One reason some Internet genealogy sites succeed on the Web is a reputation for excellence, and RootsWeb.com certainly has that. Of course, merging with a genealogy powerhouse like Ancestry.com and offering an extensive collection of family history information free of charge doesn't exactly stifle the virtual crowds streaming to the site.
"RootsWeb.com has been around for quite a while--we're the oldest and
largest free genealogy site on the Internet. RootsWeb as a Web site has
been around since 1996," said Jake Gehring, director of RootsWeb. "RootsWeb gets busier all the time--five million page views every day and growing."
RootsWeb completed its merger with Ancestry.com during the summer of 2000.
"The new structure has benefited RootsWeb in a number of ways," Gehring said. "We've been able to combine some tools across the sites to give our users a larger audience to share their data with. We continue to upgrade and stabilize RootsWeb hardware for a more stable service with higher capacity. The support from
Ancestry.com has enabled RootsWeb to stay free."
The WorldConnect database allows visitors to search more than 187 million names in its family trees. RootsWeb visitors may register to receive free online genealogy newsletters. The RootsWeb Review announces new developments at RootsWeb and includes stories submitted by others researching their ancestors. Learning what helped other amateur genealogists to scale a metaphorical brick wall can help all visitors with their respective search.
RootsWeb's list of state-by-state resources, along with a list of all the counties in the U.S., can help some genealogy junkies pinpoint their searches to actual buildings, which may hold the documents they need.
The RootsWeb Surname List allows site visitors to search for or post their own surname to find other relatives seeking the same family origins. This may sound like a long shot, but if you connect with just one cousin who researched the same family line, it can save you time and protect you from some roadblocks on your genealogical journey, such as surname misspellings.
People may also register their personal Web sites at RootsWeb. Visitors can then search the index determine if someone who shares their surname or the family member they are researching may have information they can use in their own genealogy.
Most RootsWeb regulars have their own favorite features.
"One of my favorite features on RootsWeb has got to be Post-em Notes," said Gehring. "We've recently borrowed the idea for Ancestry.com. The basic idea is that anyone can add comments or annotations to a record they find on the Web site if they've got a correction, some additional data, or whatever. It's a great way to share knowledge and leave a little help for the next researcher coming down the line."
Census images and indexes are some of the most sought after data on the Internet, particularly for weekend-only researchers. Census information is one of the best ways researchers can find a lump of family history (i.e. birth dates, occupations) using one resource.
Visitors to RootsWeb can read an article outlining what information is included in each U.S. census through 1900. For people who know they want to research a particular family in a census, RootsWeb allows guests to use its Soundex converter to determine the Soundex code used to index that name. The site doesn't offer glimpses of actual census images online, although Ancestry.com does, for a price.
For now, the RootsWeb community can use the free tools it has to hasten their microfilm search from federal or state resources.
Gehring said while RootsWeb plans to add to its existing services, "we still want to keep our reputation for people helping people. Our dedicated staff, our administrators, and our volunteers are what make RootsWeb great."