Friday, January 10, 2020

Rootsweb genealogy mailing lists to close

The announcement was made almost secretively: Rootsweb mailing lists for genealogists will be closing on 2 March 2020.

For three decades Rootsweb has hosted mailing lists for genealogists and enabled them to communicate with others around the world and to collaborate in grenealogy and family history research. For more than half the time those mailing lists have been administered by a commercial firm,, which has now decided to pull the plug.

This comes only two months after YahooGroups, another host of mailing lists, made a similar announcement, though a change of management at Yahoo had already resulted in a partial crippling of YahooGroups in 2013.

One result of the Yahoo! debacle was the formation of, which offers a new and improved version of the YahooGroups format, and with the impending closing of Rootsweb many of the Rootsweb mailing lists will be taking refuge there as well.

On the positive side, there will probably be a weeding out and streamlining of  of genealogy mailing lists.

For example, there were about a dozen mailing lists on Rootsweb related to specific areas of South Africa, with fairly sparse traffic. makes it possible to have subgroups, so we are encouraging people to join a new list for the whole of Africa, and we can open subgroups for different regions, but only if traffic from those regions gets too heavy.

You can see the African list here:

and there are also discussions about consolidating various northwest England groups on Rootsweb (Cumbria, Cumberland, UK-Northwest) into a new one on groups io.

The Rootsmagic-users group, for support of users of the genealogy program Rootsmagic, has already opened a new list on, and no doubt others will soon do the same.

The bad news is that thirty years of archives will effectively be lost. 

For thirty years people have been sharing their research on genealogy mailing lists. Many of the people who collected that information are now dead, and much of their work will be lost.

Among the more useful items  were online discussions about published family trees, noting inaccuracies in them and often providing corrections.

Rootsweb was originally an amateur effort, but grew so large that amateurs could not afford the time or the money to maintain the servers and negotiated with to take over the administration on condition that Rootsweb would always remain free. Perhaps, in hindsight, that wasn't a good idea, and it might have been better to set up a kind of non-profit trust, but it's far too late to think of that now.

But there is hope in the migration to, and I only hope that it will be done with consultation, and with weeding out and consolidation of duplicate, overlapping and redundant mailing lists.

Some have sugested that Rootsweb group members should migrate to social media web formats like Facebook groups, but though such forums are popular, they are far less efficient or effective than mailing lists. Because of Facebook's algorithms, one is quite likely to miss the most useful and relevant messages altogether. With mailing lists you decide what is relevant, but on Facebook, it is Facebook's algorithm that decides what it will and will not show you. And finding a message again after a couple of days is often an enormously time-consuming task.

I mentioned that the announcement of the closing of Rootsweb was made almost secretively. A web search revealed not a single news article about it. So if you were concerned enough about it to read this far, please help it better known by sharing this article on social media too -- there are little buttons you can click at the bottom of the article to do so.


GaelicGarlic said...

I started my genealogy search in 1995 when I found I sponsored my Hagerty and Donnelly surnames and I uncovered more family information in 5 years than my sister did in 15 without the internet. The people I shared info with on Rootsweb was super and I will sadly miss Rootsweb and wish the powers to be at destroy themselves, they know full well what they did to Rootsweb was criminal.

Susie Zada said...

Hi Steve,

Not sure how secretive it was - just did a Google search for

Rootsweb Closing 2020

and there were only 47,300 results - many from the date of the announcement when Rootsweb broadcast to List Owners.

The archives are not closing and will remain available.

An on top of that Rootsweb have provided a very easy option to add a link to your new Mailing List which will appear on the right of any archvive search.

Not secret and archives not disappearing.

Personally I'm grateful - I've chosen for the new home of my Mailing Lists - so many great features that we weren't able to use on Rootsweb - it's given them a new lease on life.

GaelicGarlic said...

You need to explain in much greater detail what is going on as far as I was ready to send out a post on Facebook, that Rootsweb would cease to exist by March 2nd,2020. That all of the hundreds of thousands maybe millions of personal genealogy mailing lists would be forever erased by the bottomfeeding Triple As at Ancestry. I was a sponsor of My two primary surnames, MAILING LISTS, HAGERTY AND DONNELLY in 1995 and for two years until Ancestry stepped in to help. I was active with Rootsweb from 1995 through 2013, but then had to back off for a few years and came back to find Rootsweb a TOTAL MESS Because of bullshit from Ancestry.

I like some of the Facebook Genealogy Groups, but a robust Rootsweb would help a lot and I'm interested in helping get Rootsweb up and running again.

Edward Hagerty
Shelton, CT USA

Doug R1150RT said...

Echoing Susie Zada above:
Message Archives will be preserved, at least as promised by RootsWeb/Ancestry support. And of course that means searchable by key-word or quoted phrase.

Therefore a very convenient link to the corresponding archive can be placed on each home page. Also a link to any existing Message Board (also persisting after Mar 2), appreciated by some.

But RootsWeb Administrator email address lists will also be deleted Mar 2, I believe not widely known. Administrators intending to move to must capture those lists before they disappear, in order to send out invitations to members who failed to transition to the new replacement. This deletion is cryptically referenced in Rootsweb announcement, "administration tools will no longer be available"

Steve Hayes said...

Though the archives may be preserved, there will be no way at all of contacting any of the posters.

I have kept some Rootsweb messages on my computer, going back to 1999, and even have a few earlier than that. If I have information (acquired later) that matches something someone asked about, I can at least try to e-mail them, but in the proposed Rootsweb archives that will not be possible.