Last week I started working on a new line of the family. I finally found the maiden name of a great grandmother through a cousin. Each time a new name is introduced into the family tree, it is back to the basics of vital records, census, published genealogies and the Internet. I start my Internet search with three sites: Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest.com, and USGenWeb. Ancestry and HeritageQuest are pay subscription sites, but USGenWeb is free. USGenWeb is an organization of volunteers dedicated to free genealogy on the Internet. The old saying "You get what you pay for" does not apply to USGenWeb. The USGenWeb sites are packed with useful and important genealogical information and you never have to pay a penny.
USGenWeb was started in 1996 by genealogists who wanted to create free websites that were online repositories. USGenWeb websites are arranged by state, then county. Every state can be accessed through the main USGenWeb site at http://usgenweb.org/index.shtml. Since all the work is done by volunteers, each site is different. But, in general, each state site will include information about the state history, state repositories, state maps, message boards, and links to all the counties in that state. They also have special state projects such as tombstone, census, obituary, migration, and photo, and links to all the counties in that state.
County GenWeb pages vary with each county. They usually have a short history of the county, county resources, a query list, surname registry, maps, links to other sites with information on that county, and indexes. Many of the sites have information that is not available anywhere else on the Internet. The county coordinators collect the information and place it on the website for anyone to use.
Last week when I was received the new information about Grandma Smith, I immediately went to the USGenWeb site for Rooks County, Kansas. I had learned that her maiden name was Robinson and I wanted to see if there was any information about Robinson families in Rooks County. The Rooks County USGenWeb site includes indexes for births, deaths, marriages, obituaries and naturalizations as well as maps, local history, and links to state and local resources. Through the indexes on the site, I was able to identify Grandma’s parents and I have written to the Rooks County Clerk for copies of the original records. The Internet is a valuable tool in locating records but genealogists should always follow up with original sources.
If the USGenWeb site does not contain specific information about your ancestor, it can be a resource for learning about the area where your ancestors lived. I have found sites that have lists of published sources written about the county and the inhabitants such as county histories, town histories, indexes and family histories. Some even have volunteers that will do free look ups in the publications.
Colorado has a very active USGenWeb organization called COGenWeb at http://www.rootsweb.com/~cogenweb/comain.htm. Eventually your genealogy search will take you to far off places outside the U. S. There is also a WorldGenWeb with the same goals and mission as USGenWeb.
If you have never visited the USGenWeb, check it out. If you have used USGenWeb in the past, check back frequently because the sites are constantly being updated.
I have been the Broomfield County USGenWeb Website Coordinator since 2001 and I am always looking for new material to add to the site which is located at http://www.rootsweb.com/~cobroomf/. If you have any information on Broomfield that you would like to contribute, please send it to email@example.com.