RootsWeb is Currently Unavailable and Probably Will Remain That Way for Some Time

The following announcement was posted on the RootsWeb home page at: http://rootsweb.com:

We have been in the process of improving the site throughout 2017, and as a result of an issue we recently became aware of, we have taken the site offline while we work to resolve it. We take the security of our contributors and our viewers seriously. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but protecting our users’ personal information is our top priority.

Update: January 9, 2018

We have spent the last few weeks reviewing the functionality on RootsWeb and have created a plan to bring many of your contributions back online over the next few months. As we stated before, our first priority is security, and ensuring that every part of RootsWeb meets our stringent security standards. Our next priority is getting you, the users of RootsWeb and its services, access to your content.

Right now, the best way for us to meet both goals is to begin bringing portions of RootsWeb back online in a read-only state.

This means you will have access to content, but you will not be able to load new content in these sections. While this may not be ideal, it is the best way for us to protect RootsWeb users while also providing the ability to use the content you value. This is an interim step while we continue to evaluate the potential for bringing more of the RootsWeb services back online in a more complete manner.

Here’s our current plan:

Hosted Web Sites: Soon we will begin bringing Hosted Web Sites back online. We will start with a few hundred and then add more over time, giving us a chance to scan the content.

Family Trees/WorldConnect: Family Trees or WorldConnect allows you to upload a GEDCOM file and publish it for others to see. It is currently being reviewed by our software engineers and security team and we plan on having a read-only, searchable version up in the next few weeks. The ability to upload new GEDCOM files will be available in the coming months.

Mailing Lists: Mailing Lists have been functioning as normal, but the archives have been unavailable. We plan to make the archives available to you once we have WorldConnect available to you in a readable version.

We will be making decisions about other functionality over time.

We appreciate your patience as we bring the different pieces of RootsWeb back online in a secure manner. You, our contributors and viewers, are what has made RootsWeb the vibrant free genealogy community it is.

The RootsWeb Team

38 Comments

I hadn’t realized how many sites were using rootsweb until this happened. So much info archived there! Looking forward to the read-only being available soon.

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This fiasco as well as the one two years ago when they experienced a total site crash raises great concern about what Ancestry.com is really doing. Is all of their security suspect? Are they attempting to kill RootsWeb all together? Usage after the crash and lengthy period of time that it was unavailable created a dramatic drop in users. Many switched to Facebook.

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    “Is all of their security suspect?” Everybody’s security is suspect, because everybody’s security might be tested and there is no such thing as an unbreakable routine. Some just take a bit longer to break than others, and the fact that nobody’s managed to break one lot of security yet doesn’t mean it will never be broken.

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    Obviously Ancestry has put RootsWeb on hold to gather more subscribers. After all, as they repeatedly remind me, They are giving me the information not the opposite. Good thing I have the genealogy program to view the history that no one else can see….Hmmm Lets charge a monthly fee to view the family history on RootsWeb as well.

    Can’t imagine viewing the family history on Facebook but then I guess I’d have to be re-register again to do that. Would that inclued “Liking” family members and showing videos of family pets?

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We hope this is not the end of Rootsweb and World Connect. Is it a tragedy to make us aware of their value and than tack on a fee?

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While I am dismayed that Rootsweb has been (and will be) unavailable for some time, I appreciate what Ancestry is up against in trying to secure and stabilize an enormous website that suffers from outdated architecture. Given that Rootsweb delivers no user-fee revenue to help underwrite the effort, I’m grateful Ancestry hasn’t announced that they are shutting the site down.

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It appears that Ancestry is determined to ‘get rid of’ Rootsweb. I thought that when Rootsweb was purchased way back when it was under the condition that all of the information contained on Rootsweb would remain available and free.

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I find that I bump into Rootsweb’s unavailabily at least daily. Thankfully, Google stores a cached version of many pages, so you can at least view a snapshot of a page. I look forward to the return of Rootsweb, which was built as a labor of love by volunteers over a long period of years.

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As far as I’m concerned as with everything Ancestry has done it is all part of a bait & switch then take what they want for their own use so they can now charge for work done by Volunteers.

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I’m amazed that people always see a conspiracy in everything that happens with corporations and businesses and government. Perhaps it just is the fact that Rootsweb is a very old site in Computer Years and is very vulnerable to hackers. But I’m not naive enough to know that there are those who will always see a “bogeyman” in whatever happens.

