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

54 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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    Since both websites are linked and they say ROOTSWEB was hacked it would seem that ANCESTRY would have been hacked into at the same time,but since ROOTSWEB is free what site do you think would be fixed first.I have added many of my family tree using whose free weekends,i can not gain access but at lease some one can use it,remember it’s the people who put info into the site they charge for,if we stop inputting info how much could they charge then.

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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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I asked Rootsweb Help if I could have access to download my data for my County website since it has been down soooo long!
Here is my answer:
Dear Carolyn,
Thank you for contacting RootsWeb in regard to accessing the Wisauk Website.
We understand the importance of accessing the Wisauk website. While we are updating the website, the Hosted sites are not available. We are scanning each database making sure they meet our stringent security standards. We don’t have a time frame as to when this will be completed but we appreciate your patience during this time.
If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know.
Yvonne
RootsWeb Support Team

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    Judith Parker-Proctor July 14, 2018 at 11:53 am

    My personal genealogy website, as well as one I’ve done for a local Genealogical Society has been housed on rootsweb for 15 or so years. I’ve received multiple e-mails asking about the information I included on my personal site & where it is. Rootsweb was free & the most logical place to to house the info for fellow genealogists, however, since it’s been missing in action for the better part of a year now & no end in site I’m looking at alternatives. I do have my sites backed up to my hard drive & can upload the entire site to another server making the rootsweb site unnecessary. While that might cost a few dollars per month, it does seem preferable as we can see no light at the end of this tunnel.

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    I have been building new sites on google sites. It is free.

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It is now May 16, 2018 and still no sign of Rootsweb coming back. I smell a rat and the rat is greed and the greed mongers is Ancestry ……ALL OF THEM

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    For anyone who uses Ancestry (at least Ancestry.ca) it is fairly apparent that the IT group or whoever,, so the people who manage that website (and I assume are supposed to be reviving Rootsweb), are not necessary the sharpest bunch anyway so the long wait for Rootsweb to maybe be fully restored is not a big surprise. I cannot delete old sent messages in my Ancestry internal message system, and haven’t been able for months or longer. I finally decided to send a message to what I thought was the Ancestry help system telling them this issue. I eventually got a response from an individual identifying herself as a “Directly Ancestry expert”, whatever that is, and she acknowledged there was a problem. Reports of bugs to Ancestry expire a day or two after you send them. The problem I have is still not resolved. As well, if you have done much with the Search engine (at least the one associated with the DNA match section) you’ll realize that it is a fairly stupid search engine.
    Neither of the issues that I mention here are actually rocket science so I wouldn’t get my hopes up about when and if Rootsweb is fully restored.
    As others (and I) have pointed out for anyone actively doing genealogical research the loss of Rootsweb (so at the moment the Hosted sites) is an enormous, nearly daily, headache because it has/had a gold mine of very useful information.
    The initial problem that caused Rootsweb to be taken off-line was related to password security or lack of it in the original Rootsweb server. So delete the password file and make the site read-only for everyone until the issues can be resolved. The explanation now is that they are screening the Hosted sites to pick out security issues, and what would they be? Malformed or bad URLs that may download malware onto the server? Really? Surely they already have installed on the server the software that blocks unwanted intrusions (?).
    I wouldn’t say that the slow restoration of all of Rootsweb is necessarily nefarious but it may just be attributed to not having suitably competent sysadmins.

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It’s really quite simple Ancestry is in the business of making money. Roostweb is free. It goes like this. You do your research, some of it on Ancestry no doubt, put your findings on Rootsweb and all of its connected state and county websites and anyone can view it or use for nothing. Ancestry can’t charge you for it if it’s on Rootsweb. Over time, as more and more people add to or even complete their family trees, fewer people will need to subscribe to Ancestry. Internet genealogy has been going on for some time now. There is information posted out there today that none of us could have found on our own in the old days of visiting state libraries and churning the microfilm reader for hours on end. Not mention British genealogy.
I am convinced that Ancestry’s ultimate aim is to kill Rootsweb. But it has to do it under the guise of security. Look at what happened to GenForum. Ancestry took it over and then killed it. They don’t want people communicating easily and freely. Their business model is to force people to talk to each other through them. And charge a fee to do it.
We all know what happens when we put our trees on Ancestry. They own it. Nobody can access it without a subscription. All those hours and years of labor, just handed over to them for nothing. Better to find a program and website that allows you to post your Gedcom directly to the web.

