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British Isles Genealogy on the Internet: Timeline


This timeline is intended as a guide to the main developments on the Internet which are important for UK and Irish genealogy. Particularly for the period before 1997, it includes a number of the main US developments (indicated in the table by their lighter colour) which are significant for the British Isles. However developments on other networks - amateur bulletin board networks like FidoNet, on-line services like CompuServe, other networks later connected to the Internet like JANET or BITNET - have generally been excluded, unless they relate to bodies with a significant role in UK family history. I have highlighted in RED the events I consider most significant.

Sources & Informants

An online source is given for each entry wherever possible. Where a name is given, it is usually someone directly involved with the resource or event in question. For many events since 2001, sources are electronic press releases I have received in the course of editing the Internet News column in Ancestors.

For some of the entries, particularly before 1997, I have been unable to find authoritative information on the date a resource actually became available, so the date given represents the earliest public mention I can find (usually in a mailing list or newsgroup archive) or the date a link was added from some major site. More precise dates would be very welcome, as would suggestions for additional entries - please mail any corrections or additions (with the URL of an authoritative source, if possible) to

Thanks to all those who have supplied information or made suggestions.

General sources for the history of internet genealogy


Date Event Link Source/Informant
November 3The GRO makes indexes to births to 1915 and deaths to 1957 available online.linksource
November 2The 1939 Register of England and Wales goes online at Findmypastlinksource
July 151901censusonline, the site for the priginal 1901 census digitsation,
July 8The National Library of Ireland places the National Library of Ireland's entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms online. link
February 5UK Government agrees to allow the publication of information from Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates in England and Wales to be issued "otherwise than in the form of a certified copy". source
December 1It is announced that by summer 2015 the National Library of Ireland will make (unindexed) images of Catholic parish register freely available online.linksource
September 30The Probate Service for England and Wales places an index to post-1996 wills onlinelinksource
July 3The General Register Office of Ireland's enhanced indexes to civil registration records are placed online (and removed ten days later).linksource
June 17Findmypast buys Origins.netsource
April 28The National Archives of Ireland adds pre-1901 census fragments and the 1841-1851 Census Search Forms to its census site.linksource
April 8The National Archives announces that the digitisation of the First World War unit diaries has been completedsource
March 18The Imperial War Museum makes its sound archive available online, with oral history material for the world wars.linksource
March 13Launch of Welsh Newspapers Online (National Library of Wales)linksource
March 5Family Tree goes live on the FamilySearch site (free, but requires registration)linksource
November 8The National Archives of Ireland launches the National Archives Genealogy Websitelinksource
September 5People of Medieval Scotland launched (" a database of all known people of Scotland between 1093 and 1314")linksource
June 19Launch of Records of London's Livery Companies Online (ROLLCO)linksource
April 2The National Archives launch the Discovery service as a replacment for its existing catalogue and DocumentsOnline service.linksource
November 29Launch of British Newspaper Archivelinksource
May 5Launch of Findmypast Irelandlink
April 51911 Census for Scotland released on ScotlandsPeoplelink
March 2Launch of the Open Genealogy Alliancelinksource
MarchIrish government makes a commitment to relase the 1926 census as part of commemoration of the 1916 East Uprising.source
November 5Ancestry & TheGenealogist announce joint project to make the 1911 census available on their sitessource
September 13The GRO announces suspension of the Digitisation and Indexing Project pending the government's Comprehensive Spending Reviewsource
June 31901 Census of Ireland goes onlinelink
June 21911 Census made available on GenesReunitedlinksource
May 19British Library and Brightsolid announce project to digitise up to 40 million pages of historic newspapers source
December 14The University of the West of England announces a research project for an online database of UK surnameslinksource
November 25The Irish government launches with free access to1.3 million church recordslinksource
November 9The Information Commissioner rules that the NHS must grant access to information in the 1939 National Identity Card Registration relating to people who are now deceased.linksource
November 6The GRO announces the Digitisation and Indexing (D&I) Project to replace the stalled DOVE project link
November 2The Office of Fair Trading approves the purchase of Genes Reunited by Brightsolid (who run Scotlandspeople and Findmypast).source
October 16The National Library of Wales makes over 190,000 Welsh wills available.linksource
