Ancestry Blog » Scott Sorensen The official blog of Ancestry Mon, 20 Apr 2015 17:58:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Distributed Denial of Service Attack Neutralized Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:49:31 +0000 Scott Sorensen Read more]]> 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.

We want to apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and also thank you for your amazing support, as this may have interrupted some of your family history research. We understand how frustrating this can be for our customers, and please know that it was just as frustrating for us too. We appreciate your patience and support as we dealt with this unfortunate incident against Ancestry.

We have since neutralized the DDoS attack and our services have been up since 11:00 a.m. MT today. You should now be able to access all Ancestry and Find A Grave websites, though you may experience issues intermittently as we continue to work through bringing the sites back up to full capacity.

Your data was not compromised by this attack. 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 would like to thank the Ancestry Web Operations team for working really hard throughout the night to restore the Ancestry and Find A Grave services and build the defenses necessary to mitigate future attacks of this sort. Our Web Operations team is closely monitoring the situation in case the attacks resume and we’re doing everything in our power to protect our websites from situations like this in the future.

Thank you.

Scott Sorensen

Chief Technology Officer


UPDATE: June 24, 8:00pm MT 

  • DNA downloads of raw data have been restored.
  • There are lingering issues with logging into RootsWeb, and with access and searching WorldConnect. We are working to restore this access tonight, but you may see some intermittent outages in the process.


UPDATE: June 24, 12:30pm MT

  • The connectivity issues for Family Tree Maker (FTM) have been resolved. If you are still experiencing difficulties syncing FTM Mac, make sure you have the most current patch, shut FTM down completely (Command Button + Q), and reboot your machine to make sure that the DNS cache gets updated.
  • Service to RootsWeb, and has been restored. (Note: While RootsWeb is up, we are aware of some issues with the WorldConnect database and are looking into this.)


UPDATE: June 23, 6:20pm MT

  • GEDCOM files from Ancestry Member Trees are now available for download


UPDATE: June 21, 9:30am MT

  • We appreciate your patience while we work to restore the MyFamily, MyCanvas, and Mundia sites following the DDoS attack on Monday. Please note we will be extending the retirement date on each and will have more details to share once these websites are brought back online. Stay tuned.


UPDATE: June 19, 11:30am MT

  • Currently, the Ancestry websites seem to be performing well, but there may be intermittent issues over the next couple of days. If you are experiencing issues getting in, please try the search page directly at


UPDATE: June 18, 2:46pm MT

  • Sync and search features in Family Tree Maker (FTM) have been disabled until we’re certain that site stability has been fully restored. You can use FTM offline however. Our team is actively working on restoring these to full service.
  • is back online


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New Year Update from Scott Sorensen Tue, 14 Jan 2014 19:26:59 +0000 Scott Sorensen Read more]]>  

We increased our focus around our technology performance in the middle of last year, a journey that has our tech teams working very hard to improve our systems so we can provide a good site experience for our customers. We’ve made a lot of progress in this area and the performance of our site has improved significantly from where we started – but our job is not done yet.

As we start a new year, I want to update you since it has been a while since I’ve posted on the blog. Don’t take my silence as us saying we’re not working to keep our site running smoothly. That’s not the case. I haven’t posted for a while, because truthfully we’re still hard at work to upgrade our technology and the incremental changes we’re making are small pieces to a larger puzzle we are continually trying to solve. But know that we’re constantly evolving the technology that supports behind the scenes so that your family history journey can continue.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the type of updates that we’re making don’t happen overnight – they will take time. They are fundamental changes to our site and system’s architecture that you just can’t make in a couple of months. In fact, we will be evolving our site performance and stability well into 2014 and beyond.

Step by step changes have and will be made, but more importantly we’re working on long-term enhancements that will impact the site’s performance for years to come.

So with that said, I want to wish you a happy new year with the hope that you will have many new discoveries in your family history journey. And rest assured that our tech team is busy at work to make the site experience a better one for you so you can continue to make those discoveries.

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An Update from Scott Sorensen – Chief Technology Officer Mon, 07 Oct 2013 21:06:18 +0000 Scott Sorensen Read more]]> It’s been a few weeks since I’ve provided you with an update on our site performance, so I wanted to take a step away from working with our team on our site to tell you about what we’ve been up to behind the scenes.

As I mentioned in my last post, the amount of data that we host on the site, along with the complexity of the services we offer (trees, search, records, hinting, etc.), has led us to a point where we began to experience performance and stability issues with our site. In the past, we’ve been able to add hardware to keep up with needs, but now we have to make smart and purposeful changes to our infrastructure, which are taking time for us to execute.

This is a really big deal, and we have been putting a lot of focus on this issue across the entire company to make sure that we can deliver a fast, reliable experience to our customers and scale our technology to keep up with the growth that the company expects to have over the next 5 years and beyond. It has been all hands on deck to make sure we’re addressing the issues impacting our customers.

