Genweb was first proposed in April 1994 as a term to apply to the concept of interconnected genealogy data pages. Discussions of using the then-new World Wide Web in support of genealogy research and publishing were taking place on the ROOTS-L and GEDCOM-L mailing lists. Gary Hoffman had proposed CyberRoots or HyperRoots to describe a network of connected pedigree pages. Jon Brinkmann suggested Gen-Web as a WWW analogy to the Gen-Serv GEDCOM server run by Cliff Manis. In May 1994, Yanek Martinson suggested GenWeb as a name for this concept, patterned after such concepts like FinWeb, BioWeb, etc. The term quickly caught on.

Gary registered the domain name and created a mailing list called Genweb in September 1994, then published the GenWeb Manifesto to spur further discussions about linked genealogy pages on the web. These ideas gained national attention at the GENTECH conference in Dallas in January 1995 and at the NGS conference in San Diego in May 1995. 

The Genweb mailing list was closed in 1997 but the archives of these discussions from 1994 to 1997 are at

Several important movements emerged from these early discussions. Responding to the need for a service that indexed genealogy names across pages on multiple servers, Gene Stark created the Gendex index of genealogy web pages, which he supported at for many years. After his service was shut down, others picked up the indexing concept, including Darrin Lythgoe's TNG Network, which indexes many online databases that use his software, TNG, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding.

Also based on these discussions on the Genweb mailing list, in March 1996, Jeff Murphy proposed to post all his Muhlenburg County, Kentucky, research in one locality-based web site, which he called the beginnings of the "Kentucky GenWeb." This network of locality-based genealogy resources evolved into the USGENWEB and the WorldGENWEB .