Sunday, September 23, 2012

...And then what happens to their websites?

This is a post about three different genealogists, who all happened to have terrific websites, and who all unfortunately have passed away recently…

William Addams Reitwiesner developed the website and he died 12 November 2010.   His website is being managed by Christopher Challender Child of NEHGS because of a previous agreement.   It continues to be updated and managed, and is still online as a resource for genealogists.

Bridget Schneider co-developer of “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” died 12 November 2011and the website went off line just before her death on 16 October 2011.  It has not resumed, although her husband has stated several times that he will return RAOGK online soon. 

Jennifer Marcelais, of the website   “A Very Grave Matter” died just this past week on 19 September 2012.   Her untimely death at the young age of 39 prompted me to start thinking about not only the loss of a young colleague, but the possible loss of her wonderful website, and her marvelous collection of New England gravestone photographs.   Fortunately, her friend Bonnie Carberry may step in to carry on her Very Grave Matter project.  Fingers crossed.

These three valuable websites were one or two person operations. Other genealogical websites are run by boards, businesses or organizations with backup staff, paid employees and (hopefully) business plans for continuing operations if the originator or author of the original website suddenly passes away.    But some of our best resources on line are not or . They are much smaller websites that are just as valuable to genealogists as the big commercial websites.

When Bridget Schneider passed away, the genealogy community was in an uproar at losing an invaluable resource.  However, over the past year other projects have started up to replace this hole in our genealogy toolbox.   There are FB groups, wikis and a new website called   It has not been easy to cobble together a patchwork of resources to replace RAOGK. 

Top Ten “At risk” Genealogy Websites  (In my humble opinion) 

What would we do if one of these people suddenly passed away and we lost their websites?  Do they have backup plans?  Can we as a genealogy community help develop guidelines and resources to prevent their loss, and other losses?

1.  Cyndi Howell  at “Cyndi’s List”
2.  Thomas MacEntee at  Geneabloggers
3.  Dick Eastman  at “Online Genealogy Newsletter”
4.  Jim Tipton at “Find A Grave” at
5.  Caleb Johnson at
7.  Joe Bott at “Dead Fred”
8.  Doug Sinclair at Doug Sinclair’s Archives
9.  TJ Rand at the Epsom, NH Historical Society website
10.  J.L. Bell at Boston 1775

Note: these are websites I personally find invaluable.  You probably have your own list of invaluable websites, run by a single person, that are also in danger of loss to the public if their originators do not have plans in place for continuing the website in the case of death or disability.  Please feel free to list your personal favorite websites in the comments.

A recent article about Jenn Marcelais from the Portsmouth Patch:

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. This is an excellent question.

    Since I am pregnant with my second child, obviously I am going to update my Will to make guardianship provisions for him. Goodness knows I hope to outlive him, but I am only a year younger than Jennifer Marcelais. Who knows what might happen?

    I am part of a Yahoo Group for Nancy Drew collectors, and someone brought up a very good point about our collections (whether they are books or other types of collections) - what happens to them when we are gone?

    The same should be asked of all the work we put into genealogy: our research, papers, books, databases, and certainly our blogs and/or websites.

    This is something all of us should consider.

  2. Was sorry to learn the news about Jennifer, her photographs were certainly a significant contribution to New England genealogists.

  3. I was sorry to learn about Jennifer's passing. Your post is something I'm sure we have all thought about concerning our own work but I had not thought about the loss of websites that I use regularly and probably take for granted. Thanks for a thought provoking post. I hope we can collectively come up with a solution to protect ourselves and others from losing some very valuable information.

  4. I'm sure you all know about this, but an interim backup resource should be the Wayback Machine WBM can retrieve archived versions of websites, provided that the originator hasn't taken measures to block the 'robots' that WBM uses. It won't bring back everything, but it should always be one's first stop in trying to get access to a website that's been removed from the web.

  5. What a timely reminder. We should give trusted people our login details and make arrangements in our estate planning for our work to remain online.