The Genealogist’s Internet

CC BY-SA 4.0

Preface to the Creative Commons Edition

Why this edition?

This version of The Genealogist’s Internet is based on the fifth edition, which was published by Bloomsbury in June 2012. By the start of 2024, something like one third of the book’s 1640 or so web addresses were no longer valid: many point to a resource that has moved to a new location, some to material that’s no longer available, and even a few to a site that has ceased to exist in its entirety.

Also, as the years have passed, for many of the sites discussed, my descriptions and commentary have become increasingly inaccurate. Admittedly this has often been for positive reasons: additional genealogical sources coming online, improved site design, better search facilities, or perhaps a new and better website that has made a particular recommendation redundant.

All this means that simply updating the web addresses (a tedious but manageable task) would not be enough to keep the text up-to-date — even if a web address is still valid, there is no guarantee that either the accompanying text or any screenshots represent the current state of the site.

Twelve years on, though, much as I should like produce a sixth edition, I find myself no longer in a position to devote the time that would be required to revisit every site and revise the entire text, let alone explore and write up the many new resources now available.

All the same, I believe that the 2012 edition, even out-of-date, can still be useful to online family historians. If there were now a much more up-to-date book covering the same ground, then the present book might have had its day. But that is not, to my knowledge, the case. Certainly, much of the descriptive and hands-on detail relating to particular sites in the fifth edition stands in need of updating. However, the book's overview of the online genealogical world and the description of types of resource available, alongside advice about making the most of those resources, still seem to me fundamentally sound. Even where particular sites devoted a topic no longer exist, the text will give readers some idea of the sorts of sites they might be able to find. Also, the problematic issues that faced those doing family history online in 2012, whether on individual sites or over a whole category of resources, have not disappeared. Almost all remain matters of concern, both for the individual user and for the genealogical community as whole.

For those reasons, now that Bloomsbury have permitted the rights in the text to revert to me, I have decided to make the book in its existing form freely available under a Creative Commons licence.

The terms of the licence I have selected are ‘Attribution-ShareAlike’ (abbreviated to “CC BY-SA”).[1] What this means is that you may freely download and reuse this electronic version of the book, and you may distribute it to others.[2] Also, anyone who feels they can update, expand, or otherwise improve any part of my text is both encouraged to do so and invited to make their adaptation freely available. I hope this will be of assistance to tutors teaching online genealogy courses, who will now be able to select, update and adapt the text to suit the needs of their particular students. The only provisos are that any revision must preserve my original title and authorship, and it may be distributed only under the same CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

Online genealogy since 2012

This version, then, is not really new, except in format and licensing — it presents the text (and screenshots) of the 2012 edition largely unchanged.

All the links from the fifth edition have been checked. For around half of the many broken links I have found the old page’s new location and supplied the new address, though, of course, in many cases the content will have changed, perhaps substantially. Those that remain broken I have flagged. I have removed a few now-irrelevant items from the Bibliography. It seemed sensible also to delete text which was helpful in a printed edition, but is unnecessary in an entirely electronic one. Otherwise, the only significant additions have been notes here and there indicating major changes in resources since 2012, changes which would necessitate revision or expansion of that part of the text.

The most important of these changes — mostly, but not all, positive — are included in the Timeline and summarised here:

Two anticipated events have not taken place:


Some of books recommended in the fifth edition of The Genealogist’s Internet, certainly any covering online resources, will now be as out-of-date as the 2012 edition of this book, if not more so.

It is true that any recently published genealogy book is likely to have some space devoted to online resources (if it hasn’t, be very sceptical!). But, as far as I am aware, the only more recent book with a British Isles focus which tries to do what this one does is:

though it is less comprehensive and was, in any case, published only fourteen months later.

Slightly more recent, though just a briefly annotated catalogue of sites, is:

The second edition of my own book, co-authored with David Annal,

has much more detailed coverage of the online census records than could be squeezed into the fourteen pages available in the printed version of present volume (Chapter 6). Because the major data services tend to be relatively stable, this is an area where online material does not change so quickly, though, of course, our book does not cover the 1939 Register or the 1921 census.

For later developments in online resources relating to particular aspects of genealogy there is better news: Pen & Sword has a number of much more recent books focussing on particular areas of online research, and these will be worth looking at if they match your own interests:

Sharing Your Family History Online is particularly recommended as a supplement to Chapter 18 of the present work because of the major changes affecting social media.

There are also quite a few recent books which cover genealogy DNA websites, though generally without a specifically UK or Irish focus.

Peter Christian, January 2024

Next chapter: About the links

[1] To view a copy of this licence, visit <>

[2] You are not, of course, free to distribute the Kindle edition published by Bloomsbury. Even though the text itself is now covered by this Creative Commons licence, Bloomsbury retain their rights in the design of the book as published in 2012.

[3] The press release is at < >.