Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Now You See It, Then You Won't

Remember RootsWeb? The wonderful online resource where people could upload and share their family trees, created by Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson, has had a long and much-appreciated history. Now, however, things are about to change. Again.

I don't suppose many people still use the old RootsWeb Mailing Lists. Once offered to host the RootsWeb properties, those Mailing Lists were folded into the offerings they hosted, even though it seemed a duplication of Ancestry's Message Boards.

Despite what might seem like diminishing numbers of participants, a hue and cry went up when Ancestry announced that they are going to discontinue "functionality" on those old RootsWeb Mailing Lists. Well, that is not entirely correct; may have sent the original notice out to "many" RootsWeb users, but somehow, I missed that fact.

To the rescue, Dick Eastman posted the notice on his Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. For anyone who cares, the deadline—and in this case, it does mean dead—is March 2. After that point, no messages can be sent or received through that resource.

This may seem a minor point for those who no longer use the old RootsWeb utilities—or for those who never even heard of that resource from the early days of online genealogy. For those of us genealogists who take our tracing of how-we-got-here seriously, it would do us good to remember the evolution of such resources as RootsWeb. Those stories, particularly from the pen of its founders, remind us of a halcyon time when collective cooperation ruled and we helped each other trace our roots.

But now, as of March 2, they will be gone. Sad, when I remember the many times I met—and developed ongoing relationships with—fellow researchers tracing lines they shared with my family. Sad, too, when I realize the examples such as the one I mentioned yesterday, in which my query became the cousin bait that brought an answer to me from half a world away.

Granted, there will be some aspects preserved. And there may be alternatives. The RootsWeb mailing list archives will remain available and searchable, according to the Ancestry announcement, as shared on the Eastman newsletter. And, thanks to Eastman's many readers who commented on that post, there is apparently a favored alternative showing up: Dick Eastman took the hint and posted a second article in which he reviewed

Change is not easy to take. Especially for those of us who gravitate to the preservation of history—our history. Then, again, over the years, my usage of the RootsWeb mailing lists has whittled down to one: the list which provides links to obituaries for the county where my mother-in-law grew up. A useful device, indeed, for someone tracing all the descendants of my mother-in-law's roots for DNA matches, but perhaps it is not the same for other users.

It's mostly over the nostalgia of remembering the place where I first met distant relatives who are seeking the same ancestors that I mourn such a loss. Hopefully, the utility will be updated—somewhere—and we will still have those resources which have historically been such a great help to our research. Hopefully.

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