Friday, January 6, 2012

USGenWeb is Alive and Well

This afternoon I'm featuring a post by guest blogger, Lisa Frank.  I met Lisa on Twitter and she currently lives in my home state. Lisa is here to dispel the misconceptions about USGenWeb.  I hope your enjoy her post and visit her blog afterward.

USGenWeb is alive and well!!! Why the excitement, you ask? Recently I read a blog post in which a commenter was lamenting that the USGenWeb volunteers are extinct. WHAT?!!! I realized at that moment that there must be researchers who are unaware that USGenWeb is still going strong.

USGenWeb is a set of genealogy websites provided by a group of volunteers. The idea originated in 1996 with the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database Project which later became the Kentucky GenWeb Project. The idea is to provide free, non-commercial genealogical and historical content for everyone. Today the USGenWeb Project includes sites for every state and county. Family Tree Magazine recently named the USGenWeb Project to its 101 Best Websites for 2011.

The USGenWeb sites are organized by county and state, with each site coordinated by one or more volunteers. The main website is the USGenWeb Project.  From here you can navigate to a specific state and from the state page to a specific county. State sites contain information related to state histories, family reunions, maps of the counties, and resources for posting queries in which the county is unknown. Some of the state sites offer blogs and e-newsletters that you can sign up to receive.

County sites may offer county histories, transcriptions, links to county resources, photographs, marriages, and other genealogical data. Each site offers different types of information, depending on the coordinator's research, or what items other volunteers have offered. For example, on the Mecklenburg County site that I maintain, I am in the process of adding a list of Vietnam War Casualties, all of which were provided by a volunteer. Many of the sites now offer the ability to follow new additions via RSS such as google reader.

The USGenWeb Project maintains a number of special projects that are sponsored at the national level, such as the USGenWeb Kidz Project and The USGenWeb African American Griots Project. The main USGenWeb Project site also provides help for genealogy researchers, found by clicking on the "Researchers" tab at the top of the main page.

Since USGenWeb is completely volunteer based, the websites are sometimes on different platforms, but that makes it all the more interesting to peruse. Another result of this volunteer effort is that many of the state and county coordinators are seeking out additional materials to add to their site. The County Coordinators do add what they can to the site from their own research, however the efforts of one person are necessarily limited. If you have anything you can offer to the USGenWeb volunteers, first determine which state or county, then contact the coordinator. Examples of items contributed to the USGenWeb sites include transcriptions (deeds, wills, probates, diaries), photographs, personal genealogies, maps, county histories, church listings, marriages… any data that falls into the realm of public domain. Volunteers may also include their contact information on a look-ups index.

What if you want to volunteer? I thought you'd never ask! Here is a page at the USGenWeb Project main site that explains the many ways volunteers can help, including coordinating a state or county website, participating in The Archives Project, and any of several Special Projects.

If you wish to coordinate a USGenWeb site, first select the state you are interested in then look for a link to 'volunteer opportunities,' or 'adoption,' or go to the list of counties to see which counties are not currently managed. Since every site is a little different you may have to search around for the adoptable counties, or just contact the state coordinator and request more information. Both state sites and county sites can be adopted. In some cases there is also a wish list if the county you are interested in is not currently adoptable. Guidelines for State Coordinators (SC) and County Coordinators (CC) are available on the main USGenWeb site on the Volunteer page, under Project Business to the right of the page.

If you were previously unaware of the USGenWeb project, or have not visited lately, I encourage you to take some time to look around!

Lisa Frank is a finance professor, genealogist, and mom to an amazing 4 year old. In her oodles of spare time outside of her primary vocation she trains for marathons, volunteers for The USGenWeb Project, and is Secretary/Treasurer of the Second Life chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. She writes the genealogy blog “1 Ancestry 2 Little Time,” among other non-genealogy blogs, and is on Twitter.  


  1. Marian and Lisa,

    Thanks for dispelling this misconception, which is more widespread than you might believe. I find the USGenWeb sites to be some of the most valuable online genealogical resources. And the volunteers are among the most dedicated folks in the community. I have learned as nearly as much from USGenWeb sites as I have from repository research or other online research.

  2. A an ex USGenWeb volunteer, I am speaking from experience and observation. USGenWeb need MORE volunteer State and county coordinators plus more people to transcribe census and cemeteries.
    If any of you have spare time volunteer , also volunteer to send old pictures and family histories, deeds, obits, bible records etc to your local county and state USGenWeb. thank you.

  3. Thanks so much, Lisa and Marian for helping to dispel the myth that the USGenWeb has gone missing. We ARE alive and well and working out little fingers to nubs. We have lots to offer and we are adding new information daily.

    Mocavo does not index our sites (not sure why), so we are often missed by folks relying exclusively on Mocavo for their genealogy searches.

    My name is on my TXFannin GenWeb site, but I have a dozen active volunteers working with me to make the site better every day. I suspect many USGenWeb are the same. We are an all volunteer army but we are dedicated soldiers. Many of our county coordinators have been volunteering for 15 years and more.

    We so much appreciate the "shout out". Thanks to Lisa for the great post and to Marian for the great platform!

    Suzie Henderson,

  4. US GenWeb sites are some of my first stops for any new family. Here and there a site may not be current, but many of them continue to be active, and I almost always find something helpful (and, in some cases, "wall-crashing"). BTW, Suzie - I was happy to see your response here; Fannin is one of my main research counties!

  5. As a USGenWeb County Coordinator for the past 15 1/2 years, I enjoyed this blog post, and the kudos to the volunteers who make this Project what it is today. Thank you!

  6. Thank you, Lisa. As a long time USGenWeb volunteer and a genealogy speaker, I'm always surprised at the how many don't know about the USGenWeb. Some sites may not be up to date or have much on them, but other sites have tons of information, some of it unique to that area. It is a great place to find out local information about where to research, too. I always use it when researching a new name.

  7. USGenWeb is a first go-to for me for all information on new found information! Thank goodness it's there!

  8. Not only do they need more volunteers, they need *active* volunteers. Some of the sites are great; but more than a handful look abandoned, even when there's a coordinator listed. Come on, folks -- it's not about having your name on a website! It's about helping family researchers!