SeptemberFamilyRecords portal closeslinksource
August 28All counties available for the 1911 Census of Irelandlinksource
August 6GenesReunited purchased from ITV by Brightsolid (ScotlandsPeople, Findmypast)source
June 9The 1911 census for England & Wales completed with the release of all Welsh countieslinksource
March 31Scottish death and burials from parish registers go online at ScotlandsPeoplelinksource
March 2Closure of FamilyHIstoryOnlinesource
February 5The National Archives of Scotland launch the official Scottish Register of Tartanslinksource
January 23Irish civil registration indexes are made available on the FamilySearch Pilot sitelinksource
January 16Public Records Office for Northern Ireland catalogue (eCATNI) goes live link
January 13Launch of the 1911 census for England and Waleslink
October 7Scottish Coats of Arms are made available on Scotlandspeople, the first official heraldic records for the UK to go onlinelinksource
September 14FreeBMD reaches 200 million recordslinksource
July 21FamilySearch, Findmypast and Origins announce a joint project to make UK census indexes available on FamilySearch and at Family History Centers.linksource
July 6It is announced that GROS will license data to sites other than ScotlandsPeoplesource
July 3GRO announces delay in DOVE project after contract with Siemens is not renewedsource
JulyDeceased Online launches an online database of municipal burials and cremations sourced from local authoritieslinksource
January 22ScotlandsPeople adds indexes to birth and death registrations up to 2006.linksource
January 18Scotland Online buys Findmypast with aim of consolidating it with ScotlandsPeoplesource
December 4Irish 1911 census for Dublin goes onlinelinksource
September 14Images of non-conformist registers from TNA classes RG4 and RG5 go online at BMDregisterslinksource
September 1FFHS announces that its datasets at FamilyHistoryOnline are to be transferred to FindMyPastlinksource
May 14The National Archives launches its 'Your Archives' wikilinksource
May 5Findmypast announces the purchase of the online family tree software PedigreeSoft with the aim of integrating it within their site.linksource
March 8An online petition to reduce the classified period for census data from 100 years to 70 years closes with 23,602 signatories.linksource
February 23British army World War One service and pension records go online at Ancestrylinksource
February 15The Federation of Family History Societies publishes its first online-only newsletter, EZine, replacing the printed 'Newsflash'linksource
January 16ONS announces that online searching of GRO indexes will start to be available from early 2008.source
January 11Findmypast launches the BT27 Outward Passenger Lists for 1890-99 on a new site,
January 8An online petition requesting improved access to the censuses and other archives closes with 225 signatories.linksource
December 13In response to a Freedom of Information ruling, The National Archives announce that data from the 1911 Census will be available online from 2009 rather than 2012.source
September 20Ancestry put phone books for the Greater London area 1880-1984 onlinelinksource
September 16Dick Eastman's first UK Genealogy Skypecastlinksource
May 8The Genealogy & Heraldry Bill 2006 is presented to the Irish Parliament, proposing an online National Inventory of Genealogical Recordslinksource
April 22Ancestry release the 1841 cenus index for England & Wales. All censuses are now available
April 20Scotlandspeople release the 1841 census index and images for Scotland. All Scottish censuses are now available online.linksource
March 4Cyndi's List celebrates its 10th anniversarylinksource
January 18Ancestry makes images of the GRO indexes available free of chargelink
January 10The National Archivist announces the acquisition of its datasets by 1837onlinelink
December 14Medway Archives put images of 90 Kent parish registers onlinelinksource
December 6GenesReunited (as part of FriendsReunited) bought by ITVlinksource
December 6Announcement of agreement between the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada to digitise Irish Census Records for 1901 and 1911.source
November 3Channel 4 & the Imperial War Museum launch database of WW1 war memorials in connection with the "Lost Generation" TV serieslinksource
September 9LDS Church announces plan to digitise and index all its microfilmed recordslinksource
August 21Qinetiq sells 1901 Census to GenesReunited linksource
August 1DOVE contract signed - Siemens to digitise GRO recordssource
March1841 Census Index launched on British Originslinksource
February 151837online launches 1861 census index and imageslinksource
December 31Genuki Family History News ceases publicationsource
December 3The National Archives & launch the 1881 and 1891 census under the Licensed Internet Associateship (LIA) initiativelinkpress release
DecemberThe GRO's proposals for reform of Civil Registration are rejected by committees from both Houses of Parliamentsource
November 9A Vision of Britain Through Timelinksource
November 8First version of this timeline ;-)link
July 23DOVE (Digitisation of Vital Events) invitation to tenderlinksource
JulyOrigins relaunched as subscription service under the name Origins Networklinkpress release
June 28FreeBMD adds imageslinksource
June 28The National Archives launch new web sitelinksource
