This is a dark day indeed.
Ancestry, who acquired RootsWeb, including the mailing lists and WorldConnect Trees back in the year 2000 is going to delete both.
The original purchase agreement reportedly included the provision to keep both free, but I never heard anything about a provision to keep them intact. A lot changes in 23 years in terms of technology, but other companies have updated infrastructure and maintained service for their customers. Ancestry can too.
The RootsWeb mailing lists will be gone April 6, and the WorldConnect trees on April 15th.
Ancestry has removed many RootsWeb features over the years. Blogger Margaret O’Brien reviewed what was left in October 2020, here.
This isn’t the first time Ancestry has deleted an essential database. In 2014, they deleted their own Y and mitochondrial DNA database, followed by the Sorenson DNA database in 2015, despite petitions to reconsider and offers within and outside of the genealogy community to keep both alive.
Here we are again. Another crushing blow to the genealogy community in terms of irrecoverable record loss.
You can read more about Ancestry’s corporate, acquisition and product history, here.
RootsWeb Mailing Lists
You’ll see this notice if you go to the main RootsWeb page.
What I don’t know is whether this means that the RootsWeb lists will be entirely deleted, or they will be kept intact in a similar format as Ancestry did when they purchased, then shut down the Genealogy.com trees, articles and forum in 2003.
I would think that if Ancestry had planned to keep anything in place, or maintain the RootsWeb list information in any way, they would have said so. The posting functionality has been gone for years, but we were still able to find information posted previously.
If you need something from the RootsWeb lists, assume that Ancestry is doing exactly what they said, and obtain it NOW!!!
The WorldConnect trees will be gone too. Back in April of 2019, Ancestry substantially changed the format of the trees, along with the web links. People could not find their way “back” to trees through links they had previously used.
Worse yet, tree contributors often included substantial notes, plus sources. In the “new” format, all notes were deleted, and sources, when included, were incomplete.
For users, this purge was gutting when so much information was included, and then, was entirely gone. Genealogists used to be able to contact tree-submitters, and even download some trees, but that functionality has been gone now for years.
Case in point, I’d love to find or make contact with Jim Weber who maintained an absolutely wonderful tree, above, complete with both text and sources for Medieval genealogical individuals.
If you know Jim Weber, PLEASE put us in touch.
Now, Jim’s tree will be gone and according to Ancestry, WorldConnect trees will be ported to Ancestry later in 2023. I can only HOPE that Ancestry replaces the text they stripped out in 2019 which removed a huge amount of Jim and other people’s work. However, that’s doubtful.
I wonder if these trees will be available for free or only to paying subscribers.
RootsWeb Message Boards and Hosted Webpages
The intertwined history of Ancestry and RootsWeb websites is complex and confusing. FamilySearch provides background information, here.
It’s unclear what will happen to the Message Boards and RootsWeb Hosted Websites.
For example, this unpublished manuscript of Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers of Southwest Virginia 1773-1794 by Emory L. Hamilton is invaluable and the Russell County, VA site is the ONLY place this is document available.
The Russell County site is a VAGENWEB site but it’s hosted by RootsWeb.
If you’re depending on any RootsWeb hosted site, I’d be making alternate plans.
Here’s the GenWeb index site with the following notice.
I can’t imagine that Ancestry is going to invest any resources in anything RootsWeb anymore, although I have not heard chatter from GenWeb site administrators.
Steps to Take NOW
The best plan of attack is to recover and save anything you can from RootsWeb lists, meaning locations or surnames of interest.
The index of RootsWeb Mailing Lists is here.
Make Your Voice Heard
It’s difficult to provide feedback to Ancestry, but try.
At the top of your Ancestry page is a Help button which includes a Support page which has a Chat Bot, but no phone numbers.
I could not find a support phone number on my page, but I found 1-800-615-6560 and 1-800-262-3787 as their corporate numbers.
The Ancestry CEO is Deb Liu.
Don’t Rely on the Wayback Machine
Don’t rely on the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive for two reasons. The Wayback Machine is a wonderful archival resource, but the sites have to be crawled to be archived.
The WorldConnect trees were never crawled and those links are not there today. I tried that to find Jim Weber’s original tree entries with their wonderful notes – to no avail. Entering the current page links produces the same result. It’s easy to prevent the Wayback Machine from crawling sites and Ancestry has apparently done so.
