The history of the net and Usenet can be found from links on this site: Denis McKeon's E-Mail and Usenet news page
The history of genealogy on the net goes back to early net times. When people discovered they could correspond with others about their interests one of the things they wanted to talk about was genealogy and family history. Usenet was developed by universities and government organizations, but it has grown much bigger than that now.
The first newsgroup, net.roots, became soc.roots in a reorganization of Usenet called The Great Renaming. Soc.roots became seven soc.genealogy.* newsgroups in a 1994 vote for reorganization, and new groups and reorganizations have added to the resources until there are now 25 soc.genealogy newsgroups.
FidoNet and Bulletin Board Systems were carrying genealogy traffic to selected locations where the systems operator found the subject interesting. Messages were transported over phone lines at the expense of the operator. Interest and numbers of messages were quite high but access was not universal. As Usenet expanded, newsgroups developed and became available to a wider and wider audience and the cost was carried by the universities and governmental units which were the ones developing the resources.
In 1986 or 1987 Alf Christophersen in Norway and Marty Hoag in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, neither of whom yet had Usenet news access to net.roots or its successor soc.roots, joined to create a Bitnet mailing list (ROOTS-L). In 1989 when North Dakota State University acquired Usenet access, soc.roots became available to them, and they worked out a way to create a method of getting messages from one medium to the other and a connection was started. In 1991 it became automated.
Success was evident and was seen in the increasing numbers of messages, but also in the grumblings about needing to split the group. Usenet has a strictly defined method for adding new groups and some people kept talking about doing that. Finally in 1994 the gateway was removed when the talk of splitting soc.roots got to be too much for ROOTS-L.
The plans for the reorganization which resulted in the soc.genealogy hierarchy were made and included mailing lists to be mirrors of all the lists. The splitting of soc.roots was sure to have happened at some point because of the constant increase in messages. The loss of the ROOTS-L connection was painful, however. Within a very short time it was obvious that the newsgroups were a success and that ROOTS-L was also doing very well without the gateway. New groups have since been added, including soc.genealogy.nordic, proposed by Alf Christophersen with mailing list GEN-NORDIC-L to provide the mirror.
Alf Christophersen did not stop with pioneering genealogy on Usenet, however. He has been involved with the Norwegian genealogy newsgroups and with much which has happened in the Nordic regions. There are online genealogy newsgroups elsewhere in the world, and perhaps we will be able to provide those here soon, also.
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