Opinions on the MyFamily-RootsWeb Merger

Opinions on the MyFamily-RootsWeb Merger

Readers fear it will endanger RootsWeb's free-of-charge, volunteer, grassroots spirit.

The Web’s oldest and largest genealogy community, RootsWeb, was bought out this summer by MyFamily.com, a commercial network of family history sites. Hosting thousands of independent Web sites, mailing lists and message boards (not to mention unlimited storage capacity) got to be too much for RootsWeb to handle, its co-founder Karen Isaacson says. MyFamily.com—the company that also owns Ancestry.com and FamilyHistory.com—stepped in with an undisclosed sum to “provide the financial stability we need to ensure RootsWeb will be around for years to come,” Isaacson adds.

While assuring users that RootsWeb access and sites will continue to be free, MyFamily.com officials also say owning the hugely popular RootsWeb will provide profitable exposure to its many subscription-only databases and records. Officials from both companies say the merger will provide online genealogists with more tools, content and resources. RootsWeb also will continue supporting major projects such as the USGenWeb Project and the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.

We asked readers: Do you view the RootsWeb/MyFamily.com merger as

  • an unavoidable move to keep vast amounts of genealogical data free?
  • endangering RootsWeb’s free-of-charge, volunteer, grassroots spirit?
  • or are you unsure of how it will affect online genealogy?

You answered:

Among the 519 responses to our poll, here are some of the comments we received:

Ancestry needs RootsWeb for one thing: Advertising space. The buyout is a strategic marketing move that I think will benefit both parties as well as the online researchers. Ancestry would not make the foolish move to charge for data that was organized to be free. This would hurt their public relations tremendously. They aren’t dumb.

Bill Cribbs


I was just sick to my stomach when I learned of the merger. I am very disappointed. RootsWeb was such a great site snd a great place to be a member.


FamilyHistory.com has a history of profit making and taking. Expecting that it will keep RootsWeb free in anything like its present form is an unrealistic hope. If I were a Las Vegas odds maker I would make book on that—and feel confident of collecting on my bets. It will happen within two years, the approximate time that it will take for FamilyHistory.com to figure a way to “sell” us on the idea that they are doing us a favor. I will make two more predictions: 1) Cyndi’s List will be the next to go, despite Cyndi’s assurances to the contrary—Cyndi doth protest too much. “Show me the money” will prevail. 2) Horror of horrors, even the LDS site will eventually start costing us—but expect court battles from county officials, authors, family historians and various religious groups.

Rich Hooverson
Texas.


I have subscribed to Ancestry.com for three years. I have found some information in the census data bases, and found a few other items of use, but most of the data available is too general to be of genealogical value. When I am able to personally visit an area for research, I find the histories of counties the best place to start, and would like to see more of these posted. Most were written in the 1800s, so they could be put online.

I would be more alarmed if Family Tree Maker had bought into RootsWeb. FTM has shameless exploited the GEDCOMs freely given by FTM users. I submitted one surname line, early on, and have been very glad I did not send any others. I now share my extensive research only with individuals who are researching my same surnames, and I have located many cousins through RootsWeb. At least Ancestry.com does allow free access to their surname data base, and to other selected sources. I can only hope that the RoostWeb lists and archives continue to operate as they have in the past, but will watch the result with caution.


I’m very certain that eventually MyFamily.com will move to privatize the RootsWeb files to provide them the funds to keep going. Even if the present staff says no, the next group may feel totally different, and the times and staff do change inevitably. I am totally against this move for these reasons.


I am a long-time reader and promoter of your magazine, and I have always found it to be unbiased. However, I had a hard time choosing how to vote on this poll because “none of the above” would have been the better answer for me. Your options seem slanted toward RootsWeb.

Having read through the comments, I noticed most of the people have a decidedly incorrect perception of RootsWeb. It was NEVER a non-profit or not-for-profit entity. Until it incorporated in 1999, Rootsweb was the sole proprietorship of Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson. It may have been operating at a loss, but that doesn’t make it a non-profit entity. All “donations” went to their pockets. I’d love for people to willingly give me money! When Rootsweb incorporated in 1999, it organized as a for-profit entity.

Material on RootsWeb’s server system has always been provided free-of-charge to visitors. But, Rootsweb has charged fees to mailing list hosts and others for selected services. It has actively solicited donations—and it didn’t stop soliciting after they incorporated! Would we donate money to any other for-profit corporation? I doubt it.

I personally believe it’s an excellent move. RootsWeb has a history of blocking and banning individuals from its servers without legitimate cause. It even disenfranchised an entire block of people who had donated THOUSANDS of dollars to its support (see www.combs-families.org/~combs/history.htm#background). Several of the blocked/banned individuals have requested reinstatement after more than a year—with the support of numerous others who believe the blocking/banning was unwarranted—and been rebuffed. They are unable to utilize Rootsweb-hosted mailing lists (and some can’t even visit Rootsweb-hosted domains), even though those mailing lists and pages are not owned by RootsWeb.

RootsWeb has a history of ignoring users’ requests, even though those requests fall under RootsWeb’s publicized policies. Rootsweb set up its “cluster pages” in direct competition with the USGenWeb Project. Rootsweb has failed to change the domain registration ownership for USGenWeb domains to the project, despite requests from USGenWeb officials to do so.

