8 Theories on the REAL Reason for the Ancestry.com Outage

8 Theories on the REAL Reason for the Ancestry.com Outage

by Kerry Scott on 19 June 2014

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Have you heard? Crackpot theories are the new black. I’m all about the new black, so I’m deciding what my crackpot theory on Ancestry’s outage should be. Please choose your favorite:

  1. Smoke monster from Lost. They never fully explained that thing, but I feel like he would somehow be anti-genealogy. Like that one cranky relative you have, but smokier.
  2. Aliens (specifically, aliens who are pissed that Mundia is going away and want revenge, which is a real theory that I have actually seen people non-ironically share)
  3. Voldemort. Because genealogists love talking about how to get The Youth involved, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that The Youth like Harry Potter stuff.
  4. Ancestry is secretly building the Death Star, which is where they keep their servers. Luke Skywalker totally used The Force and closed his eyes and blew the whole thing up. That was dumb, though, because where is he going to research his family history when he finds out Darth Vader is his father? Duh.
  5. That one time when I’m pretty sure I saw Tim Sullivan on the grassy knoll
  6. Ninja assassins wearing blue FamilySearch.org shirts. Naturally, they were very polite and cleaned up after themselves afterward.
  7. Somebody accidentally unplugged the server in order to plug in a Crock-Pot for the Ancestry potluck. It sucked, but the meatballs were delicious.
  8. The ghost of somebody’s grandma who is sick and tired of people copying that one crappy tree where they have her married to her own son. I’m kind of rooting for Ghost Grandma on this one.

All joking aside, the people who work on this sort of thing have had a pretty crappy week. Thank you, Ancestry attack-fighting employees, for your hard work. There are thousands of us out here who really appreciate it. If I were wealthy, I’d buy you each a cupcake and a Haters Gonna Hate t-shirt.

NOTE: I’m teaching a weeklong course at Family Tree University next week, on how to use your tablet/iPad for genealogy. It has SIX different classes, plus a discussion area so you can talk to me and your fellow students, plus the opportunity to download everything and view/read it at your leisure. If you have a tablet, you should sign up. If you’re thinking of buying a tablet, you should still sign up, so you can see which one is right for you and what exactly you can do with it. It’s going to be awesome. 

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Jill June 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Carla is really Kerry. She’s just trying to increase page views. ;)

carla page June 21, 2014 at 1:58 pm

the only reason they brought back findagrave.com is because they knew that they would have alot of pissed people to deal with and also lawsuits. i too am a findagrave volunteer!

Susan Clark June 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

Wondering what Darwin would make of this conversation.

Ann June 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Susan Clark, I think Darwin already ran screaming from the building.

carla page June 22, 2014 at 11:41 am

i,m asking everyone to keep emailing ancestry.com keep tweeting them and keep calling them until we accomplish our goal of getting our genealogy websites back we have to let ancestry.com know that we mean business!!!! i,m doing an online protest!!!!!!!!!!!!! please everyone join me in my protest,we genealogists have to banned together in this effort!

A June 23, 2014 at 11:09 am

Well, you finally said something accurate — it appears some genealogists should indeed get banned.

Aylarja June 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Carla, if RootsWeb comes back online, will that be proof that your protest worked, or that you were mistaken in the first place?

Ann June 23, 2014 at 5:30 am

I’m a regular reader of Kerry’s blog and have never seen such a stream of comments.

Keep it coming Kerry – you allow us to have a good chuckle and learn something at the same time.

carla page June 23, 2014 at 11:01 am

they are NOT bringing back rootsweb.com i got confirmation of this

A June 23, 2014 at 11:05 am

From which of your potted plants?

Ann June 23, 2014 at 11:04 am

Carla – I know I’m wasting my internet breath, BUT, the answer you got, from a respected Staff Member at Ancestry was

“Ancestry.com is NOT retiring rootsweb.com. There are a few properties that are being retired and the retirement date is being extended due to the outages caused by the DDOS attack.
Also, we did NOT take down our own websites and we were the victim of a DDOS attack.
Again, rootsweb.com is NOT being retired. It is not back up, we believe it will be up and functioning very soon.”