For sites like the Russell County GenWeb site, the primary page itself was crawled, but the sections of the Indian Atrocities book were not. So if the site disappears, you’ll be able to see what you want, and used to be there, but can no longer get there. The Wayback Machine doesn’t always crawl buried links.
Time is of the Essence
Begging and pleading with Ancestry, including petitions from the genealogy community, have been of absolutely no use in the past. Let’s hope that perhaps this time is different and an organization like FamilySearch or the Library of Congress or even the Allen County Public Library will be selected to be an electronic repository for the RootsWeb list contents.
Don’t count on it, though, and do what you need to do for your genealogy, now.
Ancestry – It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
It really doesn’t have to be this way. There is absolutely no benefit to anyone by deleting this information forever when there are other viable options with non-competitors.
Ancestry can position themselves as responsible stewards and write their corporate legacy in a positive way instead of creating a nightmare scenario.
I hope Ancestry preserves this priceless information contributed over three decades by thousands of researchers, many of whom are deceased now. That an entire generation of information that is irrecoverable. It’s literally erasing our family history and burning the digital genealogy library of Alexandria.
PLEASE. DON’T. DO. THAT
Ancestry, if you’re not going to preserve the lists in any format, at LEAST donate the information to FamilySearch to incorporate into the FamilySearch Library.
That’s the responsible stewardship approach, rather than having a huge digital bonfire, again.
I’m sure FamilySearch would gladly preserve these records and make their contents available to everyone, honoring the original intent and all of the contributors who trusted Ancestry.
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You say it may be a dark day, but given Ancestry’s past actions it shouldn’t be (totally) unexpected. It doesn’t inspire me at all that the Ancestry CEO is a former Facebook executive.
First sentence is totally true. But many subscribers are relatively recent and may not know that. Or that WorldConnect exists, Ancestry having kept very quiet about it for some time.
Ancestry’s history continues to repeat itself. How many things can you name that Ancestry took over or offered and then discontinued?
no one should every have a copy of there tree on any web page should be backup at home
Not their only copy, that’s for sure.
I know people who are still traumatized from the end of what was it? MyFamily? which would keep all your attachments and media safe for ever.
And then was closed down with retrieval impossible because either the site was not functionally accessible or those attachments were irretrievable or damaged.
And people from before that who still will not test their DNA there because of what happened in their first venture into that.
The solution as I see it is to ALWAYS KEEP YOUR OWN TREE and MEDIA.
Keep your own copies of correspondence and other files.
Oh, and BTW, for a long time in IT, “for ever” has been 5 years.
I have my own tree, but that’s not helping anyone else. It’s the sharing and collaboration that is so valuable and will be lost. Particularly the lists.
I left ancestry.com in Nov 2021 with a sourced tree of 186,000. In their new terms, in fine print, it was stated that in 3 days they would OWN all my photos entered into the tree and any sources I entered into the tree. Ancestry.com also purchased findagrave and has begun taking out or moving any photos I submitted. I am now on My Heritage and am very pleased.
Several family withdrew their trees from Ancestry several years ago when the company first started doing strange things with Rootsweb trees. They were excellent trees and great pointers to cousins.
These people have not come back anywhere that I can see.
Maybe they took up something else. I found out only after they had changed email addresses, and I can’t find them.
Their trees tended to be more reliable than Ancestry trees.
Are you saying you deleted your tree from Ancestry; and they now say they own your photos? If so, they are saying they also own your tree and although you deleted it from Ancestry, they still have your tree. And does that mean they will be using your tree for their purposes in the future? If all of this is correct, your deleting your tree from Ancestry was a waste of your time and in practical terms, it was not “deleted.” Photos: Just because a photo is attached to a profile, it does not always mean the photo is that of the profile name unless it is labeled thusly. Some people, like me, run rampant attaching all sorts of stuff (sometimes useless) behind a profile name just in case it might come in handy someday. I.e., used as a resource area. Ancestry will run into all sorts of problems trying to sort that stuff out, at the same time promulating incorrect information.
I’ve always wondered if Ancestry could be considered a monopoly. It seems they are gobbling up smaller competitors.
This is awful news, especially for people who thought they were leaving their work for posterity, and are now deceased and cannot do anything about saving it.
