In the spring of 1996, a group of genealogists organized the "Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database Project", which evolved into the KYGenWeb Project. The idea was to provide a single entry point for genealogy data and research for all counties in Kentucky. In addition, the information for each county would be indexed and cross-linked to make it easier for researchers to find a name or data that they sought. In June 1996, as the KYGenWeb Project was nearing 100% county coverage, interested volunteers decided to create a similar set of pages for all states, establishing The USGenWeb Project. Volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the efforts for each state, and additional volunteers were sought to create and maintain websites for every county in the United States.
This was done during the time when it was not only very time-consuming but expensive to find out who your pre-desessors were. It took hours to look through microfilms of the census and copy the information found. The only way to search through the vast sources where information was on our forebears was to look through microfilms, microfiche, books and typed sources and to visit the cemeteries when no one had previously painstakingly gathered the information that resided on the stones and made it available to others. This information was not in one single place although there were several libraries that held large collections of genealogical materials. To find more detail on your family, you usually had to visit these libraries yourself or hire a person who lived in the area to do the research for you.
The thousands of hours that volunteers spent working to collect, type, organize and post information to the websites was not done with any help from either RootsWeb or Ancestry. County Coordinators had to learn know how to make the webpages and how to upload them to the servers. All of this was done by volunteers who graciously wanted to provide a means for anyone to obtain genealogical and historical information free on the internet.
RootsWeb provided free webspace for the USGenWeb Project. This webspace was to be provided ad-free and the volunteers were promised that the information would never be sold. after years of providing this free webspace, RootsWeb decided it was too expensive and sold RootsWeb to Ancestry.com. When Ancestry.com acquired RootsWeb, they changed the policy from providing ad-free webspace to providing space with an ad for Ancestry.com placed on every page that resides on their servers. Beginning sometime shortly after March 15, 2008, the Ancestry.com banner was added to all of the USGenWeb Project pages that resided on Ancestry. This policy is still in effect today.