History of this Site

(Re-printed from the August/September, 1997, issue of the Laurel Messenger)
Written by Carol Hepburn, (retired) Somerset County PAGenWeb Coordinator

In September of 1996, I became involved in an online genealogical web project called the USGenWeb. I had been browsing the Internet in search of genealogical home pages, surname indexes, and other online connections in the hope of generating some new leads for my own family research. Quite by accident, I stumbled on this little known web project and instantly knew I was destined to become a part of it's foundation and it's growth and it's establishment.

For those of you not familiar with the Internet, I would like to introduce you to this project and this new and growing method of genealogical research. The USGenWeb Project was created in June of 1996 as an online repository of genealogical research materials. These research materials, mostly transcribed public domain records, family databases, and other non-copyrighted text, were collected and organized by a series of web links allowing free access to anyone with a computer and a modem connection to the Internet.

The USGenWeb project is basically a genealogical web index containing a master page with web links to all 51 states (including the District of Columbia). Volunteers create and maintain the state and county web pages, assist with the transcription of public domain records, and promote the concept of online genealogical research. Since it's creation in June of 1996, the USGenWeb homepage index has received over 880,000 visitors and facilitated in millions of redirects (or transfers) to state and county pages.

The Pennsylvania genealogical web index is called the PAGenWeb and is sponsored and maintained by GENCAP (The Genealogical Computing Association of Pennsylvania). There are now web pages for every county in Pennsylvania and some of the most active research occurs throughout the PAGenWeb's associated web links and electronic mail discussion lists. In September of 1996, however, only a handful of web pages existed and most were nothing more than a one page summary of local resource addresses. I naively volunteered to "adopt" or sponsor the web page for Somerset County. My original intention was to create a workable web page and just list list out al the local resources (libraries, court house, historical societies, etc) within the county. Gradually, however, more information was added and now our web site consists of hundreds of linked pages deaiing with history (religious and military), local events, surname queries and indexes, newspaper articles, transcribe records, and much, much more.

The Somerset County PAGenWeb project also maintains the links and pages created for the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County. These additional web pages outline the benefits of membership to the society and highlight upcoming historical center events. The Somerset County PAGenWeb project strongly encourages it's visitors to become members of the society and to participate in the wide range of specialty events and fairs held locally.

Since it's creation the Somerset County web page has welcomed over 60,000 visitors. As county coordinator of this project web site I am often inundated with hundreds of research requests and other types of information requests about the county. It is exciting to be part of such a wonderful project. I enjoy hearing how people are doing in their research, about the new leads they have discovered and about the possible famous family connections they might prove. This enjoyment, however, is often overshadowed by the added demands on my time for web updates, transcribing new records, and keeping the links active.

In January of 1997, I decided that the creation of an electronic discussion list would benefit all the researchers in the county (and surrounding areas) and off-load some of my daily email queries. Our SOMGEN-L@rootsweb.com list has become one of the most active email lists on the entire PAGenWeb project. I am proud to know that through this simple use of the electronic medium we have help facilitate family reunions, helped regenerate stagnant research, and formed some life-long and long-distant relationships. Most of our active list members are natives of this county and most are related to one another. We share family folklore, general research tips and techniques, surname queries, tree outlines, and even old Pennsylvania-Dutch recipes. Most of all we enjoy each other's conversation and share in our genealogical triumphs and in our (far-too often) genealogical disappointments.

If you would like to send email to our discussion list there are instructions for joining the SOMGEN list here.
I would encourage you all to visit this exciting web project, to send a message to the list, and most of all share your family history with us!

Carol Hepburn (Somerset County PAGenWeb Coordinator, retired)


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This county is part of the USGenWeb Project, a non-profit genealogical resource web system, and is maintained by April Phillips and Connie Burkett with help and information provided by other volunteers.

Last Revised: March 28, 2008

Copyright The Somerset County, PAGenWeb Project.