Genealogy news roundup: Ancestry takes RootsWeb offline after security breach

By Rosemary Collins, 4 January 2018 - 3:56pm

Plus: Findmypast adds Manchester burial and marriage records; Historic issues of the Church of Ireland Gazette available for free online; Worcestershire Archives launches new guide for international family historians

Ancestry took RootsWeb offline after 300,000 emails and passwords were leaked

Family history website Ancestry has temporarily taken its free community site RootsWeb offline after 300,000 emails and passwords from one of its servers were leaked in a security breach.

In a blog post from 23 December, Ancestry explained that it had carried out analysis of the file of leaked information and found that only 55,000 emails and passwords matched accounts on Ancestry websites, most of which were from free trial or unused accounts.

There was no leak of sensitive information such as credit card numbers or social security numbers, and Ancestry does not believe that its own systems have been breached.

Ancestry has emailed its affected customers – less than 1% of its user base – informing them of the problem, and has locked their accounts, requiring them to choose a new password.

If you have not been contacted, then your account was not affected.

Ancestry has temporarily taken down RootsWeb, a free community-driven collection of tools used to host and share genealogical information, which it hosts on its servers.

Tony Blackham, Ancestry's chief information security officer, said the company was working to “resolve this issue and enhance the RootsWeb infrastructure” and would try to preserve all data on the website, although this may not be possible.

If you would like to share how the closure of RootsWeb has affected you, please email


Findmypast adds Manchester burial and marriage records

Thousands of burial and marriage records covering parishes in the Diocese of Manchester are now available via Findmypast.

The collection includes 50,000 death and burial records from 1570 to 1990 and 913,000 banns and marriage records from 1570 to 1936, many of which are accompanied by images of the original records.

The records were obtained as part of a partnership with FamilySearch, where they are also available to view for free.

Findmypast also added 65 history and reference books, including The Northern Genealogist and Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time, which are also available for free on the Internet Archive.


Historic issues of the Church of Ireland Gazette available free online

Almost 70 years of editions of the Church of Ireland Gazette, the Church of Ireland’s weekly newspaper, have been published online for free by the Representative Church Body Library.

The editions date from March 1856, when the paper first appeared, to December 1923, after the Irish Free State was declared, and cover both modern Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Historian Dr Miriam Moffitt said: “The Gazette is wonderful because it provides not only an outline of the events that impacted on the Church over the last 150 years, but also because it gives us an insight into the attitudes of its readership.”

The Gazette ran birth, marriage and death notices relating to clergymen and their families, as well as news stories, columns and advertisements.


Worcestershire Archives launches new guide for international family historians

Tracing Worcestershire ancestors from overseas has become easier thanks to a new website and PDF guide from Worcestershire county council’s Archive and Archaeology Service.

The website, Explore the Past, provides information about the archive's services and a 70-page PDF guide, which can be downloaded for £6.

The Explore the Past website and guide were developed in a two-year project to make Worcestershire Archives more accessible to overseas researchers, who may have Worcestershire ancestors but be unable to visit in person.

The guide provides information about the archives’ most-used collections, including wills, trade directories, electoral registers, census, maps and church records amongst others.

If users read the PDF online, they can use links within the text to contact the archive service and order digital copies of documents.

Tickets go on sale for new family history conference

Four UK genealogical organisations will host a new major family history conference this summer.

‘Secret Lives: Hidden Voices of Our Ancestors’, hosted by the Society of Genealogists, the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives, the Guild of One Name Studies and the Halsted Trust, will take place from 31 August to 2 September 2018 at the Jury’s Inn, Hinckley.

Tickets cost £120-£320 for bookings made before 30 April.

The confirmed speakers include Who Do You Think You Are? genealogist Nick Barratt and criminal history expert Angela Buckley.


English Heritage to commemorate 100 years since Stonehenge given to the nation

English Heritage has announced a programme of events to mark 100 years since Stonehenge was gifted to the nation.

The anniversary celebrations will include recreating how prehistoric peoples may have lifted the giant stones, with an option for visitors to take part, as well as hosting an exhibition of Neolithic and Bronze Age objects in partnership with the British Museum.

Anna Eavis, English Heritage’s cultural director, said that the moument was "at risk of collapse" in November 1918, when landowners Cecil and Mary Chubb gave it to the nation, leading to Stonehenge “getting the care it deserves”.

English Heritage will also commemorate events this year including the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice and of women getting the right to vote and the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS.


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Genealogy news roundup: First DNA map of Ireland published
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