Site Performance and Stability Update

Though some of you may have felt the impact as we’ve been working behind the scenes, I want to point out that we’ve made some good strides in improving the site performance and stability. Some quick updates on how it’s going:

  • Performance – In the short-term, we’ve been focusing on the main areas of the site that you interact with most – the top pages and features that are used. We know that the load times and stability of those pages hasn’t always been optimal as we’ve been working on upgrades to our infrastructure. We still have work to do, since it’s not fast enough for our expectations, so we will be continuing our intense short-term effort over the next 4 week period to accelerate changes and this will remain an important priority as we move forward.
  • Stability – With a system as complex as ours we can’t guarantee that there will never be failures, but when a failure does occur we can handle it better so that it has less impact on people visiting the site. This means being more resilient when unexpected tech issues happen to help minimize the impact to our customers.

There is a lot more detail behind these two highlights – including network improvements, storage enhancements, and other updates to our sites – but I wanted to highlight the key things and let you know that we are fully committed to keeping a higher level of focus on performance and stability over the long-term to make sure that our systems are capable of what’s needed from them.

There may be some pain as we attempt to change the wings while the aircraft is in flight because we can’t shut the site down while we make these fundamental changes. This will take time over the coming months, but these changes are necessary and we will do everything we can to reduce the pain as much as possible.

Customer Communications Update

I also wanted to note that we’ve been building and updating a few tools to help communicate better with you around site issues. We’re just as frustrated as you are when site issues occur and we aren’t able to communicate fast enough to everyone. This is something that is top of mind for us and we’ve pulled together a few things to help keep communication more open with you.

I want to highlight a few – so you know where to expect site alert information from us moving forward.

  • Site Banners – If a certain section of our site is having issues, the first place we will post will be directly on the site or page that is having issues.  We know that not everyone has Facebook or visits our message boards, so you will see planned maintenance or site issues communicated in a blue or red banner on the top of the site. This communication vehicle has been our #1 spot to communicate in the past, and we’re currently working to make further improvements to it to ensure it continues to keep you updated on what’s happening directly on the site.
  • New Site Alerts Page – Outside of the site banners, we have created a new page on our customer help section that will keep you updated real-time about site issues. You can get to this section by clicking the “Get Help” in the upper right hand corner on It’s not available for all geographies yet, but we’re working to make that possible. This should be your go-to spot if you’re ever curious about what’s happening with the site, as we have a team in place that will work hard to communicate regularly as we have planned maintenance or as site issues arise.

Service Alerts

Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding as we build an improved site experience for you. I’ll be posting again as I have more information to share.

Scott Sorensen

Chief Technology Officer

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A Message from Scott Sorensen – Chief Technology Officer Sun, 01 Sep 2013 00:54:46 +0000 Scott Sorensen Read more]]> We understand the recent site issues have caused disruptions in service to you, our loyal customers. Given that a number of members have asked for more details about the problems we’ve been experiencing recently, I wanted to write a note to all our members to give you an update.

First, let me emphasize that we are thankful for your business, and appreciate the feedback you have been sharing on our social channels, on the phone and via email. We love hearing from you and care deeply about your experience. So when something goes wrong, our engineers are immediately focused on fixing the problem. We are continually working on projects to improve site availability and performance to ensure that as our community and your trees grow, so does our infrastructure to support your activities.

The interest in family history has evolved quickly over the past few years. Our member community continues to grow, and with the complexity of our service we’ve hit a point where some fundamental architecture changes are needed to adapt our site to our member growth and evolution of our site features. In the past we have been able to add hardware to get to the next level, but now we have to make smart and purposeful changes to our infrastructure and these will take time to execute.

This weekend is an example of how our current architecture could still use some updates. There was a hardware failure that caused a single network event to disrupt the site’s performance. We’re working to upgrade the architecture to handle these types of situations, and as we work through this, you may see some intermittent site issues – but our teams are working very hard to minimize the impact on the site, so you can continue researching your family history.

For this weekend’s situation we have now restored the majority of the site’s functionality, including Search and Family Trees. We appreciate your patience as we address these issues as quickly as possible and again apologize for any inconvenience this might cause.

Keep in mind that keeping your information safe throughout this process is our number one priority. We have multiple back-up servers that house your precious family history research to ensure it is online once the site is available again.

That being said, I will reiterate a few comments I made on a Facebook post a few weeks back, which I think are important for you to know.

We are working on some updates to our sites infrastructure in order to continue to provide you with a world-class family history experience; some of the things we’re working on include:

  • Re-architecting our base development framework with the goal of improved performance and availability
  • Applying additional levels of database and network monitoring in order to more quickly detect and resolve problems

We will also continue to invest in new core product features to make finding your family history easier and faster, while adding record collections so that more data is available to you.  We are pleased that so many people want to learn more about their family history, and as our member community grows we will continue to work behind the scenes to limit disruptions to your service as we evolve the site to grow with the addition of new members and new site features.

On behalf of all of us at we thank you for your continued support, and for your business, and encourage you to keep the comments coming. And I’ll update you on the blog as we continue to make progress.

Scott Sorensen, Chief Technology Officer

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