Tuesday, January 7, 2020

RootsWeb Mailing Lists - End of an Era

Ancestry has officially announced the end of the RootsWeb Mailing Lists for new posts, effective March 2, 2020. The list archives will remain available for searching.

The history of these lists can be traced back to the mid-December 1987 launch of ROOTS-L, which began its life on a server at North Dakota State University. In August 1995, the list was moved to Apple eWorld, where it remained until July 1996, when it was migrated to RootsWeb, under the management of Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich. Even after RootsWeb was acquired by Ancestry in June 2000, the lists continued to operate, and today, there are still over 32,700 lists.

In my own opinion, two things have led to a drastic decrease in the use of the RW lists: (1) the security, software, and hardware problems that required the taking down of the RootsWeb servers for a long period of time, and (2) the dramatic increase in the use of Facebook as a tool for genealogical communication.

Although I have long been a user of RootsWeb mailing lists, I became much more a part of the list community when almost exactly 8 years ago I took over the list administration for the RootsMagic-Users mailing list from Alfred D. Eller, who had created the list in September 2002.

I will certainly miss the RootsWeb Mailing Lists and the communities that they created. I hope that existing subscribers and posters will find alternatives where they can continue their conversations, whether those are on the Ancestry message boards, in the Facebook genealogy groups, or in other places (such as the support forums maintained by genealogy software vendors). My thanks to everyone who ever created a list, administered a list, managed the servers behind the lists, or  contributed to the lists. You should all be proud of the history you created.


  1. The Ancestry message boards that they suggest as an alternative are classic abandonware that they do not maintain. I subscribe to the RSS feeds of a few boards that I am interested in. The urls delivered by those RSS feeds are broken, here is an example:


    it should be


    I have written Ancestry support about this issue, but I doubt that they have any engineers responsible for maintaining their "alternative" to the mailing lists. This seems like a very easy fix.

    What I find disappointing about this is that I would like to read every post to a board on certain topics. Facebook's algorithms make it much more difficult to read every post to a group.

    Also what happens to ODT (Obituary Daily Times)? That has been a very valuable resource in the past. Do I need to switch to completely relying on Legacy.com obitMessenger saved searches?