A June 23, 2014 at 11:07 am

How do you know what answer she got…wait…have you been READING HER MIND?!?!?! Get out of her private conversations, Ann!!!


carla page June 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

i was told on the phone that rootsweb.com is one of the websites to be retired i was told this by a staff member at ancestry.com,she told me that she heard that rootsweb.com was going to be retired,she said that she had gotten conformation of this.

Ann June 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

Carla posted her same theories on the ancestry.com message boards, where a known staff member gave her an emphatic response.

Jill June 23, 2014 at 11:24 am

This was all very amusing until it started to look like some sort of Munchausen’s syndrome. Anything for attention….

Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Carla, I have a question. Have you considered starting a blog of your own? You clearly have lots to say, and it’s a great way to be able to express yourself in whatever way you like. Blogger.com and WordPress.com offer free platforms for starting a blog, and it only take a few minutes to set one up.

Alan Bainer June 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Saw this on another site. Interesting alternative.
With the closing of myfamily.com you might want to take a look at mygreatbigfamily.com. They have been around since 2004 and offer private family websites. Have many features such as family tree with gedcom importer, photo sharing, family archives, message boards, chat, recipes, members can have personal homepages within the site, news, newsletter, slideshow, calendar, reunion tools & more. It’s a pretty comprehensive system. you can see a demo of it at http://family-website-demo.mygreatbigfamily.com/site_lock… or visit their website at http://www.mygreatbigfamily.com. Worth a look!

appenine June 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm

‘A’ comments -
“there isn’t a switch to flip that will make queries available only to paid subscribers and make the attack stop. Even if there were, that wouldn’t be a solution you’d want to use for long, unless you never want to have anyone register and pay again.”

Yeah.. actually there is. You could set up a bump page for instance that, if nothing else, which would prevent new users from signing up, but allow repeat connections only from IP addresses that provide challenge credentials in a time limited (20 second) period, and then dump all future connections for the next 15 minutes.

The most relevant method ties into your incorrect claim that “Eastern Europe” is the source of most DoS attacks. Eastern Europe is the source of a lot of Virus writing, and a lot of computer hijack exploits, but its not even on the top 5 of regions for a variety of reasons as relates to conducting botnet attacks.

Most of the compromised computers used in these attacks, most without the cooperation of the computer owners, are not in Eastern Europe, they are vastly.. let me repeat VASTLY in CHINA.

This is for a variety of reasons, but among the top reasons is the fact that a huge majority of MS OS’s in China are not legit, not supported, NOT UPDATED, and are XP or earlier variety of Windows that are easy to hijack.


China is the source of the overwhelming majority of botnet attacks, and a legit botnet attack would include a large pct, if not a near majority of non-US based computers in its makeup.

While ancestry does have some users in the UK, Canada, or some other foreign countries, these are a tiny pct of the overall LEGIT users of the Ancestry.com main site. If Ancestry, or any other company, is getting hit with a China-based or overseas originated Botnet – which is the case most of the time – they simply need a script to refuse and dump all connections from a non-US based IP address. Very few ancestry.com records would pertain to mainland Chinese interests.

The chinese can harness a endless army of compromised non-licensed XP computers to no avail, if their connections are automatically dumped. Shutting down a website to non-US originated traffic is not that big a deal when 95% of your LEGIT traffic is US based (IF this even had a real DoS component).

Secondly.. everyone who spouted off backing up or supporting the the original Ancestry claim that they had ONLY sustained a DDoS attack with no site penetration is now looking pretty foolish,
in light of the fact that when Rootsweb DID briefly come back online, the Google cached URL’s did not link to the correct page anymore once you clicked on Googles’ cached links.

The most likely explanation for that URL mismatch is that Ancestry moved or restored the site data to another server from a backup.
This would NEVER be necessary in any scenario I can imagine due to a mere DoS-only attack.