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    Agreed Mary K – I am testing my memory here, but I think I may have created a website on RootsWeb back in 1999??? I had just learned HTML and who gave a thought about security back then for little ole family web pages! Thank goodness Ancestry took over to supply all the hardware, networking requirements and some security. For those who think Ancestry is so bad, why don’t you pony up the money to host all of RootsWeb on your servers? This stuff isn’t free from the web-gods you know! Even the Internet Archive needs money, as well as Wikipedia. They collect donations every year to keep afloat. And give Ancestry a break – Rootsweb wasn’t developed by a team of developers – it was 10s of 1000s of people creating sites and hosting them at RootsWeb. It has to be a nightmare to try and update the security for all the sites. It takes time. Patience, patience, patience. FamilySearch isn’t a gift from the universe either, you know . . .millions of LDS people pay tithes that allow the church to support their family history endeavors. I thank everyone for all their work and money spent to maintain these wonderful gifts.

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    Well Ancestry “Ponyed,” up the money and made promises, to get what they wanted that’s all!

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    If yoy have used Ancestry a very long time you have PAID for it, and then for heavens sake they switch to something else and charge more. A classic Bait & Switch. No bogeyman, some businesses go under with this eventually and some arrests are made.

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Chicken Littles! Good Grief!

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Since RootsWeb made our historical society’s online resources unavailable to the public by “archiving” them more than a year ago, we’ve given up on RootsWeb as an unreliable partner, except for trying to recover our data

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The archive doesn’t seem to work?????

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I’d venture to say that Rootsweb was our gateway to Ancestry, not the other way around.
What an appetizer! With its archives and generous-spirited list members, Facebook is no match. It’s disgraceful that the powers that be don’t recognize its significance and bolster it.

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Off the top of my head, this is what I like about RootsWeb World Connect: 1) Postings are sourced; 2) Green Leaves can point to Vital Records; 3) Post-Em’s can supply missing or incorrect info; 4) Info about site owners is available; 5) Long historical (or other) notes can be posted to individuals. I don’t understand the cynicism concerning the RootsWeb team/Ancestry other than previous grievances. Remember, this outage occurred over the Christmas holidays when many individuals were on vacation. Give them a slight break and thanks for the update. Sue in MA

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I would not look for anything to be fixed any time soon. Ancestry.com has its hands full right now. In the process of upgrading their search function, they have broken it…and many things are either not working correctly of working sporadically.

It has been at least a month ago when I first complained about it to Ancestry FB customer svc ppl. NOTHING has been fixed yet. example-to search for a female by her maiden name, the EXACT function no longer works, you have to delete every reference to her maiden name in a search edit…many more things are broken as well. Right now it is quite difficult to work in ancestry, as most the time you cannot even see what records you have already attached to someone most the time. I have been using lots of “work arounds” too be able to function at all.

The new Find a Grave, I recently noticed, often does not download the children and often spouses, when attaching to your facts page for a person.

Don’t look for rootsweb to be up anytime soon folks. I am glad I don’t rely on it. But now I also am paying for ancestry membership and that has become unreliable.

My own thoughts? If ancestry.com programmers do just about anything they break it…and it takes them forever to fix it. Rootsweb might not work for a VERY long time, if past performance by ancestry is an indicator of future performance…and it usually is.

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Do subscribers get a refund for the length of time that records are down?
Why should we fund the reorganization of the company? Ancestry has a monopoly on the online records because they buy up all their competition. Soooooo, they do what they want at the expense of their customers. No conspiracy just bad business and they DON’T care just look at their justification explanation. Most businesses could not shut down for this long without losing customers. They need some competition.

