Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where have all the Mailing Lists Gone?

Way back in the frontier days when we circled the wagons at the end of the day and hooked up our 300 baud modems, mailing lists were one of the first electronic tools we used for genealogy. As far as mailing lists are concerned, FamilySearch was late in and today they announced they would also be one of the first out.

Users of their mailing list system received notification today. "Effective 13 February 2008, the Collaboration E-mail List feature on the web site will be discontinued." Users who wished to remain in contact with one another were advised to exchange e-mail addresses.

RootsWeb Mailing Lists

It is only coincidence that today the Utah Valley PAF User Group (UVPAFUG) used RootsWeb's mailing list system for the last time. List members received a message that began, "A Final Message to All Participants in this Mailing List." UVPAFUG has used RootsWeb's system since July 2000 to announce their monthly meetings. UVPAFUG (no, I don't know how they pronounce that) is abandoning RootsWeb's system in favor of a blog and FeedBlitz subscriptions.

The Ancestry Insider has been hearing rumors of dissatisfaction from several groups with the RootsWeb mailing list system. Ignored for many years by RootsWeb owners—the Generations Network (TGN)—the Insider was told that TGN switched the software used for the mailing lists several months ago and list administrators are not happy with the loss of some key features.

HTML E-mail Formatting

While other solutions allow HTML formatting, or rich text as it is sometimes called, TGN has invested very little in upgrading RootsWeb-related e-mails. Mailing lists are still plain text. The RootsWeb Review became available in HTML just last week.

Message board notifications are another ugly step child. In yet another coincidence, at least some of today's notifications went out with bad links. Here's a representative message showing the ugly formatting as well as the link error.

My Notifications

Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Nancy Rencher, daughter of John Nelson
Author : BMarshall0572
Date : 29 Jan 2008 4:24 AM GMT


Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Re: Nancy Rencher, daughter of John
Author : brencher
Date : 29 Jan 2008 5:20 AM GMT


Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Re: Nancy Rencher, daughter of John
Author : BMarshall0572
Date : 29 Jan 2008 5:31 AM GMT


The Message Board Administration Team

It may be that mailing lists powered by genealogy companies may one day soon disappear entirely.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New FamilySearch offered to all consultants

FamilySearch has announced availability of New FamilySearch accounts to any consultant that finishes a 1 hour course. Said the announcement,

FamilySearch Support is pleased to announce that they will be offering all registered Family History Consultants and Priesthood Leaders an opportunity to obtain a new FamilySearch account early. To take advantage of this opportunity we ask that you attend one 1 hour class entitled, "How Consultant's Support the new FamilySearch." After your attendance to the class you will be notified that your account is activated allowing you to register, participate in on-line training and become acquainted with the system.

There are currently 9 times scheduled for the class running from Thursday, 7-February-2008 until the Thursday prior to General Conference weekend. Classes are held on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. You can see the list of available times and register for one by clicking here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley dies at 97

Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died tonight at 7 pm MST from causes incident to age. He died in his apartment overlooking the historic Salt Lake Temple with family members at his side. Hinckley presided over the church of about 13 million members for almost 13 years.

One of Hinckley's lasting accomplishments will be the great expansion of temples during his presidency. On 12-March-1995 when he became president, the Church had 47 operating temples. Today there are 124 with another 12 in various stages of construction.

New FamilySearch owes some of its existence to Hinckley's insistence that tools be developed to further genealogy work among Church members, allowing collaboration and preventing duplicate submissions of ancestor names to the Church's temples.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Piece of Paper Out of Nowhere

This is another in the Ancestry Insider's series called Serendipity in Genealogy.

Click to enlarge on Featurepics

"When it came time to make a trip to Delaware from our home in Alaska, it was a big adventure, and our main focus was to gather as much information as possible and bring it home to sort out." Steve and Nancy Lealos would spend almost two weeks researching Nancy's genealogy. They called and visited anyone and everyone with any information.

Steve says they would be at libraries, courthouses and other locations from the moment they opened until the moment they closed. He praised the staff of these institutions. "They helped every way they could."

Their hard work hit a dead end with Nancy's great-great grandfather and the time had come to go.

While I was taking some last photographs on a lawn, I happened to see out of the corner of my eye an older piece of yellow legal paper on the ground. As I picked up the paper, I was absolutely stunned to realize that I had in my hand a handwritten document that was at least 50 years old, written in ink without a smudge on it, that listed Nancy's great-great grandfather, his parents, his wife's family and continuing back even further with parents, husbands, wives and children, with dates, places, etc.

To add to the amazement, they could find no reason for the paper to be there. "No one knew about it, no one claimed it." On a lawn in Delaware a piece of paper had appeared out of nowhere.


Adapted from "Out of nowhere," Steve Lealos, LDS Church News, 19-January-2008, p. 16.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NFS Update: I'm OK, "Your" OK

Since Monday's update, I've learned a few more things. Snowflake is going live 5-February. (Thanks, E.) Birmingham, Alabama received notification they will go live in the next 4 months, as did Lubbock. (Thanks, C.) If Seattle got their notification as rumored, no one has mentioned it.

