Getting Started with RootsWeb FreePages

IMPORTANT NOTE: RootsWeb is no longer accepting new accounts.

Username and Password

Please note that your username and password for RootsWeb.com or Ancestry.com is NOT the same as your username and password for your FreePages website. They are NOT interchangeable. To sign into your FreePages site, you must use the username you were originally given.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When asking for help, do NOT include your FreePages password as part of your message. If you do so, you are posting it to a very large mailing list and will then need to request a new password. Requests to change your password should be sent to: accounts@rootsweb.com

Getting Started On Your Site

Before you get started with working on your site, you should read Understanding YOUR FreePages Account Structure. While you can request only ONE freepages account, you actually have NINE available for your use.

Planning and Organizing your Site

Before you begin willy nilly making pages and uploading files, spend some time in organizing HOW you want to setup your site. If you publish everything (images, pages, documents, etc) to one directory, you are going to be overwhelmed as your site grows and finding files becomes impossible.

For information on organizing your genealogy site and space, please see the following resources:

  • Planning a genealogy website is also available as a 20 page EBook in pdf format for you to download. It contains graphic images and clickable links as well as a table of contents. The EBook is zipped for faster download. Save it to your desktop, extract the file and it is ready to use.
  • Building Your Website Step by Step by Cheri Zuber

HTML

HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, is the predominant markup language for web pages. Even if you use a WYSIWYG web editor, a basic knowledge of HTML can make life a lot simpler.   If you've got no previous experience with HTML, I suggest you do some studying which will make it much easier to both work on your pages AND find and fix errors and display issues. Some good resources are:

If your pages aren't made yet, you'll need some sort of html software as the RootsWeb online editor is no longer an option.

You will probably want to look for a WYSIWYG HTML editor. With this type of editor, you work on what looks like the actual webpage, and the program writes the HTML code. Some editors do this job much better than others. WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get.

For more information, see a list of some Web Authoring Software.

There are a number of free editors as well as commercial ones. Download, install, and try them out until you find one that you are comfortable with and is easy to work with.

If you are already familiar with writing HTML code, you can use Notepad or any plain text editor to design your pages as well as a WYSIWYG editor.

FTP

FTP  stands for File Transfer Protocol - This is the language used for transferring files from YOUR computer to the RootsWeb server. In order to publish your pages to your server space, you will need a ftp program. There are any number of FREE ones you can use OR you can choose to use the RootsWeb File Manager.

Naming Your Pages

Your first page which is the Home Page of your site must be named one of the following:

  • index.html
  • index.htm
  • index.shtml

These are the file names which allow you to shorten your URL from:

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~johndoe/index.html

to simply

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~johndoe/

This first page (the Home Page) becomes the portal, or entryway to your site. This becomes the URL that will lead visitors to your Freepages site. From this 'home page' you will direct people to other content via hyperlinks. You can create web pages in any of the directories available and link to them from any page. Other pages on your site can be named almost anything you want BUT they should not be overly long.

IMPORTANT NOTE: File names should be all lowercase with NO spaces and NO special characters (# " & % , etc ). If you need/want to separate words, then use a hyphen to do so. This applies to ALL file names, not just your HTML pages. The file extension can be either .htm or .html. It does not matter which but try and be consistent.

For a more detailed discussion on naming your pages, see Naming Web Pages by Pat Asher.

Your Home Page should be uploaded/published to the root directory you are using and NOT a subfolder. If you are using the genealogy_html section then upload the file to that directory. Why? For the same reason stated above. If you upload it to a subfolder, then you cannot use the shortened url.

Summary and Resources

You have requested space on the RootsWeb servers and received your welcoming letter with some basic instructions. Hopefully, you have availed yourself of some of the basic resources mentioned above. Additional resources are listed below:

Use the freepages mailing list to ask questions you might have along the way. There are many people of all skill levels who are willing to help you get started on this new journey. No question is too simple or dumb. And if you don't understand the answer, ask again. Remember, we were ALL beginners at one time.

Pat Geary.
Copyright © 2010 Pat Geary of Expression Web Tutorials and Templates, All Rights Reserved
Written September 2010
Revised/Updated July 4, 2018
Revised/Updated January 31, 2020