New User FAQ

Table of Contents

Getting Started

Enhancing Your Page

Using Advanced Html

Software Tools

Support Groups

This page was last updated on: Wednesday, 21-Nov-2001 20:11:20 MST

How to request a new user account?

If you are a USGenWeb or WorldGenWeb volunteer and would like to request webspace at Rootsweb, you can do so free of charge. Simply send email to and include your name, your county name, your state name, and your email address. You will receive automatic notification of your account request when it is ready to be used.

Accounts are currently being created weekly but incase you do not hear back right away, feel free to send a followup email to the same address requesting the status of your account.

Logging in for the first time

Once you receive your new account (an email will be sent containing your account name and password -- please save this to your computer's hard disk!) you can login to your account right away.

All USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb accounts follow similar naming conventions. Your account name will be a combination of eight letters - the first two represent your state (st, ex. pa or md) and the next six represent your county (county, ex. york or howard).

Your account will look like:


Your base url (web address) will look like:

WorldGenWeb user accounts are similar except that the first three letters represent the country name and the next three represent the county. If you are hosting a country - your account name will look like:


On occasion, the country name portion of the URL may be longer than three characters. If so, your notice that your webspace has been set up will contain the exact account name and base URL.

If you are hosting a county, district, city, or other division within a WorldGenWeb country, then your account will look like:


You will also be given your password. Please do not share this with anyone and do not post it online to send it via email.

Viewing your account through a browser

You can view the contents of your directory through your browser screen before any files are uploaded. Type in your url:

and you will receive back a screen with one file folder on it called Parent Directory. Once you begin to upload files to your account you will see actual file names listed here.

TIP: When you upload your first page (usually your main homepage) call it index.htm or index.html. This will prevent users from accessing your directory through their browser screen and viewing all your files.

You can call your first page anything you want -- but if you do use index.htm or html you can shorten your url to read as follows:

rather than

Learning html

You will need to learn some basic html code before you can upload any files to the internet. Html stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and it is the industry standard for internet use. Server systems are configured to read most forms of html (some do not support extensions - these are special server programs that help interpret html files a certain way). Most do, though, and as long as you create files with any standard html editor (or edit them in a word file or note pad file as text) you should not have any problems allowing users to see your pages.

A html file is really just a basic text file with function commands embedded into the text that tell your browser how to layout the page. Instead of a .txt extension it has a .html or .htm extension. Most html commands are simple and straightforward. If you want to make text bold - you embed the bold command before and after the word you wish to highlight.

You can purchase a wide variety of books on how to publish a webpage (like HTML for Dummies) or you can buy an html editor (software package) that contains an online tutorial. There are several good software packages on the market today - many contain advanced features and allow users to create "professional looking webpages". While these are nice packages - they can be very expensive and most new webmasters might not ever need all the bells and whistles they provide. Before you purchase a commercial product, make sure you visit a Freeware or Shareware site on the internet. Often you can purchase low cost html editors that will do everything you need them to do online.

A good place to browse is:,, or

There are also html editors that provide WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). AOL offers one program that requires no html knowledge at all. There are others available through Shareware locations - look for the WYSIWYG tag next to the description.

Uploading Files to RootsWeb

Once you have your html file ready to be uploaded you will need to be able to connect to RootsWeb via a FTP connection. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is a special type of connection that allows you to transfer files from your computer to RootsWeb. You can upload files as well as download them.

Some ISP's provide their customers with a builtin FTP client. AOL, Netcom, Compuserve, etc. all provide this service. Check with your ISP to see if they provide FTP support. If they do not, then you will need to purchase a stand alone FTP Client to upload files. There are several good client FTP's on the market (WS_FTP, CuteFTP for the PC and FETCH for the Mac are a few types). You can download these clients from any shareware site for a nominal fee (from $30 and up).

Once you know whether your FTP client is builtin or you have installed a stand alone version, you will need to configure your FTP client to connect to RootsWeb. Please see the FTP FAQ for more explicit instructions.

You will set your FTP to contact RootsWeb as follows (these are general instructions):

Server type: Unix
Anonymous User: Off or uncheck
Account Name: Your user account name (stcounty)
Password: Your password
Directory: public_html

Note: You must be currently online to use FTP. Login to your ISP first, then run your FTP client.

Adding a Page Counter

RootsWeb has two page counters that are available to any account holder. The first is a simple executable script that will print a textual number on the page. To use this counter, simply cut and paste the following command string onto your page:

You are our <--#exec cgi="/cgi-bin/counterord"--> visitor -- thanks for stopping by!

You can use a graphic counter for any of your pages by visiting this link:

  • Gumby's Page Counter Follow the instructions on the screen to create and install the counter on your web page.

    Adding a Date Stamp

    You can date stamp any page by using this command:

    This page was last modified: <!--#echo var="LAST_MODIFIED"-->


    Adding Gifs to your pages

    GIFS (graphic image files) can spice up your web page. They can come in the form of buttons, bars, borders, titles, and backgrounds. They are a nice feature and can enhance your web page quickly without alot of effort on your part. You can copy GIFS from Freeware pages or download freeware samples from AOL or Compuserve.

