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UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service

(GENUKI)

Progress Report - April 1996

Brian Randell

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

Slightly revised version of the Progress Report that appeared in the June 1996 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

INTRODUCTION

The aim of GENUKI is to serve as a "virtual reference library" of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the UK & Ireland. It is a non-commercial service, provided by an ever-growing group of volunteers in co-operation with the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) and a number of its member societies.

In the main, the information that is provided in GENUKI relates to primary historical material, rather than material resulting from genealogists' ongoing research, such as GEDCOM files. (Its role is thus very different from Internet-based services such as GenServ, Roots Surname List, and the soc.genealogy.surnames newsgroup that help genealogists find others researching the same family, and to exchange their research results with them.)

This second progress report marks the completion of GENUKI's first year of public operation. Since the first progress report, which appeared in the December 1995 issue of Computers in Genealogy, the service has continued to develop apace. It has now received three Internet awards: Top 5% of All Web Sites, 1996 Internet World Exposition Site, and 1996 National Genealogy Society Golden Web Award - Top 8%. It has been the subject of papers in Family Tree Magazine, Computers in Genealogy and Family Researcher, copies of all of which, plus a copy of the first Progress Report, can be found via page http://www.genuki.org.uk/org/.

Some 26 volunteers are now involved in various aspects of GENUKI: Phil Stringer, Brian Randell, Malcolm Austen, Alan Stanier, Paddy Waldron, Viv Dunstan, Colin Hinson, Beryl Thompson, Rosemary Lockie, Joe Houghton, Dave Foster, Alan Holmes, Mike Spathaky, Ronald Branscombe, John Woodgate, Dave Holman, Debbie Franks, Vic Roberts, Alan Starkey, Alec Tritton, Darren J. Wheatley, Alec Whitfield, Chad Hanna, Pat Newby, Mike Bristow and Peter Norman. (Apologies to anyone I have missed out.)

We 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), and then on building up the county-level information. The coverage of the different counties still varies considerably, depending on whether the relevant family history society or societies, and/or individual volunteers with appropriate specialist knowledge, have yet become actively involved in GENUKI.

A growing number of parish pages have been created, typically each in response to our obtaining one or more indexes or transcriptions of primary sources related to the particular parish. Cornwall is the first county for which, in contrast, pages have been systematically generated in GENUKI for each and every one of its parishes - some 256 parishes in all. (These pages provide a short description of the parish, and brief information under each of the topic headings: Cemeteries, Church History, Church Records, Population and Statistics.)

Some of the more major information items that can now be found in GENUKI include:

In addition we of course provide many links to material that can be found elsewhere on the net, and in particular on the World Wide Web. One link included in GENUKI that is specially worthy of mention is to the new online gazetteer operated by the Ordnance Survey. This provides a very easy way of identifying the location of even small villages and hamlets.

FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETIES

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, members' research interests, and/or detailed publications lists - though we are glad to see that already some family history societies are providing information to us via their own Web servers: Thus over one third of the regional family history societies in the FFHS are already represented in GENUKI. Members of other local FHSs are urged to offer their expertise and volunteer labour to encourage and assist their society to take full advantage of GENUKI - ideally by helping them to obtain and make use of their own Web space, or by providing information from the society that could be held on one of the main GENUKI servers. For example, for several counties volunteers are collecting and regularly updating lists of email users and their research interests that usefully supplement standard FHS Members Interests booklets.

LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES

The Archives and Libraries that we provide more-or-less extensive genealogy-related information on, either via information such as transcriptions of leaflets that they have supplied or, via links to their own servers, include: Clearly, this is only a small fraction of the large number of libraries and archives in the British Isles that hold material of relevance to family history. We would encourage established users of any of the other libraries and archives to obtain information about their services and holdings (e.g. that typically provided by them in leaflet form), and to obtain permission for us to place this information in GENUKI - or better still to encourage, and if appropriate assist, the library or archive to develop its own Web server.

GENUKI STATISTICS

GENUKI is based mainly on servers in Manchester, Oxford, Colchester, Newcastle, St Andrews and Dublin. The present total amount of storage on these servers now devoted to information that has been generated or obtained for GENUKI exceeds 30 Mbytes, more than double the figure of last November. This is virtually all information that was not previously available on the Internet.

An analysis of usage during March 1996 of the main GENUKI server at Manchester indicates that on average this server was receiving 8,000 requests and in response transmitting approximately 60 Mbytes of data each day, about 40% to US domains, 10% to the UK, and 6-7% to Australia and to New Zealand. (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.)

CONCLUDING REMARKS

In a review of David Hawgood's new booklet "Internet for Genealogy" prepared for the March 1996 issue of Bucks Ancestor, Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake kindly describes GENUKI as "fast becoming one of the best sources for both general and particular information on family and local history in the British Isles". For this praise to be fully merited, we need to improve the coverage of quite a number of counties, and progress towards the point where all the parishes in the British Isles have their individual informative and authoritative pages (something that GENUKI's structuring and formatting conventions are designed to facilitate). Thus, as indicated at several points in the above text, volunteers who will help extend and improve GENUKI are very welcome - and indeed needed.

Ideally such volunteers will be able to 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 from the appropriate GENUKI page or pages) can thereafter develop and edit his/her pages without needing to involve anyone else. And the issue is not solely that of transcribing or scanning information, but also that of obtaining any necessary permissions from transcribers, copyright owners, etc. (Only by being careful to ensure that such matters are dealt with properly will we deserve to continue to receive support and co-operation from the FFHS and other societies and organisations.)

We have a goal of providing copies or, better still, links to virtually all the relevant information files (especially indexes and transcriptions) that are available in machine readable form anywhere (subject of course to obtaining any necesary permissions). To this end a reasonably systematic trawl has recently been made of a number of major Fidonet genealogy archives, the proceeds of which are gradually being incorporated into GENUKI, and have contributed significantly to GENUKI's recent growth. Assistance in obtaining similar material from other sources would of course be very welcome.

In summary, if you, dear reader, think you can help in any way, do not hesitate to volunteer your services. In particular, if you have your own allocation of Web space, don't just use it to "publish" your own family tree - though if you do, make sure to use such services as RSL, GenServ, soc.genealogy.surnames, and the various Surname Lists in GENUKI so that others can learn what families you are researching, and be led to you and your Web pages, since these pages will otherwise serve very little purpose. Rather, use at least some of your Web space to make any detailed knowledge of particular topics and localities that you have gathered through your researches, and any general (as opposed to surname-specific) indexes and transcriptions you have made, available to your fellow genealogists via GENUKI.

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