Thursday, March 13, 2008

RootsWeb moved onto

Tim Sullivan, CEO of the Generations Network today posted the following notice on the RootsWeb blog:

As you know, The Generations Network has hosted and funded the RootsWeb online community since June 2000, thereby maintaining RootsWeb as the world’s oldest and largest free genealogy website. TGN remains committed to this mission and believes that RootsWeb is an absolutely invaluable and complementary resource to, our flagship commercial family history site. We believe in both services and want to see both communities prosper and grow.

As part of this goal, we have decided to “transplant” RootsWeb onto the domain beginning next week. This move will not change the RootsWeb experience or alter the ease of navigation to or within RootsWeb. RootsWeb will remain a free online experience. What will be different is that the Web address for all RootsWeb pages will change from to Again, the RootsWeb experience is not changing.

The decision to host RootsWeb on is being made for one primary reason: we believe that the users of each of our two main websites can be better served if they have access to the best services available on both. Simply stated, we want to introduce more users to RootsWeb and vice versa.

Today, despite the fact that and are the two most frequently visited family history sites on the Web, only 25 percent of visitors to visited RootsWeb in January 2008, while only 20 percent of visitors to RootsWeb visited (according to Comscore Media Metrix). We think we will serve our users best by doing a better job of letting them know what is available on both and RootsWeb. Hosting RootsWeb on is the first step towards making this happen, but we will absolutely look for more and better ways down the road to advance this goal.

Hosting RootsWeb on will also make it easier for us to make changes and improvements to the RootsWeb experience in the future.

All old RootsWeb URLs will continue to work, whether they are bookmarks or favorites, links to or from a hosted page or URLs manually typed in your Internet browser. We will have a redirect in place so that all old URLs will automatically end up on the appropriate new RootsWeb URL. You will never need to update your old favorites or links unless you want to. We have worked to make the transition as seamless as possible for our users, and this change should have a minimal impact on your experience with the site.

RootsWeb will remain a free online experience dedicated to providing you with a place where our community can find their roots together. If you have questions regarding this change please email them to


Tim Sullivan
The Generations Network, Inc.


  1. Most Ancestry and Rootsweb urls are already very long--so long they cause problems when citing them.

    So why is TGN moving to make that problem even worse?

    And won't all the redirects simply cause more loads on servers and Internet traffic and further delay page loading times?

    Seems like an anti-user move to me.

  2. Insider,

    Despite the reasons that Mr. Sullivan gave for this change, from what I have read elsewhere the true reason is related to search metrics, but which were not discussed in that PR release. They have to do with the fact that the Rootsweb url consistently pulls in more hits than Ancestry's. Thus by this change, Ancestry will reap all of the hits.

    Now I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing or a disservice to RW, as after all Ancestry does foot the bill. However as also discussed elsewhere on the net, for reasons of SEO and server load issues, Ancestry might backtrack on its promise to always have redirects for previously linked or bookmarked RW urls.

    It needs to be noted that Rootsweb has many different constituent parts that comprise the whole. USGenweb is one, mail lists are another, and the combined Ancestry/RW message boards are yet another. However a subcurrent to all of this is the disapproval of many USGenWeb participants to these and other Ancestry branding moves, with the attendant result that many if not all of the state/local GenWeb pages will be moving elsewhere. However since the new hosting arrangements for same will likely be highly fragmented, Ancestry still will not be behind a free genealogy concern in the rankings, even if the new figure for Ancestry is less than the current combined total.


  3. Rootsweb is nothing but a server without the websites that are managed by volunteers and if they decide enough is enough and pull their records then all Rootsweb is in fact is empty server. Mail lists abound, Yahoo and Google do a far better job than RW. Rootsweb is not the only free hosting available. does an outstanding job and offer mail lists and message boards. I think TGN will be asking where oh where have all the volunteers gone.

    If they are like ME they will be long gone and all the records I transcribe will never go on another RW site. Rootsweb was made possible by the members who donated money every year to offset the costs and were promised advertisement/banner free websites in exchange. TGN has reniged on the deal.


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