Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Makes A Great GenWeb Site?

My introduction to genealogy came in the form of an article about the USGenWeb project my aunt gave me in the late 1990s.  It was one of the first genealogy websites I ever visited and it is one I continue to come back to often.

There are some county websites that consistently blow me away.  I really can't even begin to imagine where my level of information for some families would be without some of those amazing volunteers and all their hard work.

Then there are the other county websites.  The ones that I rarely visit and when I do I inevitably see little to nothing has changed or been added in the year+ since I last visited.  The ones that are a nightmare to try and read or navigate.  And, most frustrating of all, the ones that apparently don't want anyone to volunteer anything to the project (this is what I'm left to assume when I don't hear back from the County Coordinator).

One thing has been constant even if my love for different county sites can vary wildly: I never wanted to be a County Coordinator.  I was happy to donate records I had and volunteer to help with other projects as time permitted but that was all.  Me, be responsible for a website?  Me, be the point of contact for anything?  Me, as a project leader?  No, thank you.

But guess what happened?  Siskiyou County became available for adoption.  Siskiyou County, where my great-grandmother was raised.  Siskiyou County, the place my great-grandmother loved like no other (a love she passed on to later generations by the way).  Siskiyou County, where I had one of the most enjoyable research trips and vacations of my life.  I long knew that if Siskiyou County became available I'd jump at the chance in a heartbeat.  And, that is exactly what I did.

Yes, I am officially the County Coordinator for the Siskiyou County, California USGenWeb project.

What is more, I want it to be the best possible site it can be.  I've already updated the look and added more links but I know I have a ways to go.  Which is where I need a little help.  What, in your opinion makes a great county site?  Why do you go back to some more than others?  Content over style?  What are some features you have found that you think should be on every county website?  Which county websites do you think are exemplary?  I'd love to know what you think.

I can tell you what two of my favorites are:  Assumption Parish, LA and Isabella Co., MI.  I love the amount and diversity of content, and the fact that they are pretty easy to navigate.


  1. While I haven't visited too many county sites, the one that stands out to me is DeWitt County, Illinois. I've found a lot of information from the newspapers there.

  2. Congratulations! I love GenWeb, too. Things I like about my favorite GenWeb sites: lots of links to local resources, good period maps (like the township maps that show where various farms were), descriptions of resources available in local libraries, courthouse hours and locations, lots of documents and newspaper articles either in digital or transcribed form, extensive transcriptions and maps for local graveyards, pictures, etc. And I agree - easy navigation is a must.

  3. Congratulations on the new gig! If I was researching in this county, I wouldn't know where to begin. I don't even know what I don't know. Provide information to help the clueless like me and you'll be fine. I know you'll do a great job.


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