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AustraliaGenWeb History

Original Proposal for the Australasian Genealogy Web

The original AGWeb site and regional sites were designed and maintained by William L Arden Melbourne Australia from 25 January 1996 to 26 November 1996. This page deals with his vision, and the history of AGWeb. The project was then led by Paul Foxworthy and Andrew Kemp until 4 October 1998. It was re-launched by the PacificGenWeb Coordinator as a full blown Archives collection and distribution project for Australia. Interested genealogists from Australia and New Zealand that enabled William Arden to host sites on Australasian servers included :

  • Barry Pycroft (NZL)
  • Danny Yee (NSW)
  • Norma Blackburn (Newcastle, NSW)
  • Warren Hill (NT)
  • Peter Collins, Garrison Communications (QLD)
  • Graham Jaunay, Adelaide Proformat (SA)
  • Paul Foxworthy, Australian Family History Compendium (VIC)
  • Rob Nelson, WA Murdoch University (WA)
  • Andrew Kemp, Swinburne University of Technology (VIC)

The Idea behind AGWeb

The way in which Australia and New Zealand were settled means that researchers seek information from more than one region. Volunteers in regional research groups may have produced valuable research material, but without publicity, the location and knowledge of such material remains obscure. The Internet allows us to publicize their existence, make documents available, or draw research enquiries into regional collections. The benefit is an awareness that this information exists, and knowing where, and how, to access these documents.

Concept of the Australasian Genealogy Web

Collation of regional data is more thorough when regional researchers are involved. Centralised repositories rarely hold all of the available data, and may be inaccessible to remote researchers. For these reasons Bill Arden decided that a focused 'network' of genealogical information sites would maximise access to available data from remote areas. Internet technology would maximise storage capability and help to publicise its presence. Such pages that focused on regional interests, would contribute to an overall Australasian network, hence the original title of 'Australasian Genealogy Web' (AGWeb) to describe this 'network'.

  1. The first principle was that AGWeb will specialise in genealogy from Australasia only, and focus on providing transcription data.
  2. Regional pages within the AGWeb should only contain data relevant to the regional area of influence. The pages would link to other regional pages, reducing the amount of duplicate data. This would aid in storage, maintenance and information reliability.
  3. AGWeb should be easily identifiable, and have a similar 'look and feel' to webpages. This would require a standard webpage layout. One main benefit would be less work in preparing and maintaining pages as 'master' pages could be re-used. Readers would also be more comfortable with the familiar interface.

AGWeb Prototype Pages

Bill Arden set up a prototype site, that was to one day become a working site. He submitted to VICNET for a genealogical-community non-profit service. At the time VICNET sponsored the main Australasian Genealogy home page (the ANZ page). Offers to host more sites were made by:

  • Danny Yee, a system administrator at Sydney University to host the NSW page
  • Peter Collins of Garrison Communications in Brisbane to host the QLD page
  • Paul Foxworthy of Coherent Software Australia Pty.,Ltd., in Melbourne to host the VIC page
  • Warren Hill of Northern Territory University in Darwin, to host the NT page

some of these pages were hosted at the individual's personal expense, time and effort.

Bill Arden then developed the pages as a working example of a real AGWeb network. Data files were made available as examples, but most files contained lists of data available elsewhere, rather than new transcription data, and were generously donated by Hugh Winters of NZ.

The final form of the working pages depended on the data storage capabilities of the host. It was to contain only the necessary title, disclaimer, contents (links), copyright etc. Modest indexes were made available as examples, and trial sites also had storage restrictions. Four principal types of HTML pages existed in the AGWeb prototype system, all designed to present the maximum amount of information with a minimum number of pages:

The main Site page or the 'Hub':

  • The Hub or Site page identified each region, the regional host, and regional pages. It will normally be static, apart from links such as a charter, specifications, AGWeb standards etc.

Record Categories page:

  • The Category page (accessed from the Hub) had a two-column list of forty-two categories. If data files are available for the category, the title had an active link to a Contents page. Categories were largely based on Nick Vine Hall's book 'Tracing Your Family History in Australia - A Guide to Sources - 1985'. The Category page would be updated with links to new information files, as and when needed, by the regional site maintainer.

The category Contents page:

  • The Contents page (accessed only from the Category page), had entries for available data files for the particular category (active links if held at the site). The Contents pages are currently composed in HTML (by program) from a database of data file details. Entries are standardised in format and content. Keywords are used to further sub-divide the category list of files. Regional AGWeb sites would hold, and maintain, the master collection of regional data files, and update the Contents pages.

The 'Web' page:

  • The Web page (accessed from the Hub or Category pages) shows a hierarchical tree of regional nodes, with active links if the site is hosted. The Web page requires updating with URL links, at a central point, as new regional pages come on-line.