However, I have to say that I have had several trees online at Worldconnect since the very early days, well before I had an Ancestry account – and no one has EVER contacted me about those trees. So despite it being a wonderful resource, I would argue that people very rarely used it. I often wondered if it was despised because it was free.
I used them a lot.
Before Ancestry took over and destroyed the search engine, I used them all the time. I contacted and was contacted by many people. Then Ancestry took over and deleted the poster’s e-mail and way of contacting them.
One thing I found particularly helpful about the old search engine was that if you had a person that went from ABC County, Virginia, to XYZ County, Kentucky, that you could put in dates of say born from 1750-1790 in ABC County (no name needed) who died in XYZ County from 1800 to 1850, and get a list of those people on anyone’s tree. A quick way of identifying possible members of their FAN club to watch for those names as you looked at records.
The USGenWeb still has some websites hosted by Rootsweb because the website coordinator chose not to move from there. Members of the USGenWeb are allowed to choose the servers where their counties are hosted, so there are a variety across the countries. Some State Projects have their own servers where each of their Counties can use, some members have their own servers, and some still use Rootsweb. It’s their choice. Each county is linked from the State home page. For instance, if you go to the Virginia site, and select the county, you’ll see the webpage is there. And while I don’t know about the VAGenWeb, their coordinators should have a copy of what’s on their website, as we do on the NCGenWeb.
But how many counties still have administrators that know how to migrate their info to another server & who will pay for it??
Each State has a State Coordinator who is in charge of all of the counties for that State. There is a required in-house mailing list for every State Coordinator, where they can all discuss and share issues that each one of them should know. Most States provide for servers for each County, through shared donations set up by their own individual projects, either paid for by their members, by members who have their own servers, or donated by members of the various projects who have private server space, among the most common. Every County is provided with server space, no one is just left and told to find space. As far as migrating from one site to another, the easy part is the the physical moving of the materials to their new website since there are ways to do that. But the difficult part is finding someone at Rootsweb to make the arrangements to get into their server and download the files. Over the years when I was SC of NC, I never had a problem with getting Rootsweb’s cooperation, but I also have seen that hasn’t always been the case with other States. Right now the Rootsweb/Ancestry team seems to be working pretty quickly at responding when requesting that they remove our WC Trees, as I did last week. I don’t know how long that they will have the people available for that cooperation, but hopefully it lasts for awhile.
There are several methods to contact Ancestry. Here are a few.
+44 0800 404 9723
You are so on target about losing Rootsweb. So many great resources and research lost.
I wonder if these trees will be available for free or only to paying subscribers. Surely that’s a rhetorical question! If you would start an online petition and let us know it’s there, we’ll all sign. But I’m sure ancestry will not spend any money that they aren’t required to spend. My subscription is up in March. I had already decided I will quit. It’s too expensive. My McKeiv software doesn’t work any more and I was never happy enough with the 2017 to buy another update. All the work I’ve put into my tree AND the documents I have uploaded… I’m sure it won’t be there 10 years from now.
Ancestery seems to buy out the great FREE websites such as Rootsweb and then end up shutting them down. Because they are competition?? Will the same happen to FindAGrave? It’s a sad situation as there is so much wonderful information on Rootsweb that will be lost.
Ancestry.com already owns findagrave. It was bought out last year.
They only brought the county message boards at genforum back through Florida. All the state boards are there, but not the counties for each state after Florida. This is really sad. There was so much info posted.
This page has an email for Jim Weber listed in the notes section.
The only language they understand is if everyone stopped paying annual subscriptions.
Family Search/LDS keep *everything*, and what they don’t is not likely worth keeping, imo. Seriously, I trust them (and no, not a Church member by any means).
(scroll through the gedcom collections)
Hi Roberta –
This whole thing rattles my cage. I don’t know what I need ’til I need it and if this info disappears from our searches, it’s just heartbreaking and frustrating.
I’m working on my dearly beloved but maddening Southwest Virginia Campbells. They are likely your Campbells, Roberta, if we could only connect the dots. They are that crazy bunch who were living in the Powell Valley during all the ‘troubles’ and you know how they are 🙂
That said, I’ve used a lot of the info found in Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers by Hamilton. It’s chock full of family nuggets. Therefore, I copied the entire thing into Word docs yesterday, basically so I could sleep last night. The thought of even a chance of losing that… well.
