Tag Archives: Genealogy

Looking at Ancestry Under Attack

This was the first tweet announcing an issue with the Ancestry website on June 16, 2014
The first tweet announcing an issue with the Ancestry website on June 16, 2014

This week I sat with anticipation to see what would happen to my favourite genealogy site, Ancestry.ca.

The second tweet on June 16, 2014 from Ancestry about their issues
The second tweet on June 16, 2014 from Ancestry about their issues

For two full days, the Canadian version, along with all other versions of the the Ancestry brand were inaccessible. Eventually it trickled out on Twitter and Facebook that the site was crippled by unknown assailants with a DDos Attack.

If they went down, where would all my research go? Would I ever be able to get back to trying to locate all my ancestors?

Chief technology officer Scott Sorensen wrote: “Around 1:30 p.m. MT on Monday, June 16, 2014, attackers targeted Ancestry with a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS). During the attack, Ancestry websites along with the Find A Grave website were clogged with massive amounts of bogus traffic that took the sites down.”

It’s not incredibly shocking that something like this would happen. Ancestry is one of if not the worlds largest online research platforms for family history research. In many ways, they have an almost monopoly over the content and have multiple websites under their banner including: Archives.com, Fold3.com, ProGenealogists, Newspapers.com, Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com, and Rootsweb.com and FindaGrave.com. To a Hacker, it is entirely possible the temptation proved too hard to resist.

One of the things that I love about Ancestry, is that living people and their personal information are not searchable. This includes me and any of the living relatives on my tree. What if this attack set me or my loved ones up for identify theft?

“Your data was not compromised by this attack,” promised Sorensen. “This attack overloaded our servers with massive amounts of traffic but did not impact or access the data within those servers. No data was impacted in any way.”

I’ll admit, I have been slacking a bit in recent weeks by not doing much research. This is nothing new as I tend to research in burst mode for hours/days at a time and then take a few weeks off. I wasn’t aware the site was down until other geneabloggers started talking about it on twitter and the Ancestry Twitter and Facebook feeds started to trickle out information.

Issues continue with the Ancestry website on June 17, 2014
Issues continue with the Ancestry website on June 17, 2014

I wasn’t as nervous as perhaps I should have been. When hackers got into Target, they took all sorts of information. The team at Ancestry had assured everyone the attack did not compromise any data. Even though they were able to get most of the issue under control in two days, there have been intermittent outages. Even now when logging onto the site it has a disclaimer: You may be experiencing some intermittent service with the Ancestry.ca website. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause and appreciate your patience as we work to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

I avoided the website until this morning. A little part of my brain was worried the hackers would somehow gain access to my system if I went on. For some reason this morning I decided to give it a shot. All of my research was there, and many more leaves were shaking than the last time I was on the site. The new facts were a pleasant surprise and made my staying away worthwhile.

The first tweet indicating a DDoS attack to the Ancestry website June 18, 2014
The first tweet indicating a DDoS attack to the Ancestry website June 18, 2014

This whole experience helps demonstrate what a wonderful world we live in. This could have been disastrous for Ancestry and it’s users. Instead, it is a blip on the radar. It may have slowed down the post Father’s Day researchers, but it hasn’t stopped them forever. It is such a “First World Problem” having a website go down. I’m glad I could stay calm and sign in when I was ready.

Per the latest update 18 hours ago from Facebook, it looks like most of the issues have been resolved:

Ancestry Facebook Update 24Jun2014
The most recent Facebook update from June 24, 2014

Now it’s time for me to get back to researching my 6x great grandfather and his actions in the War of 1812 because let’s face it, history is never boring.

Questioning my American Roots

I’ve been intrigued for awhile with regards to my American ancestors.

I know what you are thinking, a couple weeks ago I wrote about how Canadian I am and now I’m saying how I’m an American. What is wrong with me?

Well truth be told, I feel Canadian to my very soul. My heart sings when the national anthem is playing. I can sing it in both official languages and I can wear it on my backpack proudly no matter where I go. I truly feel red and white in my veins.

However, like nearly everyone living in this country, my family had to come from somewhere. I’ve mentioned the English connection in several posts, and my Irish connection in another. I’ve hinted at my Scottish ancestry but I haven’t talked too much about my American history.

Part of that is there are some questions. Big ones.

On my mother’s side of the family, there was some sort of mass migration to Canada around the time or before America became the United States of America. Several branches of the tree ended up here in Canada, most in Ontario and there is some question in my mind as to why.

Ancestry can point me to census records which indicate when we migrated, where we lived. Birth records and such from different states show that parts of my family were in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts not too many years after the Mayflower landed.  I know that many who traveled to the continent in the first few years were escaping religious persecution. Is this the same as my family?

Members of my family were even living around Salem during the time of the witch trials. Is it possible that someone in my family might have been involved in them?

If my family had lived in the US for 100-200 years, why would they want to leave?

In doing some research, I learned quite a few things and it opened more burning questions.

  1. Were we complete Loyalists to the cause of the King and made our way back to Canada to avoid being under this new uprising?
  2. Did we suffer by all the new taxation laws being passed, where it obliged people to pay a tax to the king and then another tax to the state?
  3. Were we Quakers and therefore tried avoiding violence?

Ancestry announced the release of thousands of Quaker records. Books, meeting minutes, and many other items this week. It looks like I can finally get the answers to some of these questions about why my family came to Canada when they did and perhaps get a better glimpse inside their lives. If you need me, I’m most likely going to be lost on Ancestry.ca for awhile.

Ancestry.com has recently launched the Quaker Collection. As an ancestry.ca worldwide member I can use the records to research my family
Ancestry.com has recently launched the Quaker Collection. As an ancestry.ca worldwide member I can use the records to research my family