Happy 20th Anniversary, USGenWeb!
The USGenWeb Project was one of the first large scale genealogy projects that went online, way back in 1996. It is celebrating its 21th anniversary this year so it seems fitting to take a new look at how it has fared.
If you are fairly new to genealogy, you might not even be aware of USGenWeb. It doesn’t seem to be noticed much anymore, being overshadowed by the much larger for-profit companies. Even if you are an “old timer” family researcher, you might not visit this site much anymore either. I have to admit I am in the second category. Not that many years ago, I was on the US or Canadian GenWeb sites several times a week.
The intervening years have brought a flood of resources online and it’s hard enough to keep up with what is new, never mind what has been online for a while.
I decided to take a new look at USGenWeb. For those unfamiliar with the site, you need to know from the start that it is maintained 100% by volunteers. The quality and depth of what you will find on each state or county/town local site depends on what information has been contributed by others. Some sites are chock full of rare tidbits about our ancestors, while others simply have current contact information for local courts, libraries and societies.
Here are a few examples of what you might find:
- Do you have ancestors who lived in Roane County, Tennessee in the 1830’s? Would your ancestor happen to be James Roberts who lived in Dickson County, Tennessee in 1830, but was gone by 1840? He actually married Delilah Wood, daughter of James Wood of Roane County. To discover what happened to him, volunteer Paul W. LeMasters contributed a file called Tennessee Prison Records Concerning Persons From, or Having Relations In, Roane and Morgan Counties, Tennessee, 1831-1842. Here is Paul’s entry about James Roberts, complete with source citation:
ROBERTS, James was rec’d in the Penitentiary on the fifteenth day of April one thousand eight hundred and thirty five. He is forty nine Years of age, fife [five] feet eight inches high, and weighs one hundred & fifty five, or 160 pounds. Hair formerly black, now grey, beard of the Same colour & very heavy; grey eyes; thin visage, fair complexion. A Piece off each ear both of which he sayd were bit off. Born in Hallifax County, Virginia & brought up in Pendleton District, S. Carolina. Married Delila, daughter of James WOOD of Roane County, Tennessee, resided in Dixon County, Tenn. on Hurricane Creek, on the Road leading from Charlotte to Reynoldsburg, near Jno. JOHNSON’s Mill; until about two years ago when he removed to Perry county & settled on Tom’s Creek near WELCH’s Mill where his wife & four children now reside. 2 Sons labouring at different places in the neighbourhood. A son Married to Patsy, daughter of Thos. GRAVES and a Daughter Married to Dempsey HOOPER in all 8 children, all of whom reside in or about the last described neighbourhood. He has chiefly followed farming. Was found guilty of Keeping in his Possession counterfeit coin at the Circuit Court of Perry County & Sentenced to three years confinement in the Jail & Penitentiary House of the State of Tennessee. James ROBERTS died of cholera on the 30th day of June 1835. SOURCE: Convict Record Book, 1831-1842, Record Group 25, Volume 45. Tennessee State Library and Archives Microfilm, Prison Records, RG 25, Roll No. 23, pages 152 and 153
Wow! I wish one or more of my husband’s Tennessee tree branch was in this abstract.
2. Have you found any ancestors who followed the lure of gold and traveled to California about the time of the Gold Rush? The Sacramento County GenWeb site has a lot of current contacts, but it also has some obituaries, including some quite early ones from the 1850’s onward.
Johannes was a Swiss immigrant and his obituary not only gives the name of the canton he was from, there is a note asking Swiss papers to please copy. That’s a big clue that he probably had family still living in Europe.
Sacramento Daily Union, 08 Nov 1873
Jacob Broder’s Farm, Natoma Valley, Sacramento co., Nov. 4 – Johannes Bubkle, a native of Canton Grison Switzerland, 24 years. [Swiss papers please copy.]
Eliza Lightner’s family was spread far and wide:
Lightner, Eliza Jane
Sacramento Union, Tuesday, March 1, 1908
LIGHTNER – In this city, February 28, 1904, Eliza Jane (White) Lightner, mother of the late Mrs. A.M. Pierce, grandmother of Mrs. G. W. Kritser of Reno, Nev., Frank and Harry L. Pierce of Sacramento and Jerry Lightner of Willows, a native of Nashville, Tenn., aged 89 years and 17 days. Friends may view the remains at the parlors of Miller and McMullon, 905-907 K street. Remains will be taken to Colusa Tuesday at 10:50 a.m. for interment.
3. Next, I took a look at Massachusetts. With NEHGS in Boston, you might wonder what the MA GenWeb could possibly offer that is unique? I chose Essex County, as I have ancestors who lived there.
They not only have PDFs of many of the town records in Essex County, in the Resources section, they have links to family histories and books concerning Essex County and the history of its towns that can be found in Google books.
Yes, you could look in Google books yourself, but they’ve already done the work of looking and creating links to the books they found.
Let’s try one more place – South Carolina.
4. The page for Orangeburg County, South Carolina was created in 2014.
There are quite a few links on this page. However, almost all of the categories have nothing in them. In fact, in the Archives section, the only link that had any information was “Bibles.” However, if you have family from there, the Query link brought up a short article about applying for membership (free) to the query forum.
The Orangeburg County site seems to be one where not many people are active on it. It isn’t the volunteer county coordinator’s job to create content, it’s his/her job to post what is submitted. If nothing is submitted, the site will look quite empty, like this one.
Thank you to all the GenWeb volunteers who have contributed to this site for the past twenty years. Your work is much appreciated.
Happy 20th Anniversary!