Thursday, June 19, 2014


During the last few days there was a problem at the websites
as a DDOS (Denial of Service) attack crashed the main Ancestry site, Find A Grave
and Rootsweb. I'm not a techie so I'm not going to waste time trying to explain the
specifics of DDOS. Thomas MacEntee has a good explanation here. All you need to
know was that no one was able to access the three sites until Ancestry's IT people
were able to fix the problem. (As of tonight, all three sites are once more up and

 By the reaction of some of the posters on's Facebook page you would
have thought the sky was falling. They ranged from demands for refunds to just plain
downright nastiness. It was ridiculous. People could not grasp the concept that this was
not something caused by a problem with ancestry's programming, it was an attack on
Ancestry's websites but hackers.

 I wrote about it on my own Facebook page:
"And lo, the servers of Ancestry were beset by the Plague of DDOS, and then were the genealogists locked out from the Realms of Ancestry. Neither could they work on their family trees, nor add photos nor memorials to Find A Grave. Then great were the lamentations of the genealogists, and many were beset with frustration, weeping and gnashing their teeth in the outer darkness as they waited for the servers of Ancestry to once more open unto them.

Meanwhile, others turned to worshiping the false idol, Television...."

Now, I wasn't worried about not being able to use the Ancestry sites for two reasons:

One was I'd seen these DDOS attacks  before when I was active on mIRC. Once i heard
that this was what was happening with Ancestry, I knew it would probably be fixed within
a day or two. Yes, I was mildly annoyed that I couldn't fulfill a photo request on Find A
Grave until the site came back online, but I could wait.

The second reason was that I'd dropped my Ancestry subscription a few months ago and
my research doesn't depend on access to the records on Ancestry. I use FamilySearch,
Google ebooks, printed books and other online resources. I don't have all my eggs in one basket. I couldn't post to my tree so I did some research for upcoming blog
posts instead.Most of the experienced genealogists I know through blogging or Facebook were able to carry on their work using similar means.

I think is a victim of its own advertising. People see or hear their ads every
day and many of them think the best way to search for their ancestors is to go to So they put "put all their eggs" in the Ancestry basket. Then when there's
a service problem  for some reason they get cranky about it.  But what website doesn't have trouble now and then? How many times has Facebook or Gmail had trouble over
the years?

I can see having issues with certain  aspects on how a website is run; I dropped Ancestry
because I was dissatisfied with the New Search engine. But to whine and complain over
an event Ancestry had no control over is just plain dumb.

Here's an easy way to not be frustrated the next time something like this happens(and it probably will): instead of depending mostly on Ancestry, learn to use the other tools
available to you for research, both on and off the internet.

Spread those eggs around.

It will be easier on you, and the poor folks at Ancestry will get less abuse,.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Bill, Well said. I think it was great that because of facebook and other social media we at least knew what was going on. As much as I use Ancestry and say I can't live without it I can. Although I did not have time the days it was down I have plenty of other sites which I can use. I also work on the system side of things for my job and know that a lot of system issues are beyond anyone's control even when not something like this. Christine B