The history of genealogy websites

7 Jul

One of the items in my “crate of shame” was a copy of The Genealogist’s Internet by Peter Christian. I have the first and third editions of this book, partly for the reference material they contain, but mainly for the nostalgia element.

It is not really surprising that genealogy sites have changed so much over recent years, but it seems inconceivable that in the first edition (published in 2001) the website was said to hold “over 2,000 separate datasets” but that the “majority of these are of interest only to those with US ancestry …. there are a number which may be useful to UK genealogists”. How times have changed.

Of course if you are interested in looking at internet history then a trip in the Wayback Machine is essential. Whilst you should not expect much functionality from them, it is still interesting to have a look at some of the changing home pages from sites like, where for example in June 2002 you could “unlock the Records to your Past for as little as £29.95”.

Whilst you are time travelling you could stop in on the infamous 1901 census launch, and re-live the frustrations of the early days of the site, when access was restricted or non-existent. Check out the archives for the beginning of 2002 to see what access to online census records used to be like!

Does anyone know if anyone is recording the history of genealogical websites? Is it only me who is interested in this sort of thing? Perhaps someone would like to create a family tree of genealogy websites, after all now has many offspring!

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