MayLaunch of independent GRO sitelinkGRO
April 22End of GENDEXsource
April 14Ancestry starts 1901 censuslinksource
March 24The Archives Task Force report Listening to the Past, Speaking to the Future proposes the creation of an Archives Gatewaylinksource
March 1Launch of Directgov, replacing UKonline as government portallinksource
January 26Ancestry starts on 1871 censuslinksource
November 14National Audit Office report on 1901 censuslinksource
SeptemberLaunch of Archives Network Waleslinksource
AugustLaunch of National Archivistlink
July 8GRO launches on-line certificate ordering linksource
JulyLaunch of FreeCEN search engine with 1891 census transcriptionslinksource
April 2The PRO and HMC combine to form the National Archives (TNA) (though their web sites are not combined till June 2004)link
April 11837onlinelinkColin Miller
March 14Rod Neep launches, with dozens of new mailing lists for the UKlinksource
March 5Old Bailey Proceedingslinkpress release
February 26SoG online bookshop closessource
February 25Merger of Genfair & FFHS Publicationslinksource
February 2GRO announces relaxation of rules on publication of BMD indexes from April 1stsource
February1881 census added to FamilySearchlinksource
January 8FamilyHistoryOnlinelinkpress release
JanuaryGazettes on-linelink
November 211901 census relaunchlinksource
November 5GenesConnected (now Genesreunited)linksource
September uk launched with 1891 censuslinksource
September 18Scotlandspeople launched, taking over Scottish records from Scots Originslinksource
January 22White Paper, 'Civil Registration: Vital Change' published by the Office of National Statistics, includes plans to move to electronic registrationlinksource
January 22NLS launches two on-line map collectionslink
January 71901 census site closed downsource
January 21901 censuslinkpublic knowledge!
NovemberPeter Christian: "The Genealogist's Internet"linksource
before August 6General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI) launches independent web site (original site was hosted by Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency)linksource
August1881 census index & 1891 census images added to Scots Originssource
July 2150 digitisation grants announced by New Opportunities Fund, many for historical material of interest to genealogists, including Collect Britain, Digital Handsworth, Moving Here.source
JulyARCHON Portal launchedHMC/TNA
April 201891 cenus pilot goes livesource
February 12Google takes over archive of newsgroup messages from Deja.comlinksource
February 7Genuki becomes a charitable trustlinksource
January 25GROS announces plans to add digital images to Scots Originssource
January 18Launch of English Origins (now British Origins) with data from the Society of GenealogistslinkPeter Christian
JanuaryCornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC) project launchedlinksource
December 15British Library Newspaper Library’s catalogue goes onlinelinksource
DecemberFamilyRecords launched to provide a goverment genealogy portallinksource
November 30Scottish Archive Network goes livelinksource
November 24Genuki trade mark registrationsource
NovemberNational Archives of Scotland web site launchedlinksource
OctoberNew Genuki search engine, covering Genuki and other UK family history bodieslinkGenuki mailing list
OctoberCaroline Peacock: "Good Web Guide Genealogy"link
OctoberImages of England launchedlinksource
OctoberCheshireBMD - first UKBMD projectlinkfrom hit counter
September 1UK Government portal UKonline launchedsource
June 22Failure of soc.genealogy.surnames newsgroupslinksource
June 21Rootsweb acquired by Ancestry.comlinksource
June 12Launch of Federation of Family History Societies' on-line bookshoplinkDavid Hawgood
March 19Rob Thompson starts his Family History Newsletterlinksource
FebruaryFFHS registers its commercial domain name
JanuaryWorkhouse History site launchedlinkPeter Higginbotham
 ARCHON Portallinksource
JulyStart of FreeCEN projectlinksource
May 24Launch of FamilySearch puts the IGI on-linelinksource
MayPowys Digital History site (started june 1998)linksource
March 26Crown copyright waiver: genealogists can publish their own transcriptions of PRO documents without permissionsource
January 18Genfair launched as an on-line shop with "stands" for individual family history societieslinksource
JanuaryLaunch of Collage, Corporation of London image databse linksource
DecemberNational Register of Archives accessible via the Websource
November 11Debt of Honour Register - first complete on-line "genealogical" dataset to cover the whole of the UKlinksource
September 30FreeBMD announcedlinksource
September 15Society of Genealogists Bookshop onlinesource
September 7Google launchedlinksource
July 2National Lottery Act 1998 establishes the New Opportunities Fundsource
JulyARCHON Directory provides details of record repositoriesHMC/TNA
April 6Scots Origins launched with Scottish BMD certificates - first pay-per-view site for UK public recordslink
March 27PRO web sitelinksource
March 26Genuki registers its own domain namesource
March 23Society of Genealogists' web sitelinkCiG
March 16FFHS registers its domain name
November 4GooNS domain name registeredlinksource
OctoberCyndi Howells, Netting Your Ancestors: Genealogical Research on the Internetlinksource
AugustCounty Lookup Exchange announcedsource
JulyBritain and Ireland newsgroups splitsource
JulyNew Opportunities Fund announced in White Papersource
