The UK+Ireland Genealogy Web Pages: An Evaluation
* Outdated information is shown italicised and in square brackets.
Like print resources, Internet resources vary in quality of information content and quality of presentation. The purpose of this page is to evaluate an Internet resource, the UK+Ireland Genealogy (Genuki) World Wide Web pages.
This page primarily evaluates the general Genuki pages and the pages covering England, Scotland, Wales and the smaller islands. * [The pages for Ireland get less treatment as they are quite different to the other pages.]
UK+Ireland Genealogy is a distributed World Wide Web database. Sections of the resource are provided and maintained by different people and hosted on several servers in the British Isles.
There is a short, somewhat off-hand statement of purpose for the resource at the beginning of one of the pages. From this it is apparent that the purpose is to provide and to point to a large array of information relating to genealogy and family history in the British Isles. It is also apparent that this is a goal aimed at, and not yet achieved.
Genuki is aimed at genealogists and family historians of all levels. There are full-text transcripts of primary material which are useful for genealogists of all levels, and beginner genealogists are catered for with introductory material.
Some of the material is available in print resources also, but transcripts of primary material may not be available in print, making this a valuable resource.
The scope of the resource is both broad and deep. It includes material covering all the British Isles.
The type of material ranges from pointers, to indexes, to full-text files. The material ranges from very broad items that cover the entire British Isles to material covering particular, small localities.
Documents range from the very general Getting started in genealogy type through to full-text transcripts of censuses, tombstone inscriptions etc.
Currently, the depth of coverage is very uneven geographically. The table of contents page shows that there is a great deal of information for counties such as Devon and Essex and much less for many other counties.
Genuki pages include html files and pre-formatted text files and there are links to other types of resources such as ftp.
Genuki contains a list of the people responsible for each section. This page includes their email addresses but no information about their credentials.
* [The section on Ireland, which was set up as a separate project, does contain information about the project supervisor and about the author of the book on which it is based.]
Without a detailed knowledge of the subject matter it is difficult to assess the accuracy of the information. Suffice to say, there were no errors of fact apparent to me.
* [Parts of the resource are still rough and unpolished. There is a need for proof-reading and, for some pages, thorough editing.
There is a list of subject headings which is double-spaced, making it unattractive and unnecessarily long. Another list of similar headings is single-spaced but all in upper case
There are a small number of links that do not work.
The providers page contains pre-formatted text containing tabs. This is fine when viewed with Netscape or Lynx, but with Mosaic the text spreads very wide across the screen, and with Macweb it is a complete shambles.!]
Genuki contains an explanation of the resource's structure and how the structure was derived. It is to be commended for following a pattern already established elsewhere, for using subject headings used in other genealogical resources, for utilising the benefits of hypertext and for giving an explanation of the structure.
The explanation actually applies to just the core of the resource and does not cover the more general documents such as "Getting started in genealogy," "Researching from abroad" etc.
The structure of the resource is fairly straight forward and self-explanatory and can be easily navigated from the table of contents or by just following links.
When I first looked at Genuki, the table of contents was incomplete. It has since been updated and improved, though I think the order of items could still be improved. I also wonder whether, as the resource increases in size, the contents page will become unwieldy and a search engine need to be provided. [A search engine has been implemented. (1999)]
To assist them in their attempt to provide a seamless distributed service, with a common "look and feel" to all the pages, the service maintainers are developing a set of standards for organising and presenting material. This is highly commendable. These standards provide a set of internal criteria for evaluating the resource.
* [On the broad scale, the aim of providing a seamless service most notably fails with respect to the Ireland section which has been developed independently and is in quite a different format. By contrast, the Scotland section, while hosted and maintained separately from the bulk of the resource, does fit seamlessly with the rest.]
There are quite a number of minor inconsistencies and cases of the standards not being adhered to in the resource.
There are occasional problems in connecting, * [particularly with the Irish site].
This resource could be characterised as a young, immature resource in the early stages of development and still rough around the edges. It has the potential to develop into a very large resource of great usefulness to genealogists. Its availability on the Internet will be of benefit to genealogists around the world, since people from the British Isles emigrated to many parts of the world.
The establishment and evolution of policies and standards for the resource bodes well for the development of a quality resource.