Caught in the Web
First, some more good news from the Forum I set up. A near relative who was searching the Web and found my name contacted me. He was able to fill in a series of gaps I had in my tree and had photographs of many of our common ancestors one thing my close family doesnt have due to an unfortunate incident many years ago. We now correspond regularly and another piece of the jigsaw that is family genealogy slotted into place.
Then, just as I was writing this article, a long lost relative was searching the name and came across another Forum entry I left. We now have a completely new line back to my Great, Great Grandfather and more family to correspond with. They are in New Zealand and no one knew they even existed. Again, I am either very lucky or the web really is beginning to make a difference to us family historians. Have you had any successes? Do let us know.
Back to the article. It has always been my ambition to set up a proper web site with our family tree and its history laid out for all to see. That ambition came a step closer when I bought a Domain name recently and set up our web site with free hosting from the company I bought the name from. A Domain is your Web Address on the Internet. Mine, or should I say, ours, is at www.ferdinando.org.uk and I have been testing it out with a searchable family tree produced using Personal Ancestral File software from www.familysearch.org. The site is very much "under test" at the moment as I work out the best pieces of software to use and try different ways of presenting the information.
Many of you will have your own "Free space" from your ISP that allows you to publish web pages using 5 or possibly 10Mb of space provided. The difference between free space and a domain name is one of visibility to the Web community. A Domain name is easily typed in and refers to the whole domain. Free space often takes a rather convoluted form including the domain name of your ISP, plus a sub folder and/or your name plus your web site name. A Web Address is directly accessible to search engines where most (not all) free space sites remain hidden behind the ISPs web address.
So with this article I will explore what you need to do to get your own Web Domain or, if you are using your free space, some hints on advertising it to the world. The one thing I wont be able to do is to tell you how to make your own web site, it would take most of the CA editions for this year to do that but there are plenty of sites and advice on the net about doing just this together with plenty of software available to help you. Your own ISP may have help pages and many packages include something to author your own site like FrontPage express a free download from Microsoft. There are also many freeware packages allowing you to create your own web site too. Just go to a download site and see what you can find.
So, how to get your own Domain name? Well, I have two Domains including one for my business that I set up about a year ago now. Domain names come in different guises and so a quick run through of the common ones might be of use here:
. COM we are probably the most familiar with, this is the Domain extension that most international looking companies or businesses use.
. ORG is usually attributed to particular organisations, charities for instance who would have a global presence.
. CO.UK is for British based business (usually) although some people have their own sites with this extension.
. ORG.UK is for British organisations, not normally businesses
. LTD.UK is another UK business Domain Extension
. NET is often used by ISPs and similar organisations
There are others and country extensions lend a clue to their origin. . AU is Australia, .NZ is New Zealand, and .FR is France and so on.
I used. ORG.UK for two reasons. The first was because. CO.UK had already been taken and secondly because I wanted to ensure that it was viewed as a not for profit site. I bought the Domain name for two years from www.Getdotted.com for about £17. I will need to renew my registration again in two years time. At Getdotted they have a sister organisation called www.freola.com where you can host your Domain free of charge (subject to the usual low costs calls etc). My other Domain was from www.freenetname.co.uk where, if you sign up as your ISP, they allow you one free Domain Name per household. This is entirely free apart, again, from the cost of your local phone calls. Go to www.freenetname.co.uk to see all of the information. There are other ways to get a Domain name and set up your web site and this article is in no way an endorsement for these products and I suggest you shop around and find a deal that suits you.
If you have your own free space, your ISP will have help pages telling you how to get to it and what you can achieve in setting up your site.
Advertising your site on the Internet is reasonably easy especially if you are using free space. Go to the search engines home page and look for the area that allows you to register your site. It is quite an easy form to fill in and you need to add the keywords that people will use to search. If it is for family history then the surnames, words reacting to family, genealogy, Gedcom, etc will assist. The more you put in the more likely you are to get hits on your site. With a web page you should also add Meta tags in the home page (see web authoring instructions or look at the source of any web page to see these you can see the source of any page by selecting View and Source form your Browser tool bar). You would then put all your keywords in here and a search engine can index these for its use in queries.
The first web page I wrote took about 2 days (on and off) and was a family page with photographs etc. I tested it and tried out different things to get it working as slickly as possible. I also looked at a lot of sites and saw how they worked, how fast they were and what I liked and didnt like about them. When I wrote my company Web Site last year it took me almost three months duration although not full time to plan and write it properly, test it out and get the buttons to work properly. So, be prepared to be continually updating your site until you are happy. The family site will take at least six months to get anywhere near what I want from it. The content will include the tree itself, of course. Articles, a picture gallery, links to specific sites of interest and, if I can get it working properly, a guest book and a search engine but, of course all that is to come. For now, I have put up a holding page and two test areas trying to get the tree to appear properly and the gallery to work without to much in the way of download cost to the viewer. My site is in its infancy at the moment but at least I have made a start. If you are interested in progress then do please have a look at the site as it progresses and if you have any questions I will try my best to answer them. To compare sites you could have a look at my company site www.farnborough-projects.co.uk and see the finished results although you can look at any site to see the differences. My next plan is to look at other family history sites and see how they are constructed to get some ideas for best layout and content, imitation is, after all, the best form of flattery and often these give you a good insight into good and bad web site design.
If you are planning or have written a family history web site please let us know at Cockney Ancestor