JulyManorial Documents Register goes on-line with data for Wales and YorkshireHMC/TNA
before JuneBritish Library makes its catalogue accessible via the weblinkCiG June 1997
JuneFamilia launched, with details of the genealogical holdings of public libraries in the British IsleslinkMartin Hayes
MaySociety of Genealogists registers its domain name
before MayCheshire Wills on the Weblinksource
April 9Books We Own, first lookup exchange?linkSite hit counter
 Genealogy programs start to include Web page creation facilitiesPeter Christian
OctoberWeb site for Computers in GenealogylinkPeter Christian
OctoberWorldGenWeb launchedlinksource
September 5Norfolk Surnames listlinksource
MayGreater Manchester CROlinksource
MayLincolnshire Archiveslinksource
before April 18Liverpool Record Officesource
AprilPedigree Users Group starts a mailing listlinkMalcolm Austen
March 14Society of Genealogists hosts its first lecture on the internetComputers in Genealogy
March 4Cyndi's Listlinksource
before MarchPublic Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) Web site launchedlinksource
MarchSomerset Record Office becomes first UK record office to launch a web sitelinkSomerset Record Office
before MarchNational Library of WalesBrian Randell
February 20Lottery Grant for Images of Englandlinksource
FebruaryLaunch of the RootsWeb "genealogy co-operative"linksource
FebruaryDavid Hawgood: "Internet for Genealogy" - first UK internet genealogy book?linkDavid Hawgood
January 15First issue of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletterlinksource
JanuaryGooNS web sitelinksource launchedlinksource
December 15AltaVista, first major search enginelinksource
before DecemberThompson one-name studysource
NovemberFFHS publications catalogue made available on GenukiBrian Randell
before OctoberNational Archives of Ireland Family History & Genealogy pagesource
OctoberGenuki is by now hosting pages for a number of family history societies (including Clywd, Devon, Dyfed and Gwynedd)Brian Randell
OctoberHistorical Manuscripts Commission web site; telnet access to the National Register of Archives.HMC/TNA
September 15Demon Internet announces local call access for the whole of the UKlinksource
July 1Dr Ashton Emery's A-Z of British Genealogical ResearchlinkRosemary Lockie
JulyInternet Explorer 1.0source - first newsgroup for genealogy of the British Islessource
before JuneElizabeth Powell Crowe, Genealogy On-line - first internet genealogy book?source
AprilManchester and Lancashire mailing list startedPhil Stringer
before AprilHistorical Manuscripts Commissionsource
March 25Announcement of Genuki on soc.genealogy.computinglinksource
March 7PRO leaflets made available on Malcolm Austen's web site (later moved to Genuki)Rosemary Lockie
MarchThe Web overtakes file transfer (FTP) as the main use of the Internetsource
FebruaryJohn Fuller and Chris Gaunt launch Genealogy Resources on the Internetlinksource
before February2% sample of 1851 census available for download by FTPsource
JanuaryPhil Stringer publishes "Online genealogy information about the UK", the forerunner of GenukilinkPhil Stringer
 Mailing lists for some individual Scottish clans in existenceJohn Fuller
 Archives Onlinesource
December 8Inaugural meeting of the Archives and Internet Groupsource
before December 7North of Ireland FHS web site - first FHS web site?linksource
DecemberLaunch of .Net and Internet - the first UK Internet magazinesPeter Christian
November 14Launch of HM Treasury web site - first goverment department on-linesource
November 9Reorganization of genealogy newsgroups into the soc.genealogy hierarchysource
July 16Channel Island Surname Interest List - first UK surname interest list?linksource
July 10Gene Stark announces GED2HTML, a program to create an on-line pedigree from a GEDCOM filesource
JulyThe Genealogy Home Page - first directory of internet genealogy resourceslinksource
May 31Frode Kvam posts source code for GECDOM -> HTML conversion program to ROOTS-Lsource
before April 28Paddy Waldron sets up Irish genealogy pages on the Trinity College Dublin web sitesource
 Genserv moves to the Weblinksource
December 6FTP archive at Penn State University makes genealogy software available for downloadlinksource
November 11Mosaic 1.0 browser for Windows and Mac released (a UNIX version had been released in April)source
JuneAlan Stanier puts STANIER family tree onlinelinkAlan Stanier
NovemberJANET IP service: UK universities start to connect directly to the Internet (most early UK genealogy sites are hosted on university servers)source
August 6World-Wide Web publicly releasedsource
 Launch of Genserv, e-mail based GEDCOM matching servicelinksource
April 7Roots Surname List announcedsource
 Hytelnet - directory of telnet sites, including many library cataloguessource
 Remote access to National Register of Archivessource
December 12ROOTS-L - first genealogy mailing listlinksource
September 20First posting to soc.roots, replacement for net.rootssource
JulyCreation of the .uk top-level domainsource
October 31First genealogy newsgroup: net.rootssource

General Sources

Some of the general resources which are useful for the history of genealogy on the internet are:

Links to information about the history of Genuki itself are collected under the heading Published Papers about This Service.

For more general internet history, consult:

© 2005, Peter Christian.
This page was last updated on 16th December 2014.