RootsWeb Unavailable During Server Security Improvements

By Ashlee Peck

rootsweb unavailable security update


RootsWeb is the Internet’s oldest and largest free genealogy community. Their award winning resources and databases, which include free web space, mailing lists, and message boards, are utilized by societies and individuals alike. However, a visit to their website today won’t allow you to access much more than a notification that the website is currently unavailable as well as current updates on the situation. Here’s what you need to know:

Security issue discovered

As a favor to RootsWeb, has been hosting their servers since 2000. On December 20, 2017,’s Information Security Team received a message indicating a security researcher had found a file which contained email addresses, username and password combinations from a server.’s research has confirmed that the files does contain information related to users of Rootsweb’s surname list information, a service that the company had elected to retire earlier in 2017.

Leaked data

Luckily, RootsWeb stores no sensitive information relating to credit cards, social security numbers, or bank accounts. Information that has possibly been leaked would be contained to username and password combinations, as well as email addresses.

Who is impacted?

The file containing the information has data for 300,000 RootsWeb users. has released information that 55,000 members use the same login credentials for RootsWeb as they do for If you’re data was included in the file, you will receive an email telling you that you need to change your password. In that case, you will be required to create a new password the next time you visit

The vast majority of users were not impacted by this, and will not need to do anything as a result of the incident. However, always recommend that you take the time to evaluate your own security settings.

What’s next?

For the time being, RootsWeb’s page has been made unavailable.’s recent blog on the matter inform us that the page may be down for the next  few weeks (or possibly months) as they work to ensure that no security issues like this can arise in the future.

If you have concerns over possibly data loss or are curious on how to prevent future data loss, we recommend you head over to Lisa Louis Cooke’s Genealogy Gem’s site and check out RootsWeb is Down: Data Recovery Strategies for the Genealogist.