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First of all, Rootsweb became far more than a mere repository for publicly accessible family tree data, and anyone who has done much genealogical research would appreciate how much other genealogical-related data and information is/was stored there. Rootsweb has been around long before the Ancestry Ireland commercial entity consumed and subsumed a vast quantity of both commercial and community-supported (free) web sites and genealogy software.
Secondly, the message from Ancestry that you get when you try to access the Rootsweb/Worldconnect web site simply doesn’t pass the sniff test. The only excuse that they give for taking essentially everything off-line is that the system was hacked and usernames and passwords were stolen. The first and simplest solution to that problem (if that was the only consequence of the hack) would be to remove all log-in functions for the site. They must assume that genealogists are ignorant of computer server configurations because temporarily removing logins is a trivial step. Now I would accept that the site would have to be taken off-line and attempts made to rebuild it if the hacking went beyond stealing usernames and passwords and actually involved vandalizing of the system, because that would very likely not be a trivial task. However, the message from Ancestry is focused on the security issues, particularly when some Rootsweb user accounts apparently used the same credentials on Ancestry.com, and other regionalized Ancestry sites. Even there, Ancestry must have checked the Rootsweb server when they took the site over (years ago) to at least verify that passwords were all encrypted (not plain text) and that basic, standard, system security settings on Rootsweb/Worldconnect were in place. If the password file stolen was properly encrypted then hackers could only crack really stupid passwords, and that is a user responsibility anyway.

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Our region’s entire historical essay archives plus other family history from the Red River Valley of the North, is (was?) hosted on Rootsweb. We are VERY upset we cannot access it right now, even in read only. I understand taking it offline and making things more secure, but I don’t like at all that they are ‘scanning’ pages to make them read only. Does that mean no search capabilities if it’s all images when it comes back online? I will seriously have to look for other solutions and I’d much rather not, but may be forced to.

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    I certainly concur with you that the off-line status of Rootsweb and WorldConnect is a huge problem and inconvenience at many levels. However I think you may have misunderstood the comment “…giving us a chance to scan the content.” What they intend to do is to study or look over the content in the “Hosted Web Sites” (and keep them in a read-only state until they’ve done that), although it’s not clear exactly what they will look for. One obvious thing is information that maybe violates copyright laws and hence puts Ancestry in legal jeopardy. Now given that Rootsweb and WorldConnect are, at least in principle, international sites, even the issue of copyright is not that simple. Ancestry is actually an Irish company, Ancestry.com is their American branch, Ancestry.ca is their Canadian branch, Ancestry.uk is their UK branch and they have other country-specific branches for Ireland, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and Mexico. So if they find something in the Rootsweb site that they consider may violate copyright laws, just which country’s copyright laws will they enforce? This in my opinion is one of the many problems of having Ancestry Ireland Unlimited become close, too close, to a monolith in genealogical/family history data storage and access, specifically ‘public’ records. I am not that very confident that Ancestry’s re-introduced Rootsweb and WorldConnect will not be changed to some sort of gated (i.e., paid) set up.

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    Rootsweb was a great grass-roots venture by dedicated genealogy researchers who mostly put up static html sites. If something happened and a site crashed they could simply upload it again; FTP is fast.

    I put some of my site on another free-server for the courtesy of those who requested some of the info – until this blows over.

    We have to wait until Ancestry-Permira-Silverlake-Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Ltd decides what they are going to do with all these ‘free’ sites.

    Do some searches like this one:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=Ancestry-Permira-Singapore+sovereign-wealth+fund+investments

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Well……………….., GenForum is in read only status. What a waste. Everyone could read the comments unlike the messages now used with Ancestry’s Public Trees. I wish they would bring it back. I hooked up with people researching lines I was working on and over time, it paid off.

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I manage the Caribbean Gen Mailing List on Rootsweb and built “Historic Antigua and Barbuda” website for Caribbean Genweb which has been hosted on Rootsweb since the beginning. Since taking over the Rootsweb system Ancestry has operated as if the volunteer staff for these sites simply do not exist. Now I find most of the sister sites for Caribbean Genweb and the Caribbean mailing List off line for weeks. Ancestry’s statement that mailing lists have been up and running does not apply to mine. Most frustrating is the complete lack of communication from on high…. Sadly this lack of accountability and failure to use Rootsweb volunteers as we are willing to serve will likely contribute to an already clear atrophy of the active Rootsweb community… perhaps that is their intent?
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~atgwgw/

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    My hope is the “Atrophy,” will be that people will simply not use Ancestry in given time. They have pulled this stunt with everything they have done. And those who use them pay for it and continue to put up with the nonsense. It is about time they suffered, not the volunteers.

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They have become too big, too important in their own eyes, and l like Congress they make or change the rules to fit their agenda with no accountability to anyone.

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