RootsWeb has done many other things that have only been made public on limited-distribution mailing lists or on websites that aren’t usually visited by at-large genealogists. I believe this new corporate ownership will provide a return to fairness that has been absent from RootsWeb for a long time.

Please offer this alternative viewpoint in your pulished comments, so that readers will realize that RootsWeb has always been a for-profit concern, making it no different from its new owner, MyFamily.com—and that RootsWeb has not always been fair to every genealogist who uses its freely-offered services.


For some of us who have very little money RootsWeb is a godsend as it provides us a way to view ourselves and our futures through our families’ past. It is especially nice for those of us who are disabled and unable to get out and visit places on our own. There is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time as to come across a data bank that may have the information you need and find out you have to pay to get that info and knowing that you can’t afford to. Thank you RootsWeb for giving those of us who don’t have as much as some others the same chance as they have. For this I applaud you.
Linda


A very good marriage of genealogy sites which will cater for all, and ensure free information to all who are searching for their roots. Keep up the excellent work available on both sites.
Ian
New Zealand


MyFamily.com should be called AmericanFamily.com. I’ve found nothing of relevance to me as a non-US citizen and was offended by their Independence Day advertising mailout. I am very sad to see this merger and don’t trust the outcome and am very glad I didn’t put my GEDCOM on RootsWeb.


I was enticed to put family data on MyFamily.com because the site was private and could only be accessed by my password and I was the owner of the site. I wanted to share FREE data with others. Thank God, I only put in 3 generations although I had much, much more … because this morning I find all my information on Ancestry.com! It is the exact data I entered and could not have been entered by anyone else because some of it was data that only I knew about my family; it is not on record anywhere else! At the very least I should have been asked for permission since I was the site owner. I was the one who researched all the info AT MY OWN EXPENSE and now “Pac-man” is going to make money from their subscriptions. I realize there is nothing I can do about it except be mad but I will never put any other data online.


Thank you RootsWeb for all your wonderful resources. Without your support, the USGenWeb Project would not be where it is today.
Tim Stowell


The reason I supported RootsWeb was because it did not sell my research. It was free to all. Most want your research for “free” so they can “sell” it. It does ruin the grassroots spirit. More people are likly to find your research when it is free, thereby your information can be received by more.
Lillian


I certainly wouldn’t work at Wal-Mart for free. Why should anybody work for Ancestry.com and its rich venture capitalists (Eastman Kodak Company, America Online, Compaq Computer Corporation, Intel, and others) for free? Does anybody really believe that these venture capitalists expect no return on investment in Ancestry.com?

And why are RootsWeb list owners being treated like children and threatened if they dare to make comments about the acquisition? First the Ancestry/RootsWeb behavior was sneaky. Now it is ominously authoritarian.


Ultimately, we are ending up with a bipolar world in genealogy. Same thing in (software) programmes. So apart from pockets of independent excellence (FamilySearch.org and The Master Genealogist) we will ultimately depend on either one of the majors. Although a donor to RootsWeb, I never quite understood how it survived independently and how some very gifted people gave their time and effort. My only concern is that WorldConnect stuff will find its way onto many expensive CD bundles. Then it would be time to pull my data off.


I understand the need for money to keep it going and have been an active donor, but am worried that too much of what we have been getting will now cost money and this will dampen the enthusiasm and sharing that has been wonderful. So many people out there have volumes of information that others need, but most of these people who are working on these projects are retired and on limited budgets. Thus my concern that the information will stay hidden as they will not be able to afford the cost of sharing. If the cost for this project became so high it was necessary to sell, how can they possibly assure us that it will stay free as in the past. I am truly concerned with losing a great sharing medium that has been fantastic for me.


After reading several other comments I wanted to add more. I have been a researcher for 45 years, relying mostly on letters, contacts from relatives and the census records because of not having the time or money to travel to various parts of the country to do research. I have a wealth of information collected those years ago that is probably not available anywhere now. RootsWeb has allowed me to delve into my files and share data I long ago collected while working on the many brick walls in the families I research. I belong to Ancestry.com and several others as well as a high level of donation to RootsWeb. I have received more information and made more friends through RootsWeb in one month than in 1 1/2 years in Ancestry.com. Long-lost families have been found of siblings of my ancestors and generations backwards have been filled by one query answered on a mail list. Through four of us on one list, a problem of 30 years fell in place by pooling our information—all for free and fun. New friends have been made and I even have been meeting new relatives and friends in various parts of the country to do research together. For many retirees this has been a godsend from loneliness. We have to work to keep this information flow free. My favorite genealogy program has already bit the dust—please, not this great form of genealogy communication.


After using RootsWeb for a few weeks more than a year ago, I was pleased to become a donor. Although I was new to genealogy, I’ve worked with computers for years. Running an operation of the size and complexity of RootsWeb isn’t cheap and it isn’t easy. So I donated money and time and wondered how long they would be able to keep going.

Those who are second-guessing them are mistaken. Getting tax-exempt status wouldn’t have increased the donations. Those of you who never donated and are now upset should realize that your failure to donate is the cause of the situation. Those of you who are unhappy and are now removing data you contributed should regard the situation as a challenge. Start up your own genealogy site. Buy servers. Install heavy-duty Internet connections. Hire expert staff. Recruit and train volunteers. Then see if you can get by on voluntary donations. If you can, great. And then you have the right to criticize the business decisions of RootsWeb.

I, too, have concerns about whether all of the databases and archives will continue to be available for free. It’s possible they won’t. RootsWeb was a noble experiment. I hope it will continue in some form. If not, I’ll be saddened, but I’ll understand.


With the free 14-day trial offer (on Ancestry.com), I have already found information on my family that we have been searching on for years. Thank you.


I hope and pray that RootsWeb does remain free of charge. I am on a very limited budget, and cannot afford to do genealogy the “old fashioned way.” I’ve only been at this for a year, and it has been a joy to learn of the family I never knew about, and to meet (via the Net) cousins all over the world I never knew I had. I have found both sites very useful to my research, but if I have to start paying for all of my research, I’ll be forced to quit researching. My research and my newfound family have filled a void in my life, I have always felt. Please do not take it away! Please keep all of the RootsWeb programs free.
Skip


I have been a subscriber to the RootsWeb mailing list for some years now and I must admit I was not overly surprised by the news of the merger. Privatization, mergers, etc., unfortunately seem to be a sign of the times we live in. However, RootsWeb must have felt the merger necessary to have taken the step (though I still think letting everyone know what was happening before the event would have been a good idea). RootsWeb has always said it prides itself on its “user” input, but in this instance didn’t feel the users’ input was of consequence. But it’s done, can’t change it.

Those who are really into researching their roots and histories know that the Internet is not the “be all, end all” place of research. Sure, it’s good for getting in contact with other researchers and maybe finding “long lost relatives,” and everyone likes getting something for nothing if they can. But the more in-depth stuff costs. If you are serious about it then you’ll be wanting the documentation to back up your findings. Cost will be involved, unless you’re lucky enough to find someone doing the same research who has both the doc you want and a scanner. I myself would not rely on what someone has written. I like to back it up with proof.

On a more personal level, I have not really found anything on the Net that has been overly useful in my research, but I do like the contact it affords with other people. As a result, I thought “why not” and decided to take Ancestry.com up on their “free” offer, and like another person who commented earlier said, there isn’t much to offer for those whose research is outside the United States. As someone who has no US connections (that I know of), I can safely say I will not be subscribing once the offer ends, as I can’t see the point of paying for something that isn’t of any use to me. I will, however, pay if I feel I am getting my money’s worth. To be perfectly honest here, I have only had one instance where the Web has helped me contact a fellow family researcher, and I found them through the LDS FamilySearch site!

For those who want to keep their genealogy in a place where it can’t be “taken advantage of,” then why not make your own page? There are places out there that offer free Web space and you can then decide how available you want to make your own information.

Just my two cents worth. Happy researching all!


No doubt in my mind that this is the end of RootsWeb as we knew and used it. Ancestry.com is a money-making venture, and they will give nothing for “free” without a noose attached. The only “free” thing you will get from them is tons and tons of junk e-mail.

My previous experience with Ancestry.com convinced me that I would never give them another dime of money. I would rather have paid (either per list or per year) a mandatory fee to RootsWeb than have anything at all to do with Ancestry.com and the like.

The question no one has answered is why RootsWeb, which was obviously strapped for resources and money, was GIVING away huge amounts of Web space? That never made the first bit of sense to me.

As an aside, I just came back from a very large software store and couldn’t help but notice that the ONLY genealogy program on its shelves were seven different versions of Family Tree Maker. No competition whatsoever, and the inflated prices are the result. (Not to mention the CDs that come with these programs are full of erroneous information.) It’s not just happening with software, but with Web sites as well.

Like the Borg say, “You will be assimilated.”


What’s surprising is that RootsWeb founders Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson have been able to keep RootsWeb going and thriving for this long without either corporate support or nonprofit tax status. While many of us have contributed both financially and with contributions of transcribed records, many other users took the free ride. Why not, when the genealogy gold mine of RootsWeb was there for the mining, for free? RootsWeb is the best-performing site on the Internet—fast, efficient, minimal downtime. We’ve all heard of the dot-com billionaires who have sold less useful services for unheard-of dollars. I thank RootsWeb for what it has been in the past and hope the future doesn’t change the basic principles. If there is a change, I’ll have plenty of leads to follow up on in the courthouses and archives I’ve been pointed to through RootsWeb connections. The difference will be that I’ll keep the information I find to myself instead of sharing with a for-profit service.


If RootsWeb had told the users that the Ancestry.com merger was being considered, I believe that the users would have been more than happy to pay more for the service they offered to keep Ancestry from buying them up. I think it’s being glazed over by Ancestry, and that as soon as they think it’s safe, they will get back to business as usual—gimme your money please. I think Ancestry deliberately kept it all very quiet because they knew what we mostly know—they are only in this for the money and we the users were not going to like it at all. I have a year’s subscription to Ancestry.com. I am not impressed. It’s no wonder they felt they had to buy RootsWeb—since the best service on the Web was free; it really threatened the greed-heads at corporate.


This is a very expensive hobby, and a lot of time is spent on research. It is so nice to just go into RootsWeb and get the information you want—for free.


It may be a necessary evil resulting from lack of financial support of the free RootsWeb program, but I personally have not found one iota of information on the Ancestry.com or FamilyHistory.com sites that has proven beneficial to my genealogy research!! This has included its four-hour free window to all source files.

The sites available through RootsWeb.com amd FamilySearch.com are much more beneficial than the two previously mentioned. It is much easier to donate an annual amount of your own choice than pay a required fee on a monthly basis.

God bless all the folks at RootsWeb.com for their continuing dedication to a wonderful program!!!
J. Newman
freepages.genealogy.RootsWeb.com/~familyofours/index.html


We have already seen the creeping of commercial ads into RootsWeb.com and their newsletters. They are annoying and time-consuming, adding to the time a page/newsletter takes to download. The partnership with a commercial genealogy site has the potential for this creep to increase.

I know the forces/creators behind RootsWeb don’t want to see commercialization of RootsWeb. But already the costs and demands of the “free” site have led them to allow the “creep” of commercialization that has already occurred. With the growth curve that RootsWeb has, this pressure will probably continue expontentally. And with a partnership like that with MyFamily.com, it will be too easy for the “creep” of commercialization to become an onslaught!
Ellen Picard
Sponsor with Freepages, mailing lists, GenConnect boards, etc.


It was with regret that I read of this so-called merger. As a RootsWeb sponsor, I have always encouraged others to support RootsWeb. As a former subscriber to Ancestry.com, I found little useful information, some inaccurate information and nothing to motivate me to pay for another year. Also, I have found Ancestry.com’s site slow to load, often inaccessible and difficult to navigate around. As a RootsWeb listowner, I have been promoting the WorldConnect Project. Now I am not sure whether I will leave my own GEDCOM online, as I do not want my data pirated and or sold by a commercial entity. I fear creeping commercialism may threaten the foundational principles that made RootsWeb great in the genealogy world.


Although I cannot be assured as to what the ultimate outcome of this merger will be, I place my trust in the integrity of RootsWeb and MyFamily.com, and am confident that every effort will be made to live up to the conditions conveyed. I also believe that the merger is probably the only way that RootsWeb could visualize achieving the goals and objectives that it set out for itself. I will take my chances and think that it was a sound corporate decision.


While I do understand that the costs of maintaining RootsWeb’s wonderful site were growing exponentially (I have contributed to RootsWeb), I am taking a wait-and-see attitude. Already I have encountered the “available only to members” sites that I expected to be open—at least from the links I followed. I’ve had positive and negative experiences with Ancestry.com but hope this merger turns out for the positive side. I’ll be optimistic and hopeful.


I don’t believe the MyFamily.com would invest in the purchase of RootsWeb unless it expects to somehow profit from the investment. If that involves selling access to data that was freely provided to RootsWeb by genealogists, then RootsWeb has betrayed those genealogists.

I supported RootsWeb financially; I wish others had. If they had, we wouldn’t be facing this predicament.

Since I joined Ancestry.com (free offer), I have attempted to use it several times. I found nothing new. In addition, I can’t use Ancestry.com without allowing them to set numerous “cookies” on my system. It may be coincidence, but since I joined, my e-mail “spam” has tripled. Who wants that? I make an effort to avoid just this sort of unwanted stuff, and don’t relish this outcome from using Ancestry.com.


I have been playing with the idea of putting my family data online for some time. Now I’m glad I didn’t. I have much information—some back to the 1500s—but I do not want it sold for someone else’s profit after I did all the work and paid all expenses to collect it. I will just have to wait and see how this all turns out, but I do not want to provide free information for Ancestry.com to sell for profit! I feel that RootsWeb has been the greatest site online for genealogy and I do hope it continues to be.
emmaparker@hotmail.com


My husband and I have EACH contributed in the Donor Plus category for RootsWeb. We feel the merger will compromise the free access that has made RootsWeb unique in the genealogy online community. However, we know there are MANY users of RootsWeb who did not contribute and the expense of maintaining the large domain was prohibitive. Therefore, we are just hoping things will remain as they are but we have our doubts.
The Webbs


I am very new to genealogy research, and therefore was unaware of the financial aspects of these “sites.” (I am not even sure of correct “terminology” to use.) I have stuck to free-access sites, as I am a senior citizen with limited funds. I have taken advantage of using Ancestry.com this week as it has been free. I have not found anything new, but have enjoyed using the online family tree to put in my family. I do not have a computer genealogy program, and this has been quite helpful to me. As I decide on whether to continue using the Web, I will also make decisions as to how I might “contribute.” At the moment, I will continue to use the free sites, and hope that I am more knowledgeable today regarding financial matters and the Web. I have read many comments, and know that for the past three months of my “searching” and using RootsWeb, I am surprised that nothing was said about the dire financial need. Perhaps I am naive, but I would have thought that would have been something to share with those of us who use RootsWeb. Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts. I look forward to seeing what happens.


I am disappointed. Tax-exempt, charitable organization status, government grants or a public stock offering might have been a better way to go. They are not easy, but thousands of us writing our legislators would be hard to ignore. USGenWeb is the perfect framework for people to connect with local officials, eliminating the need for government units to construct sites. Why was this done secretly? Couldn’t we have been asked or told it was in the works before it was a done deal?


I don’t subscribe to Ancestry.com because when it has been free, I’ve spent hours searching and found little or nothing of use. Some of what was found was incorrect or not compatible with my system when downloaded. The value of RootsWeb was not so much in the data found as in the researchers met in the process. On incompatible files that I could open only with Notepad, I found Ancestry’s name as as owner. Sometimes the author was listed and sometimes not. Information on the author should ALWAYS be listed FIRST and they should list themselves NEXT as “provided by.” If Ancestry wanted exposure to its paid databases, why not let them buy ads instead of control?

I became interested in genealogy last year and have just been monitoring lists and surfing sites trying to get organized enough to make a start at inputting information into a computer genealogy program. I am not sure that I would have ever gotten to the point where I would have felt comfortable with the subject matter if I had had to pay to visit all of the many sites that I have had access to during this last year. My guess is that I would have gotten frustrated and given up fairly quickly.

And now that I have just about gotten a handle on everything that is available on the Internet, it is all about to change anyway … yikes! What a revolting development this is!

I am too new to this to have any relevant comments on the RootsWeb founders’ intentions. However, I can’t help but observe that there does appear to be a shake-out going on with the dot coms generally. It seems fair to me to give them the benefit of the doubt; their intentions could have been the best but they just got caught in the fall-out like everyone else … critical mass and all of that.

I can say that after a year I am hooked on genealogy and will continue to piece together me, myself and I through knowledge of my ancestors. So, this will probably be the only time that I will get to say thank you to the RootsWeb folks for getting me and millions of others started on this great adventure.

Good luck to you in your next great adventure!


As a List Mom for 58 RootsWeb Mailing Lists (mailing_lists.homestead.com/lists.html) I am concerned regarding the future status of the mailing lists. My list members are concerned regarding the following items and I really don’t know what to tell them. Up to this point, I have been telling them to stay calm, wait and we will see what is going to happen.

  1. Will there come a time when the members will have to pay to be on a mailing list?
  2. Will the archived messages that have been building up over the past several years be sold?
  3. Will RootsWeb continue to be free, and will they or can they continue to accept donations?

Now my questions:

  1. Will there come a time when the lists are discontinued or taken over by MyFamily.com?
  2. Will I as a List Mom continue to have the control I now have over the lists?
  3. Will the e-mail addresses of my list members be harvested and promotionals or advertisements be sent to them?
  4. Will MyFamily.com be tagging promotionals or advertisements to the bottom of each posting?

I do appreciate your willingness to hear our voices.
Kathleen Burnett
List Mom
kburnett@wardleygmac.com (work)
kburnet@efortress.com (home)


I wish they had made RootsWeb a charitable, tax-exempt organization. Many people I know didn’t contribute to RootsWeb because it wasn’t deductible. I also wish we who use it so much had had a better idea of the need to “rescue” RootsWeb … I’ll bet someone else would have!


Hopefully, the combination will provide a stronger genealogy site with a continuing commitment to making further improvements. It is understood that RootsWeb will remain as a semi-independent division of Ancestry.com. This will allow continuing innovation by RootsWeb in the future.


Unfortunately, I imagine it’s a necessary move—but the principles behind the two are so opposite that one can only worry about Goliath (Ancestry) gobbling up David (RootsWeb) this time.


As a former USGenWeb national coordinator, I recognize that this was the only way that RootsWeb founders Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson could save the vast amount of data that RootsWeb has in its archives. It is unfortunate that less than 7 percent of the users of the genealogical information available on RootsWeb saw fit to contribute to its support. Someday people on the Web will realize that there is no “free lunch” … someone has to pick up the tab.


After MyFamily.com gets through smothering it with ads and incessantly sending you unsolicited email (many unrelated to genealogy), there soon won’t be anybody wanting to get near RootsWeb. If you don’t believe it, just sign up for MyFamily.com for a while, find out how bad it is, and then try to quit and get off their mailing lists. Unfortunately, there is nothing for free in this world (except non-member usage of FamilySearch.org and Family History Centers).


It seems that RootsWeb tried to operate as a business, but relied on volunteer support. I’m not sure why it made poor business decisions, but it obviously extended itself beyond its means. If RootsWeb had modeled itself more after genealogical societies, it might have succeeded. But even societies need to limit themselves to activities which their income (dues, etc.) and volunteer resources will support.
Birdie Holsclaw
bholsclaw@henge.com


I was just ready to donate and connect my 9,000-person database to WorldConnect. However, I’m not sure I want to send to a profit-based organization. I’ll wait and see!


I know several of the people involved in Ancestry.com’s management, and I don’t believe that they have the mercenary motives that some people attribute to them. Ancestry.com has always allowed free access to the pedigree information that people contribute to it (their Ancestry World Tree).

Naturally, we all desire to get free stuff. However, the free projects that RootsWeb supported, such as the Immigrant Ship Transcribers’ Guild, are taking a very long time to get results, since they have to use volunteers that have other things they need to do. Once they are done (years from now?) it will be great, but the fact that they are doing this for free makes it very difficult for a commerical firm to also do the same thing, and then charge money to view the results. However, a commercial firm would have likely gotten the job done much faster. Hence, in one respect, free genealogical data means less genealogical data.

As a professional genealogist, I am able to deduct the costs of memberships to Ancestry.com, KindredKonnections, etc., from my taxes. However, the fees are not really that high to begin with. However, all of the commerical sites need to do a much better job of quality control and they all need much better search engines that allow users to obtain more precise results.

RootsWeb has been the most innovative site with enhancements such as sticky notes for the Social Security Death Index. However, excluding the pages of USGenWeb, it has also been the site at which I have found the least amount of useful data for my clients. Hence, the merger could turn out to be beneficial for genealogy—if RootsWeb’s innovative staff can be combined with Ancestry.com’s data and resources.
Chad R. Milliner, MLIS, AG
cmilliner@byualum.net


I really love all the wonderful things RootsWeb has done for all of us. I also have great admiration for the folks at MyFamily.com. My opinion is that RootsWeb made a good choice in choosing a company like MyFamily.com—they really care about family history, not just the money.
Nancy B


We have the freedom to choose. If RootsWeb was unable to meet the cost of improvements in this medium, it can do as it did and join forces. If down the line we find something else, we have that freedom to go to something else even if back to libraries searching through books. I have done it before, can do it again, but online is much more fun, of course.


I would have rather seen RootsWeb remain independent and not so eager to do it all. Now the danger lurks that one day it will be a pay-to-use site. Just wonder how long it will take to get there. Probably six months. Too bad. It was such a jewel.


Money seems to be the driving force. Many people don’t want to do any of the work or pay any of the prices. It will be interesting to see what happens.


While I do not favor corporate control of genealogical participation, it is necessary in some instances, such as this. I can see no way that RootsWeb could survive as it was without the merger.


As a supporter of RootsWeb for several years, I KNOW that they will maintain the grassroots spirit that we all have come to rely on. If that should change I guarantee that use of this resource would drop off drastically. There are too many of us who value the wide-open nature of this invaluable project.

I am also a paid user of Ancestry.com. I have found much information in its pages and the free resources are solid. Ancestry World Tree is not sold on CDs—like some volunteer-provided data with which we all are familiar! I think that this is a splended merger and one that can only assist us all in our research!


I am a RootsWeb sponsor, listowner and Webmaster, and very grateful for all that RootsWeb.com has contributed to me and my Web site.

Nothing in this world is free. RootsWeb exists because of MONEY—mostly from the originators who unselfishly gave of their time and own money to make it happen. They could have had good, high paying jobs elsewhere but chose to devote themselves to RootsWeb. If more people who use its resources would have contributed to its upkeep, this move may not have been necessary. The users must pay in one way or another.

My experience with Ancestry.com has also been one which I am proud to share. They have always been honest with me and held to the promises they have made. I have no reason to believe they will not honor the arrangement with RootsWeb to keep the data free which appears on thousands of RootsWeb hosted sites and mailing lists.


I know this merger/sale has caused much speculation and all of it focuses on the future, which at this time is an unknown. We tend to fear the unknown but I have faith in the dedication exhibited over the years by RootsWeb founders Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson and I don’t believe they would surrender their philosophy and commitment for a price.

We coexisted on the Internet before the merger/sale; there is no reason we cannot continue to do so.

Genealogy is all about extending one’s family. If we work together as an extended family, we will all benefit from it and so will the countless numbers of researchers who visit our sites or read our mailing lists. I believe the RootsWeb sites will continue to be free and if my support of MyFamily/Ancestry.com contributes to that free access then I am willing to to give it.
Patty MacFarlane Neumann, Guild Coordinator
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild


As an Aussie, I find that much of the searchable genealogical content (i.e indexes, etc.) on the Web is US-based and therefore of little use to me as I have no US connections at all. For this reason I have always refrained from subscribing to Ancestry.com. I have for the past two years made a donation to RootsWeb for the simple reason that a) its resources are freely available and b) it is the means by which so many genealogists from all over the world are able to make contact on so many different issues. I have made lots of progress by contacting people on sites that have been hosted by RootsWeb, and I therefore value its contribution. If, as everyone concerned says, RootsWeb will remain as it is then all should be well, but I have my doubts.


I’m a new RootsWeb contributor and I was quite taken aback by the news. I’m not sure I’d have begun making monthly donations until after things had settled down if I’d known a merger was in the works. I can understand RootsWeb’s plight because funding is a problem with our family reunion. People love anything “free” but are slow to help keep it free if doing so means reaching into their own pockets.

Our family reunion fund is in the black after being in the red for several years and I’d earmarked part of it to increase my monthly donation amount. I think I’ll wait a while to see what develops because I subscribe to several RootsWeb lists and a lot of people are upset, panicking, expressing doubt, moving their Web pages, etc. because they’re afraid their hard work will be exploited.

I do believe that things will calm down once everyone sees how MyFamily handles things. Too many people have worked hard to make their family data available free of charge and none of us think MyFamily has the right to profit from our labor. I for one believe they will live up to their assurances. (I know from first-hand experience.)

I hope everyone will take a “let’s wait and see” attitude.
limner@macol.net


This is a much-needed change for RootsWeb. By itself, RootsWeb was either going to slowly sink into mediocrity or suddenly crater like a lot of dot-coms are doing these days. With substantial financial backing from MyFamily, RootsWeb gains a new lease on life and can continue its mission. The people who run MyFamily aren’t fools. They understand the unique culture of RootsWeb and are going to keep it in place so the RootsWeb community doesn’t go anywhere else.


To be honest with you, I have found more information at RootsWeb than I have at either of the other sites. I have been working the Ancestry.com site this week because it is free for those who are contributors to RootsWeb. I have found absolutely nothing. The Roots-L discussions and WorldConnect sites are absolutely great. Part of the fun in it for me is digging for things for free. I go to the libraries and I look on the Web. I do not like to pay for services. If I have to pay Ancestry.com to go onto RootsWeb, I will not go. If RootsWeb remains free, I will continue to contribute to it, but not to any company that sells information I have spent hours researching.
Paula Lynch


I chose to pay to belong to Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com, but I liked the grassroots efforts of millions of volunteers sharing with one another genealogical information for free. We did not have to worry about our name being sold and resold, thereby getting tons and tons of JUNK mail! I am afraid the mailing lists will be compromised and who knows in the future what might become of my hard-searched data being sold by some big company for profit (and of course, I would not receive one penny, let alone recognition that I was the original researcher!) I have some deep concerns!


