGenWeb project is to create a global library for genealogy research. This library provides electronic versions of genealogical resources and volunteers to answer research questions via the Internet. The Archives maintain original source data (transcriptions of censuses, wills, etc.) and will be the foundation and material source for publishing of genealogy efforts.

The USGenWeb Project will provide resources for each state (and each county or equivalent) in a format that makes national publishing projects possible.

Who were your ancestors, and what was their life like? The answer to this simple question is not easily found. The course of a genealogical project is slow and tedious. Public records are searched, manuscripts are read, and books are studied. Contact with other genealogists is sought. The information gleaned from these sources is organized, and theories are formed. More research is needed to prove or disprove the theory. As more information is collected, the answer to the question slowly begins to unravel. Finally, after countless sources have been assimilated, the information is finally ready for publication so others can benefit.

By far, the greatest amount of time spent on a genealogical project is in research. Originals of public records are scattered throughout the country and access to them is available to only those able to travel to them. Placing transcriptions or copies of regional records in various repositories makes research possible at more locations; however, the information is still not accessible to the entire population. The time spent searching for each individual record is usually greater than the amount of time spent utilizing the record.

The Internet can make access to records easy. The USGenWeb Project seeks to leverage this new great new medium to the advantage of genealogy researchers in several ways:

Your family and mine might have no names in common, but we might find ourselves linked by the database of a third person. So, if all three databases are online, and if a mechanism exists to link those databases together, then we effectively have a single database. It doesn't matter where the data actually resides. What matters is that we have access to it and that it is organized in a manner that makes research easy.

Goals and Objectives for the Project.

Establish the US State Page - completed
Establish State Pages - completed
Establish Local Pages etc... - 43% completed

"Genealogists Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread" - A History of the USGenWeb Project

The USGenWeb project had its roots in discussions that occurred on the GenWeb mailing list hosted by Gary Hoffman. In March and April of 1996, Jeff Murphy laid out a framework and began to solicit volunteers for the KYGenWeb project.

Through Jeff's vision and organization, the KyGenWeb Project took shape in an amazing 90 days. Here's a quote from his posting to Roots-L on "April Fools Day" '96.

"The structure revolves around linking together databases which have people who were born, married, or died in KY. To facilitate the placement of these databases... we have started by creating a master page for all counties in Kentucky... This will give all KY researchers a single entry point to all counties in the state.
If you would like to have your data available on the web, and have names in KY, please look at the master page to see if a county has been created yet for your data. Contact the page owner and talk to them about linking to your data, and about locating space on the web where your data can be placed...
W
e are also looking for some software support, to help us implement a special LINK feature, which will help tie together individuals in different databases and provide an html pointer to the other database...
This is an opportunity to create a working model for the rest of the country, and other states may follow suit..."

In June, 1996, the USGenWeb began as an outgrowth of the KYGenWeb project. It, too, has had phenomenal growth. As we celebrate the 6 month birthday mark for this initiative, we have almost 1,345 counties being hosted by county coordinator volunteers all over the country. Here are some recent statistics:

From September 1, 1996 to October 1, 1996

56,000 people have loaded the USGenWeb page.

There have been 350,000 redirects (people who have used the USGenWeb system to visit state pages).

Our page for introducing the USGenWeb Project to new volunteers received over 5,000 visits.

Individual pages for 50% of the states are more than 36% complete
Individual pages for 20% of the states are more than 50% complete

The TOP TEN States are:

Kentucky - 100% complete
Washington DC - 100% complete
Indiana - 99% complete
Tennessee - 91% complete
Mississippi - 87% complete
West Virginia - 80% complete
Virginia - 80% complete
Connecticut - 75% complete
New York - 73% complete
Maine - 69% complete

For the past month, we have had an average of more than 2,500 queries per week posted on the various state pages. The most recent week numbered 2,775.

The USGenWeb project introduces several new ideas to genealogy research on the WEB:

  1. Organization of data on a statewide county-by-county basis. Up to now, the data that have been placed on the web has focused on a particular family name or a specific locality.
  2. Organization of data for research. Prior to the introduction of this project, very little data were available for actual research, and the available data were not organized effectively.
  3. Nationwide coordination of volunteers in support of the project. The USGenWeb represents far and away the largest, most focused effort by volunteers to organize genealogical material. Prior to this time, several individuals had created some significant sites, but they were essentially one-person initiatives.

Fifty-one coordinators (every state and Washington, DC) have their own state page. They are seeking out volunteers for every county in their state. From the USGenWeb site (http://www.usgenweb.com), you can go directly to a state's homepage. Take New York state for example:

NYGenWeb- http://www.usgenweb.com/ny

From the NYGenWeb page at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nygenweb, you will find:

General information about NYS resources
How to volunteer for the NYGenWeb project
How to subscribe to internet mailing lists for NY researchers
62 counties, about 1/2 of which are hosted (in various stages of readiness)

The status of a county may be any of the following:

1) No volunteer yet
2) A volunteer, but no homepage published yet
3) A volunteer that has their page on line.