Here's an updated map. Green is live; yellow, announced; red, not yet; purple, under construction.

New FamilySearch Rollout Map for 23-Jan-2008

Notice we now have an unbroken band of states with green and yellow dots from one coast to the other: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, (sorry Miss.), Alabama and Florida.

Oklahoma has hit the rumor radar again. As the rumor goes, "your" OK district could be live as soon as March and as late as May. Given the projected pace of the rollout and the size of that window, that's a pretty safe prediction. (See Renee's article, Pace for NFS Roll-out to Quicken.)

Those betting that Las Vegas would go live 5-February received enormously disappointing news last week. Their rollout has been delayed with no word on how long the delay might last! (Thanks, F.) I didn't hear if a reason was given, but I think temple-specific delays might be caused by equipment related issues. I wonder if high growth in the Vegas area, coupled with the Temple's location far from the city center could make it difficult to get the high-speed Internet connectivity required by New FamilySearch.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New FamilySearch Schedule Update

I've updated my Temple Districts Using New FamilySearch article (but not the map) with the following changes:

Gone live: San Antonio, Sacramento, Winter Quarters.

Going live 5-Feb: Mesa, Oakland, Snowflake.

Going live 12-Feb: Boston, Detroit.

Going live 4-Mar: Costa Rica, Houston.

Received their 3 month notification: Halifax, Toronto.

Rumor has it they'll receive their notification this week: Seattle.


"You're Going Live" message

Wonder what the email looks like announcing your temple district is going live with New FamilySearch? Sometimes exactly three weeks before their go-live date, family history consultants are receiving this message:

To: Priesthood leaders, family history center directors and family
history consultants in the ___________ temple district.


Beginning [go-live date], the new process for printing temple name cards using Family Ordinance Requests will be used in the ___________ Temple. New FamilySearch will be available to the general membership of the Church who live in the ___________ temple district early in the morning on the previous [3 days before?]. No additional notice will be sent to priesthood leaders or members of the Church in the __________ temple district concerning these dates.


We ask that family history consultants and center directors encourage members who have existing TempleReady disks to take them to the temple and have their temple name cards printed before [go-live date]. Beginning immediately, please do not create any new TempleReady disks in your family history centers for processing at the ___________ temple.


If you have not done so already, please complete the new FamilySearch online training prior to [go-live date] in preparation for helping members to use new FamilySearch as part of the new process for preparing ancestral names for the temple. Please contact FamilySearch Support by e-mail or phone if you have any questions or problems.


Thank you for your support of temple and family history work.


FamilySearch Support

The latest go-live dates are all Tuesdays. Sometimes the notifications arrive on a Tuesday. Watch your In-boxes!

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Ancestry TV Ads

Ancestry must have liked the results of their last TV ad campaign. An announcement in their MediaRoom reveals today that they have launched a new set of ads to run throughout 2008.

"The new ads depict how the lives of our ancestors influence our lives today," the press release states. They extend the theme Ancestry has used in previous ads, associating the traits of ancestors with their modern descendants.

One way to see the MediaRoom announcement and the 3 advertisements is to go to and click on Press Room. In the "Search MediaRoom" box, type Ad Campaign. Select the first item, titled The Generations Network - Ad Campaign.

Alternately, you can see the old and new commercials on YouTube.

Alternately, click the play button in turn on each ad below to see the ads. If you still can't play the ads, click the link under each.

Gladys (30 sec)

Jane (30 sec)

Robert (30 sec)

The ad campaign is expected to run throughout 2008 on national cable channels including A&E, Food Network, TNT, AMC and many more.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Part 3: A Virtual Private Hijacking's Browser Hijacker

Click to enlarge on Featurepics
"Business Hack," © fluca

The Ancestry Insider suffers from a problem that has affected many: his browser is sometimes hijacked to Frustrated to his fill, he finally fixated on finding and fixing this problem.

In part 1, An Unholy Alliance, the Insider investigated his first suspect: TGN's former use of Gator. In part 2, the Insider's second suspect was browser hijackings caused by the MyFamily DNS Poisoning problem.

It wasn't either of these; what, then, is it?

Part 3: A Virtual Private Hijacking

Some Windows operating systems will let you see your DNS cache by running (Start > All Programs > Accessories) Command Prompt and typing this command:

ipconfig /displaydns

Someone with the poisoned cache problem described in part 2 would see this somewhere in their cache:
Record Name . . . . . :
A (Host) Record . . . :

What I saw on my laptop was
Record Name . . . . . :
A (Host) Record . . . :

My DNS cache was poisoned, but not in the way explained in part 2. When I specified a non-existent domain, somehow my DNS was appending "" on the end. As we learned last time, the misconfigured MyFamily name servers will willingly claim any domain name passed to them and return the address to[].

Virtual Private Networks

The diagram below/left shows that companies operate private networks (in green) that connect to the web through a firewall. The firewall blocks access to the private network.

Some companies provide access to their private network to select employee computers outside the firewall by establishing a virtual private network (VPN) as illustrated in the diagram below/right.

