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UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service (GENUKI)

Progress Report - Nov. 1995

Brian Randell

(Internet email address: Brian.Randell@newcastle.ac.uk)

Work started on what is now known as the World Wide Web-based UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service (GENUKI) in January 1995. The project started on an informal cooperative basis (the sort that is typical of the Internet) with the aim of providing a virtual reference library in support of the soc.genealogy.uk+ireland newsgroup that was then in the process of being formed. The project is led by Phil Stringer (P.Stringer@mcc.ac.uk), who runs the main server at Manchester, and who is aided by a growing set of volunteers - very few of whom have ever met each other face-to-face.

The first volunteers to join Phil were Malcolm Austen, Brian Randell, Alan Stanier and John Woodgate. Others who have joined in the effort now include: Paddy Waldron, Viv Dunstan, Colin Hinson, Beryl Thompson, Rosemary Lockie, Joe Houghton, Dave Foster, Alan Holmes, Mike Spathaky, Ronald Branscombe, Dave Holman, Debbie Franks and Darren Wheatley. (Apologies to anyone missing from this list.)

GENUKI was first made available for general use in late March 1995, since when its development has continued apace. In August 1995 it received a Top 5% of All Web Sites award. It was the subject of a brief published description that appeared in the June issue of Family Tree Magazine; a much lengthier account of its design was published in the September issue of Computers in Genealogy. (The texts of both the FTM paper and the CiG paper are now available in GENUKI.)

GENUKI is still an informal operation. However, we are now obtaining very welcome encouragement and support from the Federation of Family History Societies and the Society of Genealogists, as well as from a growing number of local family history societies (see below).

We have initially concentrated on providing information of relevance to the UK & Ireland as whole, or to the one of the six major constituent regions (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands). Now we are gradually building up the county-level information, and starting to get information at town/parish level. (The service is organized in a hierarchical structure, patterned after that used by the LDS Family History Library.) The types of information we have generated or obtained include general tutorial information, details of major archives and their holdings, recommended books, transcribed information leaflets (e.g. over a hundred from the PRO), and indexes or transcripts of such material as town directories, monumental inscriptions, gazetteers, etc.

GENUKI is based mainly on servers in Manchester, Oxford, Colchester, Newcastle and St Andrews. The present total amount of storage on these servers now devoted to information that has been generated or obtained for GENUKI is approximately 15 Mytes. This is virtually all information that was not previously available on the Internet - in addition we of course provide links to other material that can be found elsewhere on the net, and in particular on the World Wide Web, though at present the number of such sources of direct relevance to UK & I genealogy is rather limited.

Details of the following societies are available via GENUKI, in general through the provision to us of information such as basic membership details, coming events, library holdings, current computer projects, journal contents listings, and/or detailed publications lists:

The Archives and Libraries that we provide more-or-less extensive genealogy-related information on, either via transcriptions of leaflets that they have supplied, or via links to their own servers, include:

The information provided to us has reached us in various forms, e.g on paper which we have scanned in, or on disk or by email (in some cases already formatted in HTML ready to be placed on the Web). In just one case so far have we simply been able to make a link to the society's own Web space - we hope and trust that many more societies will have their own Web space before too long.

A recent analysis of GENUKI usage, over a period of 125 days, shows that the average number of times per day that the Service has been accessed via its front page has risen fairly steadily from about 250 to nearly 450 times per day on average. (This does not count accesses made via proxy servers - such as those used by Compuserve and America Online. The actual number of different users of such proxy servers, or the amount of use they are making of our service, cannot be determined.)

Accesses that we do know of to the various GENUKI pages hosted on the Manchester server were made from over 70 different countries in all, and from nearly 9,000 different Internet "domains", of which about 1,000 are in the UK. (There may be many users in a given domain, and the domain name does not necessarily indicate the location of the user(s) - for example all Compuserve accesses are made via a US domain.)

On average the Manchester server has recently been transmitting over 25Mbytes of data each day, about 40% to US domains, 10% to the UK, and 6-7% to Australia and to New Zealand. (This figure has risen each month - in April it was only about 7Mbytes per day.)

Additional volunteers, e.g. to help with the preparation of detailed pages for a number of counties and for various major topics that are as yet not well-covered, are always welcome - especially those who can host information in their own Web space. The issue is not principally that of storage space, but rather that someone with their own Web space (to which links have already been made) can thereafter develop and edit pages without needing to involve anyone else.

Details of the structuring and formatting conventions that we have developed in order to provide a coherent look-and-feel to a distributed and ever-growing information service are given in the page "How this Service is Organized", which can be reached from the GENUKI Home Page.

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