Thank You RootsWeb!

Sometimes I have to bite my tongue again and again to refrain from an outburst but this morning I read an email that was the last straw and yes, this is an outburst.  BUT it will be a considered, thoughtful and polite outburst – I have no intention of naming and shaming anyone.  Because most of the people who make me bite my tongue probably wouldn’t subscribe to a blog site like this I may actually post a link to this blog on the List Owners Mailing List to which I’m referring.  (Gosh, the nuns at school – more than 50 years ago – would be smiling down on me for remembering ‘up with which I shall not put’!)

Back to the matter in hand.  There are some things we can look back on and reflect on ‘the good old days’.  With genealogy and technology it is sometimes much better to look forward and not complain about ‘what was’.

[Option 1] Who can remember trying to find a birth certificate (I’m talking Australian States here).  You had to come up with an actual date or as close as possible and pay for a search that was +/- n-years from that date.  Nope – you couldn’t go online and request and pay for this certificate.  You had to get a form – sometimes available through a Post Office, fill it out, include a cheque or Postal Note, and post it SNAIL MAIL to the relevant State Registry Office.  Then came the anticipation – waiting MONTHS for the envelope that either included the desired certificate or a ‘Dear John’ letter stating that it couldn’t be found.

[Option 2] Come forward a number of years and joy of joys – Microfiche INDEXES of the State BDMs.  You then had to go to a major library, record office (PROV) or larger genealogical society to search these indexes.  If you found the entry you wanted, you then had to follow the procedure above – fill out a form, post it off with your payment, (or visit the Registry Office), then wait a month or two for your certificate.

Things have progressed with a few more options in between.

[Option TODAY] For Victoria, Australia you can go to the Vic BDM Registry web site and search HISTORICAL Indexes, find the certificate you want, pay online and instantly download the certificate you wanted – fully digitised and immediate!

Which option would you prefer?

I know there are some who would still prefer to search the Digger CDs as they found them easier to search.  The problem is that the older technology Digger CDs didn’t function under new versions of Windows.  Yes, I know there are some technological work-arounds but these are outside the skill sets of the majority of people wanting to search the indexes.  The cost and effort to reproduce new versions of the Digger CDs that worked with the new version of Windows and continue to update them again and again just wasn’t a viable option.

So what has this got to do with RootsWeb – Mailing Lists, Web Sites etc.

It’s an example of some of the demands and rudeness appearing on the RootsWeb ListOwners Mailing List in response to the resurrection of the RootsWeb – they want everything they used to have but with the added advantes of today’s technology.

I won’t rehash all the history but from the mid 1990s there was a free service called RootsWeb.  It included Mailing Lists, Boards, Web Sites and various other functions.  It used emails to communicate with those subscribed and was a fantastic resource for family history and local history researchers around the world.  Personally I adminned a couple of Mailing Lists and still do.

RootsWeb was bought by Ancestry – and of course there were plenty of Ancestry critics who complained and said Ancestry would steal everything and charge us to access our own work.

What eventually happened was that the hardware and software used to run RootsWeb (on multiple different servers) became outdated and needed massive upgrades.  For some time we were without any of the RootsWeb functions.

All that has changed – RootsWeb is back up and running and is still FREE to us all.

That required new servers and new software to handle the myriad options previously available on RootsWeb.

Yes there were teething problems that were being worked on – some functions were suspended for a while as technical issues were sorted out.  They were brought back online but as you can imagine there were thousands of List, Board and Web admins wanting THEIR part of the system working the way THEY wanted.

Throw into the mix a wonderful RootsWeb / Ancestry person called Anne Mitchell.  I was in awe of the patience, clarity, support provided by Anne.  A lesser person would not have had the patience to put up with the abuse and complaints!

One of the guidelines of Admins is to ensure their area (Mailing List etc) remained polite and positive!  Unfortunately many of them didn’t apply those principles to their own behavious on the ListOwners Mailing List.

There are plenty of examples for those with access to the ListOwners Mailing List but basically some Admins DEMANDED functions that were previously available in obsolete software that was no longer available and at the same time DEMANDED new functions.  YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

I can only guess at the difficulties that Anne had keeping on top of the messages pouring into ListOwners.  Even when she asked for examples it was sometimes like bashing your head against a brick wall.

And inflammatory subject lines – wow!

It was getting impossible to find messages relating to particular topics – there were so many agressive and me-too messages.

Anne made use of newer technology – a RootsWeb Blog that would be easier to manage and allow easier searching for specific items.

Well – the abuse started on the Mailing List about the Blog – complaints, don’t want to use, etc. etc. etc.

I shudder at emails from supposedly adult list admins saying just ‘dumb idea’.

It was encouraging to see many messages saying ‘Thank you Anne’ – there should have been more.

At one stage there was a war between UK and USA users – how each looked on things differently!

When the Blog was created to make things easier there were replies such as …

Have far far too many alerts popping in daily to accept anymore.
Not joining any blog. Your list you made for announcement was enough if it
is used it hits all those people with lists. Send it the notice we will get
it. Having this n that to watch is getting overwhelmed.

Then there was a question about Web Sites – some had been reinstated but not all.  On July 3rd, Anne explained that …

You will be able to request it [web site] to have it reinstated sometime early next week.  We will publish a form to fill out.

Today – July 20th – an admin on the ListOwners Mailing List said …


It’s been two weeks.  When will the form be available?

Another Admin politely referred them to the Blogthe Form had been implemented on July 5th!

RootsWeb users and Admins – you demand things from the past and won’t accept things that are NOW and easily available.


It is WONDERFUL having the Mailing Lists back again (and Web Sites etc) – there are a few issues still being sorted but they are working and all those wonderful archives are being restored – a HUGE asset for all Family History reasearchers.

Thank you Anne, RootsWeb and Ancestry.


    • Hi Anne – more than happy for you to share my blog with your staff. I’ve been in the I.T. industry since 1969 so have a fair background and understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes. And definitely pass my thanks on to them. I’m a blog addict so a little biased towards your RootsWeb Blog but I believe in embracing new technology and not to pine for ‘what was’. All the best – and keep up the terrific job. Last Tuesday I was speaking to a Family History Society more than 380 Kms away from where I live. There secretary does a 10 minutes ‘did you know’ session at their meetings and she was extolling the virtues of RootsWeb Mailing Lists. Even told people to be patient as the archives would be restored but time was needed! It was lovely to meet another fan of RootsWeb Mailing Lists. Ironically while RootsWeb was down I created a pseudo substitute ‘Mailing List’ using a WordPress Blog! Take care to you and all your team.


  1. I am still chuckling over the first statement in red – because I read it, read it again and then again and it seems somewhat nonsensical. People make an announcement something is available to view – such as this blog, which I will look at in more detail at a later time – but one does not have a duty to take part in what the announcement was made for. It is a matter of choice. Making that choice however, does not give the end user the right to complain about the service offered.


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