It was about 15 years ago that I started this website. It was during my second trimester in University. All the computer science students were given internet access. We had discovered that we could place web pages on our personal internet accounts which would show up on the World Wide Web. I don’t know the exact date but it must have been towards the end of 1993 or early in 1994. So I’m celebrating 15 years of Yvette’s Dutch Genealogy Homepage today!
The web in 1993
At that time, the World Wide Web had just been invented. There was only one browser out there: Mosaic (I even tried the beta versions!). Almost all websites out there were academic websites.
In the Netherlands, there were no websites on genealogy. I did not know a single genealogist who had internet access on this side of the ocean. I knew there were a couple of people in the US who had internet access, so I decided to create a web page for them with links about Dutch Genealogy.
Typical for the early 1990s, I called it "Yvette’s Dutch Genealogy Homepage". In the beginning, it was just one page with links to any website I could find that had remotely anything to do with the Netherlands and history and/or genealogy. I also included some tips on how to research your Dutch ancestors.
I was overwhelmed by the response I got. Many people thought they had found in me somebody who could do the research for them. Time and time again, I had to explain that I was willing to give pointers, but I would not actually visit archives or long-lost relatives for them.
Internet genealogy and me
In the Netherlands, my website was also being noticed. About a year after I started my website, I was invited to give a lecture during the national convention of computer genealogists. Being only 19 at the time, this was pretty daunting. On the same day, I got another invitation to do a lecture for a smaller group a couple of weeks before the convention. I decided to use that as a sort of try-out and did both lectures. One lecture led to another which helped me pay my way through uni ("no wine please, a gift certificate for books is most welcome!").
Sometimes my being so young led to funny situations. When I showed up for one of the lectures and introduced myself as the one giving the lecture, they told me "What do you mean you’re giving the lecture? We’ve invited an expert!" O well, I guess that’s what you can expect as a 19-year-old girl having a hobby where most people are retired men!
In retrospect, this was the beginning of my carreer in the digital heritage sector. About a year later, in 1997, I was on national television for a TV-course on genealogy, telling viewers about using the internet for genealogy. My boyfriend and I started our own computer firm in that year as well and immediately were asked by archives to help build their websites. I have been professionally involved in creating online access to historical information ever since. Currently, I’m ICT consultant and project manager at the National Archives in The Hague. I was also asked to write a book about internet genealogy, which I wrote together with a friend. This book has now been re-printed about 10 times in two different editions.
Changing role of my website
After the pioneering years, the role of my website changed. Other websites came and took over parts of the function. Archives got their own websites and more and more Dutch people got online. There were too many websites about Dutch genealogy to keep track of all of them.
Instead of trying to be one of many portals out there, I decided to go back to my roots: trying to help descendants of Dutch immigrants find their ancestors. I did a complete redesign and added lots of articles about how to do research. I have some links to other websites, but do not pretend to be complete. I also put my own database online this year. This has led to many interesting contacts and also ended up saving me a lot of time since people could now help themselves.
I don’t yet know what the future will bring. I am working on bringing more and more of my research online. Not just my database, but also my primary sources like the photos I take in the archives which I’m putting on Flickr. This website will likely remain a hub for all my online genealogical activities.