25th Anniversary of the Web

Me and Cyndi Howells March 2013

Me and Cyndi Howells
March 2013

On March 12, 1989 Tim Berners-Lee who was then working at CERN in Europe wrote a proposal to use linking on the internet using hypertext. That was the official start of what would become the billions of web pages on the internet.

The web anniversary got me thinking of what genealogy website had been around the longest. After much digging, I think that the answer probably is Olive Tree Genealogy  by Lorine McGinnis Schulze. Her website has been around since February 1996. Lorine has many unique sources. She is from Canada so she has many Canadian resources. She also has many ship passenger lists from all over the world. For New York State she has records of immigrants to New Netherland (1628-1674.) and other early groups that came to the US including Palantines, Huguenots and Walloons. Her website takes a little work to find all the what the genealogy pages that you want but it could be worth your search.

A close second for oldest genealogy website is Cyndi’s List. Cyndi’s documentation and my research both indicate that she first published her list on March 4, 1996. At that time she only had 1,025 links. I found that on April 5, 1997 she had 17,200 links. As of today she has 329,765 genealogy links to all over the world.

Dick Eastman got on CompuServe in the mid 1980s. CompuServe was a limited network in that you had to subscribe and paid for use by the minute. I got on CompuServe about 1990 and Dick was already a manager of a genealogy forum. Dick started his famous email newsletter in January 1996. That would be considered part of the internet but the Web. Dick finally started posting his newsletter on the Web in about June 2004.

It is probably import to note that both Olive Tree and Cyndi’s List have moved around the internet over time. Neither started as their own domain. Those came years after they got started. I used “Wayback Machine”  on the Internet Archive for researching old websites. If you know of a genealogy website older than Olive Tree please post a comment.


  1. I’m not sure the Wayback Machine is all that reliable for the early years of the Web. USGenWeb originated in 1996, but WM’s earliest snapshot of the site is from December 1998. When WM”s archiving was in its infancy, its snapshots were more scattershot, less comprehensive than they are now.

  2. GenWeb was started in Kentucky in either March or April 1996. I started the Monroe Co GenWeb on 17 July 1996 as the first GenWeb page in NY State. I used my links page that was archived on the Wayback Machine on 17 June 1997 as one of my sources. Most of the websites from that date are long gone. The early days of the web aren’t well documented and it may come down to a few weeks as to who was actually first.

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