The mission of the WorldGenWeb project <http://www.worldgenweb.org/> is to "have every country in the world represented by an online website and hosted by researchers who either live in their own country or who are familiar with their country's resources."
The WorldGenWeb Project was created in 1996 by Dale Schneider. He and the hundreds of other volunteers who staff WorldGenWeb are "dedicated to the free access of genealogical information by anyone in the world."
The Projects are divided into 15 world regions. Each region is divided up by countries and each country is divided into individual provinces, states, or counties When you bring up the main WorldGenWeb site, scroll down to the map of the world to see where the different regions are located. Scroll even further, and you can search for a particular country with their "Alphabetical Index of Countries" or the search engine.
Resources available at each site will differ, but most offer query pages or BBS-style boards where you can make connection with other researchers.
As an example of what you can find for a particular country, I searched the Alphabetical Index for Switzerland. The link took me to the Switzerland Family History web site maintained by Laura Lee Scott. The Swiss anthem plays in the background. The main historical events of Switzerland from the years 1033 A.D. to 1875 A.D. are listed in a timeline chart.
Maps are posted of Switzerland in 1798 and in 1973. These are valuable for seeing how location boundaries have changed.
Maps are often posted in a size that is too large for the paper you want to print them on. To make them smaller, right-click on the map, then choose "Save Image As..." A file management window will open up, letting you choose the directory on your hard drive where you wish to store the map image. C:/Temp is an easy place to find it again — and you will need to find it again if you want to print it! Once the save process is complete, open up your word processing program and insert the image using the Graphics or Picture commands. When the map appears on your document, you can select it and stretch it to whatever size is most readable.
Other resources from the Switzerland site include "A Genealogical How-To for Americans of Swiss Descent" (with links to newsletters, genealogical societies, a description of Swiss characteristics etc.); a SwissGen Surname Dictionary which contains about 2,000 Swiss names and contact addresses for persons who are researching them; a history of Switzerland; links to Swiss Cantons; sites on the Internet about Switzerland; personal homepages of individuals researching in Switzerland; a Switzerland-L mailing list, and information on the weather in Switzerland. A true wealth of information!
HELP FOR RESEARCHERS
Under this heading you'll find hyperlinks for Mailing Lists (it says "click here"), the BBS-Style Boards, and Surname Helper. Clicking on BBS-Style Boards takes you to the World Visitor Center Page which lists the countries in alphabetical order. Also on that page, note the "Search the System" link at the top of the list, and the "Surname Boards" link at the bottom of the list. Both of these are valuable search engines for surnames around the world.
ONLINE DIGITAL ARCHIVE
In addition to hosting sites for many countries in the world, WorldGenWeb maintains a FREE on-line digital library which is available to anyone interested in family history research.
Documents containing valuable genealogical information are voluntarily transcribed and posted online through this archive. Researchers can then view, print, or save them to their computer as text files. The archive files are organized by region, and some include a search engine.
Most of the sites and documents posted to the WorldGenWeb Project are written in English. However, some are not. When you find a document written in a foreign language, you can use an online translator (for free) to understand it.
One such translator site is Systran Translation <http://www.systransoft.com/translate.html>. Just use your mouse to block or "highlight" the text, then Edit --> Copy and Edit --> Paste the text into their translator box, choose the language to translate from, and click the Translate button. It's fast, and simple. The translated syntax may not be perfect, but you will be able to get the general meaning.
Researching your family history in their country of origin is not nearly as scary, or expensive as it used to be. Get to know the WorldGenWeb site and you'll find its resources invaluable.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids