Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The end of an era: goodbye to the Rootsweb mailing lists

It was announced today that the Rootsweb genealogy mailing lists will be discontinued and archived. Here is the e-mail I received from the Rootsweb Listowners list.
Beginning March 2nd, 2020 the Mailing Lists functionality on RootsWeb will be discontinued. Users will no longer be able to send outgoing emails or accept incoming emails. Additionally, administration tools will no longer be available to list administrators and mailing lists will be put into an archival state.

Administrators may save the emails in their list prior to March 2nd. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on RootsWeb.

As an alternative to RootsWeb Mailing Lists, Ancestry message boards are a great option to network with others in the genealogy community. Message boards are available for free with an Ancestry registered account.

Thank you for being part of the RootsWeb family and contributing to this community.


The RootsWeb team
When I first started my family history research nearly 20 years ago I found that the regional Rootsweb mailing lists were an invaluable source of education and assistance, and I made many friends on these lists. Unfortunately the functionality of the lists has been greatly reduced for many years now. The lists were offline for a considerable time as a result of security issues and they were eventually transferred to a new host in July 2018. It was perhaps inevitable that with all these problems discussions would move elsewhere.

While mailing lists used to be the central focus of genealogical life, they are becoming used much less often and I find that most of my genealogy and DNA conversations now take place in the various Facebook groups and also on Twitter. I am the admin of a few surname lists on Rootsweb but no one has posted on these lists for many months. If a service is not supported it is inevitable that it will eventually disappear. The demise of the Rootsweb lists is not a big surprise, but it does feel like the end of an era.

The decline in the use of mailing lists was no doubt also a factor in the decision by Yahoo to shut down all the web hosting for their Yahoo Groups. Yahoo hosted many of the popular DNA lists as well as a number of genealogy lists. The Yahoo lists will continue to function as email lists but without any archiving facility. All the old conversations have been deleted. This is a salutary lesson that all websites need to be backed up and archived in order to ensure their preservation. I suspect a huge amount of knowledge and history has already been lost as many groups have disappeared without back ups being made.

No doubt some of the Rootsweb lists and Yahoo Groups will find a new home elsewhere. Some mailing lists have now moved over to IO Groups. I am one of the admins of the Haplogroup R1b-U016 list and we moved our U106 list from Yahoo to IO Groups. We have been very pleased with the service from IO Groups. There is a lot of additional functionality which we have found very useful. If you have been hosting a list on Rootsweb and are looking for a new platform then IO Groups would be a good alternative.

Facebook is not everyone's cup of tea but it is home to a vibrant genealogy community. Katherine Willson does a brilliant job of tracking and categorising all the genealogy and history groups on Facebook. Do check out her Genealogy on Facebook list. At the last update in May 2019 it included over 14,500 links.

If you are particularly interested in genetic genealogy check out the ISOGG Wiki list of genetic genealogy mailing lists and Facebook groups.

Facebook has over two billion users around the world so it's not going away any time soon – or at least not until the next big thing comes along and who knows what that might be?


Trevor Rix said...

RootsChat is another major platform for family history discussions.

Debbie Kennett said...

Thanks Trevor. I thought after I'd posted that I probably should have mentioned Rootschat though it's really a message board and not a mailing list. It's a much better option than the Ancestry Message Boards with much better search facilities.