I believe that soon we will all be paying a subscription fee to access the information that we have so generously donated for free. If this was so “above board,” why weren’t these matters discussed with those who have made RootsWeb the success that it is? I have contributed at the donor level and spent months of my free time typing up information for the free access for all. Now, I find that we have been “sold out.” I will no longer contribute financially and will spend my time doing the research that will benefit my own genealogy. I have a number of multi-volume research books that I had planned to make available on RootsWeb (yes, the copyright has expired). Now, after being “blindsided” by last week’s announcement, I have vowed that I will not type one sentence that will benefit Ancestry.com. Yes, I am angry about the sneaky way this was handled. RootsWeb has used our time and money to make a name for itself and now has a tidy sum of money to go with it. Am I the only one who feels as though we’ve been used?
Linda Johnston
ljohnston@nethawk.com


I feel the success of RootsWeb is due solely to its volunteers. It’s one thing to work your tail off for a community-oriented, volunteer effort. It’s another to do it for a company who’s making money off your work. It wouldn’t surprise me to see volunteers leaving.


I do think it is an economic necessity. The Herculean efforts of the RootsWeb founders and staff—on a shoestring budget—has been an amazing accomplishment. Many volunteers have also spent endless hours and contributed financially, but the vast majority of RootsWeb users have taken the “free” genealogy resource for granted.

“Freely available” was really the intention—supported by a community of contributors. The community of financial contributors—for even the incredibly low $12 annual level—never materialized into a significant percentage of users. However, because of the incredible technical savvy and foresight of the RootsWeb folks, the groundswell of transcribers and site/message board/mailing list administrators did provide the resources for researchers to grow and prosper as the largest genealogy community.

On the other hand, Ancestry.com has created a premier site for scanned and indexed text resources—which is also a great resource—but with the commercial backing of many millions of venture capital dollars and the vision that this “sticky” site with great genealogy content will lead to a family portal that will provide revenue to support such a huge dollar investment.

I have used and supported both RootsWeb and Ancestry for several years along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) databases as my three top resources for computerized research resources, so I am happy to see that RootsWeb will have the financial support it needs to continue in its particular expertise and the camaraderie of the community environment.

I do wish to also credit LDS for being a leader in providing resources for family history research—without regard to any biases or restrictions to those who are not members of their faith. I think that there are elements of the LDS community—which I find from my own friends and acquaintance experience—that have helped to foster such a coalition between RootsWeb and Ancestry.

All three have created an environment that has provided information that supercedes the “pedigree” traditions. This makes it possible for folks like me to seek my family roots—as they are—rather than “pedigree credentials” as a artifice of social standing. So, I have learned that I am a “mutt” who can also claim royal lines or many other categories, but that in the process I have learned about world history and family values in a very personal and educational way.

But, as a professional technologist, I especially recognize the accomplishments of the RootsWeb folks and I am very glad to see that there is an opportunity for their expertise to be directed to “the next great challenge” in this arena.
Sharon Sergeant
Sponsor/donor of RootsWeb
bostonstates.RootsWeb.com


If such be the case, that all previous records remain FREE, then this is obviously a good move on the part of both RootsWeb and MyFamily.com. Should there be any negative changes, then it can be considered another event. Let’s keep an open mind for the present and see what transpires. Anything which adds to the genealogy community is most welcome.
Dilmond D. Postlewait,
Wichita, Kan.
dpostie@wichita.infi.net


We are already seeing what is happening. More advertising, banners, sales and more crap. We are genealogists and we don’t need more ways to spend our money. When I see those sneaky little ads between columns I just go right on by.


I had planned to build a Web site at RootsWeb, but I’m not sure about doing so now. I’m also curious as to why RootsWeb allowed this problem (ultimately leading to a merger) to happen… why they never said anything to the genealogical community before allowing this merger to happen. Was this their plan all along? If not, and they were growing faster than expected, why did they begin offering free, unlimited-megabyte sites to everyone where before, we had to pay for them? Offering those free sites only increased their work- and system-loads with no major way to pay for the hardware to handle it all.


RootsWeb’s free-of-charge, volunteer, grassroots spirit was endangered the moment it incorporated commercially as RootsWeb.com Inc. in May 1999.


MyFamily.com is a commercial enterprise and is therefore interested in making money, period. I believe that eventually, all of those things that we now use freely with RootsWeb, will soon cost something. (Probably a membership in Ancestry.com.)


Perhaps it would not have been necessary if those who used RootsWeb had made a small annual contribution.


Though probably inevitable, this merger makes me feel like the slaves of old when “sold down the river”: HELPLESS! I am one of the fixed-income users priced out of another market. Perhaps not today but real soon. I have used Ancestry’s Web site on a trial basis and found it too complicated, with choices often unclear and searches terminated before conclusion. Sorry! I’m not a fan!


If use of RootsWeb becomes a for-pay thing, I for one will be more than furious. I gave tons of information because of it being free. I hate all of the companies (including Family Tree Maker, sorry) who are into taking the information people give out of the generosity of their souls, and then CHARGING them money to access it!! That is the bottom of the barrel. If it comes to that with RootsWeb, I hope all of us who gave free information because of RootsWeb’s promises not to charge for it will go against them legally. But, until that happens, I still love RootsWeb and I know there are millions others like me who feel the same.


