RootsWeb is a genealogical community website that was developed by Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich in 1997. An online gathering place for those interested in genealogy and history, RootsWeb was based on the principle that genealogical information should be free. Unfortunately, the financial model based on donations, rather than subscription or fee, failed, and it was necessary to seek outside funding. As a result, Ancestry.com.com assumed responsibility for the site and its maintenance. Despite its purchase by a for-profit company, RootsWeb remains free.
On 17 June 1998 Julia M. Case and Myra Vanderpool Gormley issued the premier issue of the RootsWeb Review, "a weekly e-zine with news about RootsWeb happenings, new mailing lists and Web sites, a continuing tutorial on using RootsWeb's resources, monthly statistics, news from major hosted activities such as USGenWeb, USGenWeb Archives, WorldGenWeb, and Cyndi's List, schedules for IIGS/RootsWeb IRC, and other information of interest to RootsWeb users and the genealogical community." RootsWeb Review was implemented as the RootsWeb-Review-L mailing list.
At that time, according to the Review, RootsWeb consisted of "more than 2,650 genealogy Websites, including the USGenWeb Archives; ROOTS-L (in its 11th year) and more than 3,600 other mailing lists; and the Roots Surname List (in its 10th year). The June 1998 Roots Surname List contains 420,971 names from about 58,000 submitters. ... And search engines to make more than four billion bytes of genealogical data (the equivalent of two million printed pages) freely available."
At the time of its merger with Ancestry in June 2000, RootsWeb had about 600,000 registered users, was serving about 100,000,000 Web page views monthly, and was delivering about 160,000,000 pieces of email monthly to the subscribers of its 18,000 mailing lists. The company had more than 40 employees and operated its own 7,000 square foot network operations center in Bakersfield, CA.
RootsWeb's success has always been dependent upon volunteers from the genealogical community. Today there are only a handful of staff allotted by Ancestry to support the duties of maintaining RootsWeb. However, what keeps RootsWeb going and keeps its access free are the thousands of volunteers who manage the lists, boards, help desk and other features at RootsWeb.com.
For more information about the history of RootsWeb see:
- Brian Leverich, "An (Almost) Unexpurgated History of RootsWeb," RootsWeb (www.rootsweb.com : accessed 16 March 2009); citing RootsWeb Review 1 (http://ftp.rootsweb.ancestry.com/pub/review/19980624.txt : 24 June 1998 issue; accessed 16 March 2009) number 2.
- Karen Isaacson, "RootsWeb and USGenWeb: Working Together for Genealogy on the Internet," RootsWeb (www.rootsweb.com : accessed 16 March 2009).
- "RAND Genealogy Club," RAND corporation personal page (http://web.archive.org/ : Internet Archives Wayback Machine, archived 15 August 2000), original URL was http://www.rand.org/personal/Genea/.
- Cyndi Howells, "Tracking Your Family Through Time and Technology," American Heritage Magazine 50 (www.americanheritage.com : February/March issue; accessed 17 March 2009), issue 1.
- Marty Hoag and Alf Christophersen, "First Message on ROOTS-L Genealogy List," Roots-L, mailing list, 12 December 1987 (http://archiver.rootsweb.com : accessed 17 March 2009).