    While GIFS can enliven your html page they can also cause it to be very slow to load. Most ISP's will load GIFS last whenever a user accesses a page. It is a good idea to limit the number of GIFS on a page to the bare minimum - so that your visitor won't get bored waiting for your page to load and leave and not come back.

    Photo files are usually JPG or JPEG files and are very large (20k or larger). Photo's can enhance a page as well - but they also require extra time to load.

    If you would like to use the RootsWeb Logo on your page - if you are a sponsor or donor or mail list owner, we ask that you do not copy the logo and upload it to your web space. This is places extra strain on our system resources and is not necessary. You may link to the RootsWeb logo by including the following command in your html page:

    <img src="">

    If you would like to link to some fun, useful gifs to help jazz up your web page, visit the RootsWeb Image Shop.


    Adding Tables to your pages

    Tables can be a great way to show off data to your visitors. They are really easy to use as long as you remember the cardinal rule of html -- every begin command must have an end command. This is especially true with tables. If you are using Netscape -- make sure you close all your table commands or else your page will not load properly.

    Here is a sample table - feel free to copy this code and past it into your own web page.

    <table width=100%>
    <td width="50%">
    <b>Books We Own</b></td>
    <td width="50%">
    <b>Available For LookUps</b></td></tr>
    <td width="50%">
    Carol's Family History</td>
    <td width="50%">
    Yes - Email Me!</td></tr>
    <td width="50%">
    Famous Funny Life Stories</td>
    <td width="50%">
    Donation of one funny story required per lookup!</td></tr>


    Adding Forms to your pages

    One of the easiest ways to jazz up your pages is by using some simple forms for guest books and data entry screens. You can accomplish almost anything you want to add to your site by learning how to use Mail Merge. Mail Merge is a special kind of CGI script that allows information to be entered through an online form and "mailed" to another user or to an output file. It is fairly easy to use but takes alittle bit of practice and patience to get things to work right away. If you want to enhance your website with online forms -- take a few minutes to read our Basics of Mail Merge documentation.


    Using Scripts

    CGI Scripts are not allowed to be run from within any RootsWeb user account. The reason for this is that CGI scripts are written in a software language called Perl. This programming language is particularly hard on RootsWeb's server systems and most pre-fab scripts available on the web today are not written very well.

    You can do most anything you want with simple Mail Merge. If you want to enhance your website with online forms -- take a few minutes to read our Basics of Mail Merge documentation.


    Using Database Search Engines

    RootsWeb does not currently allow users to run database search engines from their user accounts. The main reason for this is that most search scripts are written in Perl and are very hard on system resources (they slow everything down). In the near future, however, RootsWeb will offer an Altavista-like search engine for all RootsWeb users. It will allow users to perform site searches of their files and data without having to have an individual script running in their account.


    Automated Query Options

    If you host a USGenWeb or WorldGenWeb web site and need a query system to help you with the daily maintenance of your website, then make sure you check out both of the query options below. These query systems are RootsWeb approved - and are hosted by RootsWeb. Both are unique and offer the user every possible feature that they could want or need.

  • GenConnect Query System
    The GenConnect Query system is based on the popular web bulletin board. Users can post and view queries automatically online without the host being directly involved. This system offers alot of bells and whistles and is virtually maintenance free.

  • Surname Helper
    Surname Helper is really a giant query and surname search engine. It was developed by Patty Lindsay and offers users the chance to semi-automate their queries and surnames. It does require some user intervention but offers more control of the actual query output (you can customize your query files to fit into your overall color scheme or general website themed layout).

    Freeware, Low Cost Html Editors and Browsers

    Virtually any software that you need to create and publish web pages can be found on the interent for free or low to minimal cost. Before you go out and buy a big expensive commercial product, make sure you visit some of the shareware sites on the net. These are just two of the more popular sites:

    C/Net Software is at:
    ZNet Software is at:

    Also check out some of the recommended sites listed on the Webmaster's FAQ.


    RootsWeb User Support

    RootsWeb provides several email lists that are specifically set up to help new webmasters and listowners. You should subscribe to if you need expert hands on help setting up your new user account. All of the folks on this list are RootsWeb users and some system administrators pop in from time to time. You can be certain to get your question answered on this list.

    If you host a mailing list and need help learning how to manage a list, then you should subscribe to which is specifically set up for new and seasoned listowners.


    RootsWeb HelpDesk

    If you need help with your RootsWeb account, please don't hesitate to ask us. We are happy to help you -- but remember that we are incredibly busy with system maintenance and cannot always respond to your queries immediately.

    The best place to get help is at the RootsWeb HelpDesk. The HelpDesk is staffed by volunteers of RootsWeb who are familiar with every aspect of RootsWeb services. The HelpDesk maintains users FAQ pages with the most often asked user queries and our very best answers. If you take the time to read the user FAQ's more than likely you will find the answer to your question. But if you cannot find an answer -- don't worry - you can post your question to the HelpDesk Message Board.