When the RootsWeb servers crashed, I warned that some later loss was possible. Companies run backups periodically. Any information added to RootsWeb after the last backup would be lost. It turns out, in the case of RootsTech FreePages, that loss is rather dramatic. On 28 March 2016 Ancestry.com sent the following email out to RootsWeb users:
As you may know, the RootsWeb site was recently unavailable as the result of a hardware failure in our datacenter. Our development and web operations teams worked diligently and carefully to address the issues, and as a result, the site is now available again.
Regretfully, despite their best efforts, our teams were not able to retrieve all of the data associated with the site. Specifically, we were unable to retrieve content from FreePages added after the summer of 2015. We understand these pages are important to you and are very sorry that we are not able to recover the data that was lost as a result of the hardware failure. Going forward, we are adding additional technical resources to support the site and ensure such an issue does not occur again.
If you have a backup of your own please upload it to the site so that you have the most current version of your pages.
If you have any concerns, please contact our Member Services through our support form.
While Ancestry didn’t offer further explanation as to why no backups were available after the summer of 2015, several possibilities come to mind. A best practice in technology is to test your backups. It doesn’t matter if you religiously backup your files if, when the time comes, you are unable to restore the files. It is possible that Ancestry has been backing up the disks, but the tapes they were using were bad. Or their backup automation software wasn’t working correctly. Or Ancestry had inadvertently left one or more disks off the list and they weren’t being backed up at all.
One FreePages user, Wayne Brown, posted a message on the RootsWeb message boards, lamenting that his website at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sanway/ was completely lost. He created it after summer 2015, so as far as RootsWeb is concerned, his website never existed. To make matters worse, he didn’t have a backup. If you’ve lost information and don’t have a backup, there may be a way to recover some of the lost information.
- Go to the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/. They have archives of 472 billion web pages. They may have yours.
- Enter the URL into the WayBack Machine search box.
- The Internet Archive shows if and when it archived that page:
- If the page has been archived, Archive.org shows a bar graph of sorts, indicating months in which backups were made. Select the year of interest.
- Underneath the bar graph Archive.org displays a calendar with blue circles over dates when the page was archived.
- With some luck, your page was archived. Click the most recent date.
- Click the X to remove the WayBack Machine header from your page.
- Copy and paste missing information.
- While you can use the Save function of your browser, be warned that the RootsWeb and Internet Archive web servers add lots of goop to your pages. You will find they have added lots of complex HTML that you don’t want. But, if you scan down through the page, you’ll eventually find the HTML you wrote.