If you want that archive – or if anyone else would like to have it – I’m more than happy to share. At least we know we can save ONE thing.
Yes, I would love that. It’s one that I was going to save so thank you.
Have tried twice to email this, but apparently don’t have a working email for you. Let me know your preferred email address and I will send. Have fun at RootsTech!
My cousin, Charmaine Joiner, created a private site on Roots Web called Wooden Seeds. She won awards for her stories and creativity. Made me sick at heart when Ancestry acquired it, without any notice to Char before or after. I think I learned of it through your post. After Ancestry had our info I copied each page of our info.
I am so mad about this! Ancestry destroys everything it touches. I will never pay them for a subscription ever again! I will probably take my trees down at some point in the future. I hope that as a protest, everyone cancels their subscriptions. They are an evil corporation.
I found this which has a link to submit feedback:
I think most people began their searches with Ancestry. It seemed like such a wonderful resource and place to store Information. Delighted I didn’t have any photos on there! And, Find-A-Grave, while not always accurate, was a terrific resource and wonderful way to link up with others who might have that nugget of missing information! Next step: Cancel Ancestry subscription. Hopefully they won’t get their hooks in to GedMatch.
I just spoke to an Ancestry customer service rep who had no idea what I was talking about or why I was upset. On the RootsWeb support page I left a scathing message. After I did that, I saw an article on the Support page called “Retiring and Migrating Portions of RootsWeb.” In that article they claim: “Where can I find the Mailing Lists Archives?
The mailing list content will be migrated to an alternative, free platform for long-term access. When the migration is complete, a link will be posted to the RootsWeb home page.” We shall see. But I am frantically trying to save at least some of the information in the archives.
I just came here to provide that same link. I do hope they are being true to their word! https://support.rootsweb.com/s/article/Retiring-and-Migrating-Portions-of-RootsWeb
Thank you. I hope so too.
I’ve never used ancestry, still, I can only say,
– keep ownership of your tree, in any case offline, whether you use simply Word or a genealogy program.
– if you want to share… try write a book or article (I know that sounds ancient these days, but it creates a “fixed source” you can refer too later on and as a blog or pdf you can easily show it online).
– now, of course databases are very normal today if used responsibly. I’m not a fan of people who maintain a 1 million-people database and frantically “copy-paste” everyone, especially info on recent individuals they are not related to; always remind yourself what your goal is with your database and why you want to add people to it
– the question for this century is, how to create databases that will be robust for a longer time period, where you have ownership of your own tree (that’s why i don’t like wikitree as well…), can easily link to primary sources etc., the risk with many platforms is being bought by an owner who has different plans with it
– I’ve seen in the past migrations from yahoo groups to sites such as google groups or groups.io. There are places to migrate too, so complete destruction of old message boards seems unnecessary to me..
just some thoughts I had
Bottom line is tech is starting another massive shakeup. Do not expect that even paid companies will be around next week much less any “free” service. Just look at Google’s history of killing things people loved. Or Netflix tossing everyone’s 5 star ratings. If you do not have a backup of your “data”, “offsite”, then you risk losing it. Plan and choose sites accordingly.
Some of your comments I think have been overstated or not fully informed. See https://support.rootsweb.com/s/article/Retiring-and-Migrating-Portions-of-RootsWeb
Mailing Lists Archives (last updated in 2020) will be retired on 6 April 2023 and migrated to an alternative, free platform. Once migration is complete, we’ll provide a link to them on the RootsWeb home page.
WorldConnect family trees (last updated on 9 August 2021) will be retired on 15 April 2023 and migrated to Ancestry as a new free-access collection later in the year.
I provided screen shots from their website. They have since added the verbiage that the mailing lists will be moved to an alternate free platform. Perhaps users helped to achieve that. I’m glad they have reconsidered and will publish when they do.
There is what Ancestry says it will do, and what it actually does. There is a history of difference between the two, and the glass-half-empty responses above are often informed by circumstances in which the glass when measured was well below the mid-point. We even have a situation now when one function that has been yet again highlighted as allegedly being beneficial tells me something that has no evidence: it’s just misleading. Despite my feedback over the last 2-3 years, the thing has not been fixed – they just advertise it with more push.
If Ancestry actually delivers something the community is happy with as a fulfilment of what was promised it would be a first time for any similar activity of record rearrangement.