As a volunteer county coordinator for three counties, having transcribed tons of records myself to place online 4 FREE 4 EVER, I feel that the “grassroots” projects have been taken advantage of. All my county Web sites, data, etc., have been REMOVED from RootsWeb and have been placed on a “safe site” which is a non-profit corporation. It is just another farce. RootsWeb incorporated for profit some time ago, all the time begging for donations. Does FamilyTreeMaker beg for donations? It is FRAUD.


I am RootsWeb list administrator and donor. I am not panicked. I am not even particularly concerned. Change happens. I think this change is inevitable and probably in the interest of all concerned, although many of my RootsWeb colleagues may die of apoplexy before it’s over.


I believe it would be business-suicide for Ancestry.com/MyFamily.com to alienate RootsWeb users, which contrary to popular belief, DO subscribe to Ancestry.com. I believe that Ancestry is counting on a lot of new subscribers to be pulled in from the RootsWeb people that have been on the fence about joining, especially with special offers to RootsWeb customers. Big business wins out these days because the little guy can’t afford the money and manpower to run a large organization anymore. I think that both MyFamily.com/Ancestry and RootsWeb will continue the way they are and maybe just combine some of their common features like the Social Security Death Index database. So far, I hear a lot of complaining that they think Ancestry will sell GEDCOMs, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet…they are searchable for free on Ancestry’s site, as well as the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project.


A better answer would have been for Ancestry.com to give money to RootsWeb in exchange for advertising space.


RootsWeb, now MyFamily.com, owns the USGenWeb domain names. In other words, USGenWeb is held captive. They cannot move completely off their server because they don’t own the domain name rights. They also are not an incorporated nonprofit organization. So anything can happen, such as pay-per-view! USGenWeb needs to incorporate as a nonprofit and raise funds for its own server.


I have heard negativity from many users, but I think it is probably for the best. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com for a couple of years now and the information I find there is well worth the small yearly fee.


In the end, multitudes of material that has been contributed by volunteer workers will probably end up being sold and basically stolen.


The RootsWeb people begged for financial support, and received relatively little. So what can we expect? There is no entitlement to a free lunch. Over time, we’ll very likely have to pay, although I’d expect most of the lists to remain free. And that’s OK.


I think it will be a good thing. It would be a shame for RootsWeb to just disappear for lack of funding!
Elizabeth Schooler Watkins


This means the death of RootsWeb as we know it. R.I.P.


I’ll wait to see how intrusive the Ancestry material is. If it’s half a screen full of useless banner ads, then I’m gone…


Because of this merger, Ancestry.com is offering a free 14 days “of all their databases.” That is my understanding, anyway, and I signed up. After doing a search, I was offered the opportunity to purchase the info found. Now, I don’t consider this a free use of anything—I could get that far before. The above occurrence may be an error, or it may be an omen of things to come.
Marsha


There is a big difference between the objectives of a not-for-profit organization like RootsWeb, and a for-profit organization like MyFamily.com. If MyFamily.com cannot make money off of RootsWeb, they would not have bought it and they will soon close it down. No business can continue without making a profit. My fear is that MyFamily.com with take the information on RootsWeb and sell it through their other sites or CDs. This is not a good deal for the genealogical community. Public records and information should remain public and free.


RootsWeb founders Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson have given the online genealogy community countless hours of hard work and monetary support as well, and the community owes them a debt of gratitude. They have always kept their word, and have been unflagging in their support of the free online projects such as USGenWeb. If they say that access to and support of the sites will remain free, I trust and believe them, simple as that.


Look what has happened to Ultimate Family Tree software since Mattel and Learning Co. purchased Broderbund and others! I hate to see the loss of competition.


Years ago, before RootsWeb.com, when a computer in North Dakota held most of the genealogy we could get, RootsWeb founders Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich were pouring themselves into the project. As things have evolved, there seems to be no choice other than what has happened. I have been a RootsWeb supporter with (small) financial contributions ever since they asked. One reason I have done this is my hope that RootsWeb would remain a single entity and not go the way of many genealogical resources today. Apparently I was naive. I will wait to see how the promises of free access and continuation of all free services play out. For example, it is difficult for me to believe that Ancestry (AKA MyFamily.com) will keep the offer of free, nearly unlimited web site space for all comers, especially local genealogical and historical societies. Ah well, in America today we must expect massive mergers leading to poorer service but better financial condition for the companies. (It’s the economy, stupid!)


RootsWeb was unable to support itself, and it’s not a bad thing that they joined with MyFamily.com. Ancestry isn’t going to put other people’s hard work and profit off of it by selling it on CD. If Ancestry wants to keep RootsWeb free, that’s the way it should be. I believe that Ancestry is more in the spirit of the share-and-share-alike genealogy than other companies that profit off of other people’s research.
Matthew LaFlash
Indiana


There seems to be a monopoly growing in the genealogy field that may someday be worthy of anti-trust investigation. When monopolies take enough control, consumers suffer. Prices and charges will go up without there being competition. Quality will decline without competition. Opportunities for new, upstart competitors will diminish. The “little guy” will lose. Family history has become a democratic pursuit for the masses. Let’s hope it does not return to the exclusive hobby of a wealthy few.

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