The 'External Links' page:

  • The EXTERNAL links page (accessed from the Hub) links to web pages outside of AGWeb that hold Australasian genealogy transcription data or references.

The page format deliberately excluded all but simple graphic images for simplicity and to reduce response times to the site.

Anyone who was willing to become part of the Australasian Genealogy Web, and to host and maintain a regional page as part of a prototype trial, was to contact the William Arden for files and details of conditions. Any source material would still be available, no matter the outcome of the project. Advice and guidance was cheerfully given, and developed programs (currently dBASE III+ programs) support for file construction, was made to bona fide members.

Joining the WorldGenWeb Project

In March/April 1996, a group of US genealogists organized the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database with the idea to provide a single entry point for storing all county databases in Kentucky. The databases were indexed and cross-linked, so that an individual that lived in one or more counties could be easily located. At the same time, volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the databases and oversee the contents of the webpage.

By June 1996, as the Kentucky Project was coming to completion, the USGenWeb project was organized. The Kentucky Project became what is today known as the TexasGenWeb Project. Volunteers were found willing to coordinate county pages for each US state and each county.

Just 2 weeks after the beginning of The USGenWeb project, The WorldGenWeb project was initiated. The World was divided into regions serving each country and territory. Larger countries were split into provinces, who in their turn serve local communities.

USGenWeb Digital Library (Archives)

Implemented in July 1996, the USGenWeb Digital Library (Archives) provides actual transcriptions of US public domain records on the Internet. It was designed as a cooperative effort of volunteers who either have public documents, or are willing to transcribe information for contribution.

Once the decision was made to develop a project, a call went out for volunteers willing to transcribe primary records in ASCII text (.txt), find ways to post the file on the Internet, and allow USGenWeb county hosts to store files in a central location with a search engine. The WorldGenWeb Archives Project began around the same time.

When Bill Arden heard of this, he asked if he might join as the Australasian arm of WorldGenWeb. WGW differs from AGWeb in that it is split into two arms:

  1. The Main arm deals with information on local genealogy resources which may be offline or online.
  2. The second deals with genealogy transcription data, surnames, queries, obituaries, bibliographies, biographies, and similar specialised projects.

It wasn't until 18 September 1998 that PacificGenWeb attempted to organise Pacific transcriptions using a regional naming system.

AGWeb Sites Online

26 January 1996 - 3 October 1998

  • AGWeb-HUB (William Arden)
  • AGWeb-NZL (Barry Pycroft)
  • AGWeb-NSW& Newcastle (Danny Yee & Norma Blackburn)
  • AGWeb-NT (Warren Hill)
  • AGWeb-QLD (Peter Collins)
  • AGWeb-SA (Graham Jaunay)
  • AGWeb-VIC (Paul Foxworthy)
  • AGWeb-WA (Rob Nelson)


Attempting to contact Bill Arden, I was told that the project was without an AGWeb coordinator. When I proposed to reinitiate the old project, a number of AGWeb coordinators could not be contacted, and a number raised copyright issues.

As PacificGenWeb Coordinator I recreated AuGenWeb, new name, new format, new features, on a new server that would allow for searchable databases, queries, and surnames.

As a team, the initial project members came up with the idea of automating the Special Projects through the use of available technology and ... guestbooks(!) The special projects will create future transcripts that may be distributed by genealogists. At this point in time we are attempting to automate as many of the Special Projects as possible so that coordinators may get on with the business of launching transcription projects for their areas.

Team members who joined AustraliaGenWeb within the first month included:

  • Allison Stanley of Victoria, who initiated the project
  • Mathew Taylor of Ozone Friendly Computers, Queensland, Australia
  • Andrew Kemp of Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria
  • Julie Stokes of Adelaide, South Australia
  • Cathy Dunn of Shoalhaven, NSW
  • Maureen Martin & Meryl Yost of Tasmania

PacificGenWeb provided a collection of pages and transcriptions that may be shared among official AustraliaGenWeb coordinators, indefinitely and without exclusion. Pages on this site may be manipulated by AuGenWeb coordinators to create an original site design. Other pages on this site include code for guestbooks and coordinator guidelines.

PacificGenWeb also gained access to the original AGWeb, with the idea to keep the site online, indefinitely and only updating obsolete url's when required.

C L Whyte

PacificGenWeb Coordinator, Temp AustraliaGenWeb Coordinator

Information on :

  • AGWeb project courtesy of William L Arden Melbourne Australia.
  • WorldGenWeb/USGenWeb Project courtesy of Rebecca Chaky.
  • USGenWeb Digital Library (Archives) courtesy of their site.

Last Modified: 19 Nov 1998 (Carol Whyte)