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    It was feared that when they got Findagrave the same thing would happen, and I believe it will eventually do that. All they really want to do is try to convince you to buy expensive DNA sources. They might be getting into trouble with that the way they are doing it, lawsuit pending apprently. Rootsweb is not the only thing they have taken away from use, I once had a family site which is no longer available but they now have all the information on it to use as they want.

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They should sell out to another company and quit lying about fixing things. It is ridiculous that they have been down as long as they have.

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“We have identified about 600 USGENWEB sites to bring back first, listed below. ”
“Other sites will be reinstated upon request.”
That last comment I would say finally reveals the scam (as I will refer to it as). I don’t know how many hosted websites were on RootsWeb when Ancestry took it down but I am sure that the 600 USGENWEB sites represent a very small fraction of the original total. So this seems to me to confirm suspicions of the many people (like myself) who in the past (and often still) found/find themselves frequently being directed by websites to Rootsweb-hosted sites. Most of the Rootweb hosted websites will probably never be accessible again.
Nice job Ancestry; a pox on your houses.

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Running out of patience!

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Another year goes by and nothing but silence from Ancestry. I don’t believe they’ve written a single line of code in the interim. I fear Rootsweb has joined the choir invisible.

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How many years will this take? Good grief.

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The “www.rootsweb.com” web site is alive and many things appear to be up and running. The message boards are up but now they are part of ‘www.ancestry.com’ and you must have an Ancestry account (and sign into it) to ask a question or respond to one. WorldConnect is running but I don’t know whether the former WorldConnect data is all reinstated and I also don’t know whether records are read-only. One of the biggest concern with bringing back RootsWeb has always been the hosted web sites and although I cannot assess whether everything has been restored certainly a lot of things have. The “RootsWeb Hosted Site Index” is subdivided into “freepages” and “www” (maybe that is the original organization?) and a quick random glance through the contents of these two indicate that a substantial number, at least, of the contents have been restored. There may very well be a number of dead links at a variety of web sites that have URLs pointing to the original RootsWeb layout and those may not work, but I haven’t thoroughly investigated the issue.

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    Back when Ancestry bought Rootsweb it was stated that the Rootsweb info would always be free. I think as Ancestry has grown it has attempted to absorb and take over info so we have to now pay for it. Many, many of the old local articles and information are no longer free… if they can be found at all. Personally I find that tragic; so many hard working local folks spent hours collecting local data and shared it… all gone now.

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    I am certainly not an apologist for Ancestry and by nature in fact I am very much a skeptic or even cynic. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Ancestry had considered commercializing some of the RootsWeb material, although I suspect that could lead to intellectual property/copyright battles. After my last post I did a few tests to see whether information that had been on the ‘old’ RootsWeb, and maybe referenced by smaller, non-commercial websites, could be accessed again at the “new’ RootsWeb. For example I am in Nova Scotia and the ‘LUNENBURG COUNTY, NOVA SCOTIA GENEALOGY’ web site, originally hosted on RootsWeb, is now back and seems to be fully restored; similarly the ‘Nova Scotia GenWeb Project’ website has been restored. I have noticed that some of the links on ‘Cyndi’s List’ that used to point to RootsWeb pages now direct you to the Ancestry log-in page but I don’t know what the issue actually is there. Now Patricia Smith may actually know of material that had been on RootsWeb but is still unavailable and it might be useful if she could give a few examples that she is aware of. I do agree that the Ancestry staff who have been handling the RootsWeb restoration could have been more forthright and informative about their progress as well as letting people know which parts of RootsWeb were either not restorable or wouldn’t be restored for other, maybe legal, reasons.

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