Counties that are already online will have a direct link from the state page. County pages in general have the following

  1. Map of the county
  2. History of the county
  3. Names of the towns and cities in the county
  4. Postal addresses or internet links to:
    1. Historical or Genealogical societies
    2. County or municipal offices
    3. Other links of interest to people researching in that area
  5. A page where you can post queries to request information from other researchers
  6. A page where you can list the surnames you are researching from that county
  7. A page where researchers (like you) can list the books they own.

Organization

Our organization can best be described as "webby." The individuals who populate our organization tend to have "webby" personalities. That is, there is a sense of interlinking of interests and a spirit of teamwork. The "rules and regulations" are few and open to change-- the biggest rule is "If you want to play, play nice!" We use a lot of smileys :-) grins and we like it that way :-)

Our structure is geographic: a user can enter WorldGenWeb, hotlink to USGenWeb, then to TNGenWeb, then to Lincoln County, TN. The county page may also offer hotlinks to towns since, in some states (New England especially), the town is the basic genealogical unit rather than the county.

Each web page is maintained by a coordinator. With over 3,000 US counties, it is futile to expect consistency-- and, in any case, not within the spirit of our organization. Yet, the user will find a great deal of similarity since sample pages and guidelines are available to make the coordinator's life easier. State coordinators support county coordinators and mailing lists are provided (by Dale Schneider and others) for all geographic levels (except counties, which are too numerous). For example, the mail list usgenweb@nebr.dsenter.com allows US state coordinators a place to discuss state-level concerns; and, magen-l@nebr.dsenter.com allows Massachusetts county coordinators a forum for discussion.

WorldGenWeb

Dale Schneider maintains this web page. This project consists of over 200 countries. Few countries have coordinators now since the page has only existed for a short time.

WorldGenWeb: http://www.dsenter.com/worldgenweb/index.html
Dale Schneider, WorldGenWeb Coordinator:
mailto:DALE.SCHNEIDER@dsenter.com

USGenWeb

John Rigdon coordinates the USGenWeb Project. All 50 states and DC have coordinators and active web pages. The main USGenWeb page is located at http://www.usgenweb.com This site is maintained by Dale Schneider. The USGenWeb Archives (see below) is affiliated with USGenWeb and coordinated by Linda Lewis. Help files are maintained by Nancy Trice.

USGenWeb Archives

Unlike our web pages, which are dispersed across the Internet, the Archives is located at RootsWeb. The Archives is organized in the same format as the web sites.

Archives Main Table of Contents: http://usgwarchives.net/usfiles.htm

Here's a sample of what's in the Archives now:

Wills and Cemetery listings from Columbia County, GA
Cemetery listings from Ornarga Funeral Home, IL
Tax lists from Breckinridge County, KY
Wills from Calloway County, KY
Cemetery listings from Harrison County, KY
Census records from Orleans, MA
Census records from Olmsted County, MN
Census Records from Washington County, NY
Census Records from Rowan County, NC
Early Colonists of SC
Census records from Spartanburg County, SC
Census records from York County, SC
Census records from SD
Obituaries from Campbell County, SD
Newspaper Extracts from Lincoln County, TN
Civil War Rosters from VA
Newspaper articles listing CSA casualties in VA
Birth records from Essex County, VA
Census records from Jamestown, VA

RootsWeb

This site in California is maintained by Brian Leverich. The Archives are located here and Brian also offers free space to individuals for any other USGenWeb purpose including state and county web pages.

Genealogist's Index to the World Wide Web

This site is hosted in Nebraska and is designed to offer a nationwide index to the names and URLs that make up the USGenWeb project and other genealogy sites. It is being built and maintained by John Rigdon. The Index will provide the framework for local, statewide, and national linking of data that are being organized and published by the various county coordinators.

Call for Volunteers

In conclusion, the USGenWeb Project will require helping new people set up databases. It will require some funding. It will require that all data be accessible on line. It will require some organization, and it will require a lot of work by thousands of volunteers.

We need you to make this project successful. Here's how you can help.

Make and distribute copies of this article.

Volunteer to "host" a county page.

Volunteer to provide a lookup resource.

Volunteer to transcribe original records for the Archives.

Thanks to the following individuals who have contributed to this article. They are all a part of the USGenWeb project and helped in its creation. Also many thanks to the hundreds of other volunteers who are working to make the USGenWeb Project a success.

Joy Fisher
Linda Lewis
Barry McGhee
Billie R. McNamara
Kim Harris Myers
John Rigdon
George Waller

USGenWeb Project - Release 5 10/04/96

+Top