RootsWeb is a free service that includes many helpful databases.
RootsWeb is an online genealogical research service and forum run by the Generations Network (formerly MyFamily, Inc.), the owners of the Ancestry.com website and Family Tree Maker software. Its goal is to put people researching their family histories together so they can share information and advice with one another.
Users can submit transcribed records, post family surnames, upload family trees and create family websites, as well as join e-mail lists and post to message boards. RootsWeb also offers opportunities to volunteer on a number of genealogical projects. All of RootsWebs services are free and available to novices and experts interested in genealogy, anywhere around the world.
In addition to its link to Ancestry.com, RootsWeb offers access to several searchable databases of its own. The U.S. Town/County Database lets users find the county name associated with an input city and state and provides links to genealogical resources for that particular county. The databases in the WorldConnect Project allow users to enter an ancestor's first and last name for a given family tree, as well as perform keyword and surname searches across its entire collection. Users can also upload their own family tree as a Genealogy Data Communications (GEDCOM) file.
The RootsWeb Surname List (RSL) is an online registry of last names accompanied by dates and locations of residence, along with contact information for the person who submitted that surname. Another useful database, the Social Security Death Index, allows users to search death records of the Social Security Administration. Ancestor names may be searched for in either database as exact names or using the Soundex or Metaphone codes that include name variations. According to the National Archives, Soundex is a method of indexing surname's names in the U.S. Census based on how they sound. Metaphone is another sound-based system developed as an algorithm used in computer spell checkers. RootsWeb provides a Soundex Converter that users can insert into their own genealogy Web pages.
The RSL database may be further searched according to when it was last updated. Users can also perform a metasearch of all databases with a single name entry. Database records can be annotated with electronic sticky notes that let users notify others that they possess or are seeking further information on the person the note is attached to.
The RSL database grew out of RootsWebs ROOTS-L electronic mailing list. Started in 1987, ROOTS-L connects people interested in genealogy worldwide. ROOTS-L members today maintain an impressive collection of research advice, the Roots Location List (RLL), a list of locations of interest to researchers, the GENSERV database of family trees in GEDCOM format and a list of resources owned by volunteers willing to look up information in them upon request.
ROOTS-L members can read messages in either mail or digest format and may unsubscribe at any time. Messages are indexed monthly, with Web links to individual messages and a searchable archive of messages dating back to the founding of the list.
In addition, RootsWeb offers over 161,000 message boards on surnames, localities and other topics of interest, with new boards added as necessary. User create threads linking researchers to one another, allowing users to find others with the answers to their questions. Users can search for a specific message board or for names or keywords within a given board.
RootsWeb houses more than 10,000 genealogy websites; users can register and categorize existing sites with RootsWeb's RootsLink registry. The list of registered sites includes surname websites from A to Z and regional resource sites for Canada, the United States, the rest of North and South America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and other geographic locations.
RootsWeb also offers FreePages accounts, where users can create their own family websites for free using HTML and/or RootsWebs online editor. Family sites can include both text documents and photographs.
RootsWeb has a collection of downloadable forms and charts to help family researchers record and organize their information. Available forms include a pedigree (ancestral) chart to document lines of descent, a family group sheet to document information on a given family, forms to summarize research sources and their contents and forms to track correspondence with other researchers. Forms are also available for logging information from the U.S. Census, slave schedules from 1850 and 1860, the Veterans Schedule for 1890 and census records for Canada and the United Kingdom.
RootsWeb's mailing lists and message boards are all staffed by volunteers. Any registered RootsWeb user can become an administrator for a mailing list or message board, provided the user has a computer and Internet connection with e-mail.
Volunteers are also involved in hosting major research projects that make genealogical information available online free of charge. Some of these projects include:
These projects, plus the network of volunteers involved with them, allow RootsWeb to fulfill its goal of providing a robust environment for learning, collaborating and sharing for both genealogical experts and novices worldwide.