To include an employee computer in a VPN, special software is installed on the employee's computer that allows the computer to use the Internet to create a virtual cable that plugs the computer into the company network. Even though the virtual cable actually communicates using the Internet, the information is secured and protected, making it as private as if a real cable had been strung from the employee's home all the way to the employee's workplace where it was plugged directly into the company's private network.


I was playing with some of the other name server commands Michael Ditto mentioned in his poisoning article when my computer showed this list of DNS options:

Set options:

There it was! "" was the same string appended to!

When I installed the TGN VPN software on my laptop, it had added to the srchlist option anything necessary for machines connected directly to the company network. From that point forward, anytime I entered a domain that could not be found, the DNS system searched for it by appending in turn each item in the search list. Once was added, the misconfigured MyFamily name servers would poison my cache. The unintended side-effect was my browser hijacking problem.

My long search was over. I removed from the srchlist and revved up my browser.

I typed and...

A 404—page not found—error never looked so good!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Part 2: DNS Poisoning's Browser Hijacker

Click to enlarge on Featurepics
"Business Hack," © fluca

The Ancestry Insider suffers from a problem that has affected many: his browser is sometimes hijacked to Frustrated to his fill, he finally fixated on finding and fixing this problem.

In part 1, An Unholy Alliance, the Insider investigated his first suspect: TGN's former use of Gator.

What could possibly cause hijacking of multiple browser versions, multiple browsers on both Macs and PCs and not show up in malware scans?!?

Part 2: DNS Poisoning

Computers like numbers. People, on the other hand, don't. Every website on the Internet has a name for people to use and a numeric address for computers to use. The names are called domain names. Some examples are and The numeric addresses are called IP addresses. Some examples are [] and [], respectively.

Domain name IP Address

Example showing domain name translations

The domain name system (DNS) in your computer asks a DNS server (at your Internet Service Provider) to translate domain names into IP addresses. To speed up the translation, once a domain name has been translated to an IP address, the pair are saved or cached.

Click to enlarge on Featurepics
© fluca

A DNS cache entry is poisoned if the wrong IP address is saved for a domain name. For example, the IP address for is []. If a domain name such as is placed into the cache with the wrong IP address, then the cache has been poisoned.

Domain name IP Address

Example of a poisoned DNS cache

Ditto's Investigation

Michael Ditto was a senior software engineer with Sun Microsystems nearly 3 years ago when his Linux system started acting weird.

Several people have observed a problem on their networks where various web sites, apparently at random, would be replaced by The problem comes and goes without obvious cause, and affects different web sites at different times. I started encountering this problem a few days ago. I clicked on a link to, say,, and found myself looking at the home page for

Ditto investigated the situation and wrote an article with his findings. It is titled The DNS poisoning problem.

He found that the mfns* name servers incorrectly claim the authority to translate any .com domain name. And when asked to do so, they always return the address of In Ditto's words,

So, the reason that the problem appeared suddenly one day is that a piece of spam caused my name server to contact the misconfigured name server and thereby become poisoned. Once poisoned, the name server will behave improperly until it is restarted or the cache flushed somehow.

DNS poisoning would explain how the problem could affect all browsers and browser versions, both on Macs and PCs. It would explain why scanners could never detect any malware on my notebook. It seemed I had finally solved my mystery. Now, how do I solve the problem on my laptop?

MyFamily Should Fix the Problem

"Of course the administrator of the domain should fix their DNS and/or server configuration," said Ditto... three years ago.

The Measurement Factory does periodic surveys that look for DNS cache poisoners. Their September 2007 survey found the MyFamily name servers are still poisoning caches for .com, .net and .org domains and gave them an "evilness" rating of 2.0.

Not all current operating systems can be fooled by the errant MyFamily name servers. The Measurement Factory notes that Windows NT 2000 is vulnerable to poisoning while Windows 2003 is not, unless the administrator unchecks the "prevent cache poisoning" option. But even if your computer is immune, you can still be affected by this problem if a cache "upstream" from you gets poisoned.

Following the notes in Ditto's article, I verified that the MyFamily name servers have not been fixed. Mysteriously and unexpectedly, I also found that my laptop, running Windows XP, was unaffected by the MyFamily name servers' erroneous authority claims.

Now that I thought about it, my symptoms were different from those described by Ditto. Instead of the random hijacking of existing websites, I suffer from consistent redirection of nonexistent websites.

What then, is causing my browser hijacking?!?

Next time: A Virtual Private Hijacking.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Who's In at TGN?

It's that time of year. The time when we find out who's in and who's not at the Generations Network (TGN).

More specifically, it's time for the new RootsWeb Calendar and time to see who is pictured!

The Ancestry Insider is honored to be pictured again in this year's calendar.

Each year Donna puts in hours and hours of work collecting photographs, designing and putting together each month, identifying those pictured, writing up a key identifying each name, getting the calendars printed and then distributed. Whew; it makes me tired just thinking about it.

The previous year's calendar becomes a treasured keepsake, filed close by, as if that will keep cherished coworkers from wandering too far afield.

Thank you, Donna. You are definitely in.