We are now into a second full week of outages for ancestry owned sites, and its nonsense to attribute this solely to a DoS attack given all the above. I am sure ancestry has appreciated all the folks hurling insults and the individuals who pointed out early on that ancestrys’ claims did not add up. Its also noteworthy that Ancestrys only media release on the alleged “DDoS attack” was 5 days ago, and since then nothing that I have seen has been communicated or offered to customers of the media.

I know which company not to do business with in the future.

Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Actually, they’ve been updating regularly via their Facebook page. The last update was about six hours ago.

Laura Davenport June 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm

And six days isn’t “the second full week” with major divisions like Ancestry proper and Find a Grave having been out of commission 1-3 days maximum. Respectively.
You’re also a tad confused about the mechanics of DDoS attacks and the remedies but I have no time to deal with mechanics right now.

carla page June 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm

if they were going to bring back rootsweb.com and genforum they would have already done so just like they did with findagrave.com,don,t you all find it strange that they brought back findagrave.com rather quickly i might add.

Anne Gillespie Mitchell June 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Carla, we are bringing genforum and rootsweb.com back. Really. We are. Just like I told you on the message boards. (Yes, I work at Ancestry.com) In fact someone quoted that same post to you earlier on this blog.

And there has been ZERO data loss. It was a DDOS. But it is a really big set of sites. And getting everything set up under a different configuration to help thwart this kind of nonsense in the future is not a simple thing.

Soon everything will be back up. Soon. Promise.

A June 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Anne, how much longer you think before you can get Carla a refund of her zero dollars?

Please enjoy whatever bonus they better give you all when this is through.

Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

No. I don’t find that strange. This is like that one time when our basement had a sewage backup, and there was poop everywhere, and we had to clean it up. As much as we wanted all of the poop to vanish, we couldn’t clean the entire basement at once, because we don’t have magic powers. We had to start in one area and work our way around to the rest of the basement.

I imagine this is similar. The folks at Ancestry.com probably don’t have magic powers either, so they couldn’t fix everything at the exact same moment. You fix this, and then you fix that. That’s how things work.

It’s also worth noting that RootsWeb would be among the oldest parts of the entire Ancestry kingdom. I imagine they’re like that one old, hard-to-service part of our basement that held stuff from the 1920s. It was super hard to get the poop out of there. RootsWeb might be the same thing.

Again, Carla, I have to ask…why not start your own blog, so that you can make your voice heard on these issues? This is mostly a humor blog. People come here to laugh. You seem frustrated that people are laughing, but to be honest, this isn’t really the best venue for your message.

carla page June 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm

yeah right i,ve heard that so many times now and i have a bridge i want to sell ya

A June 23, 2014 at 6:12 pm

But then what would you troll from under? :(

Ugh, you’re not even fun anymore. I hope you get access again soon, to both RootsWeb and your Haldol. Have a good one.

Laura Davenport June 23, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Carla-really the world is watching you and having a good laugh. I have only very little to add to the comments of others, particularly Kelly and Anne Gillespie Mitchell and that is that Rootsweb is free, gratis, that implies thanks. Rootsweb, no matter how much you love it is not a revenue generating division of the Ancestry community. It’s a gift, we say thank you for gifts. And, we don’t get to complain about “free” being temporarily down.
As for why Rootsweb is not up, I see a priority for revenue producing divisions and Ancestry proper seems to be doing just fine; I actually lost complete use of Ancestry for less than an entire 24 hour day. Good job Ancestry!
And, I suspect Kelly is right about the old corner of the basement.

Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Okay, folks, here’s the thing: This post was intended to be fun, and to thank the Ancestry employees who are working hard to bring the site back. I feel like we’ve gotten as much fun out of this as we’re going to, and now we’re a little bit off in no-fun-land. I don’t think this is a situation where more commenting is necessarily going to lead to a productive discussion, so I’m going to go ahead and close comments here. That way, we can all have more time to work on finding dead people…which, after all, is the real fun, right?

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