Using Rootsweb Online Editor

Creating Your Own Freepage on RootsWeb

RootsWeb will be discontinuing this RootsWeb Online Editor on July 31st, 2017. RootsWeb FreePages users will need to use an FTP client to upload and modify files starting August 1st, 2017.

Many of our users have been happy with FileZilla which is a free FTP client. Useful tips and tricks for FileZilla and Rootsweb are available.

Other free FTP clients are also available.

By Jana Lloyd

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 11 June 2008, Vol. 11, No. 16

I have added notes/comments to this article originally written by Jana Lloyd. Hyperlinks have also been added for your convenience. My notes appear in red.

Every month when I send out the Review, I include a list of new freepages (free Web pages) created by RootsWeb users and genealogical and historical societies. And every time I think, “I should make a Web page on RootsWeb.” The problem is, I have only a basic knowledge of HTML.

I suspect there are many of you out there who also have very little or no knowledge of HTML or how to create Web pages. This article is for you.

This very basic guide will get you familiar with the resources on RootsWeb that can help you build your own Web page. It will not help you create the page of your dreams—yet. I will write several follow-up articles on this topic over the upcoming months that go into more depth.

Getting Started: What You Need to Build a Website
To build a website you need 1) space on a server where you can host your site; 2) software to help you create the site.

The great thing about RootsWeb is that it provides both of these things—it offers free space on its servers, and it has a very basic HTML editor to help you create your site. (It also has a basic WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor so you can create a page without having to know HTML, but as of this writing it is broken. I’ll let you know when it is working again.) NOTE: I tried the WYSIWYG Editor tonight 6/17 and it was working but it appears to have problems off and on. Whatever you enter into the editor in WYSIWYG mode uses lowercase letters for tags. You will need to manually add the title tag as well as the doctype statement. Free WYSIWYG editors you might want to try can be found listed at Genealogy Web Creations in the right side bar.

I’m going to walk you through these first two steps. First we’re going to request free server space for your site on RootsWeb. Then we’re going to use the RootsWeb HTML editor to make a basic Web page. It’s not going be a very pretty page—just a page. We will go into more about designing an attractive page in the follow-up articles.

Step One: Requesting Free Server Space on RootsWeb
1. Go to the RootsWeb homepage (
2. Click the Web Sites tab on the main toolbar.
3. Click the “Request Free Web Space” link on the upper left-hand side of the page.

Note: You can only request space for one individual freepage on RootsWeb, although there is no limit to the number you can request for historical societies or other genealogical groups.

4. Click the “Freepages” link.

Note: Freepages are for pages created by individuals; if you want to create a page for your historical society, click “Genealogical/Historical Society Accounts.”

5. Read the terms of agreement and click I agree at the bottom of the page.
6. Provide your name, e-mail address, and an account name, as directed. Write down your account name. You will need it for Step Two. NOTE: Think about the name you choose. Once you request it, you can NOT change it.
7. Click the Submit button.

In three to five days you will receive an e-mail stating that your request has been received. You will be given the URL for your Web page and a password, which you need for Step Two. You will also be signed up for the Freepages Mailing List at RootsWeb (, where you can participate in useful discussions with other people working on their freepages.

Note: You cannot complete Step Two until you have received this e-mail.

Step Two: Creating Your Website Using the RootsWeb HTML Editor
Once you have received an e-mail from RootsWeb giving you the password for your new Web page, you can use the RootsWeb HTML editor to create a basic Web page.

1. Go to the File Manager at RootsWeb:
2. Enter your account name and password from Step One. Click Log in.
3. You will be prompted to select a “community.” Select “Genealogy” from the drop-down list.

Screenshot FreePages file manager.

4. Click the Enter File Manager button.
5. Scroll down to the “HTML Editing Controls” box. Press the Create New HTML File button.

Screenshot RootsWeb Online Editor.

6. A field will appear with “Enter the name of the file” above it. Type “index” in the field, making sure to use only lowercase letters. Press Create and Edit.
7. Copy and paste the following in the box that appears. This is the basic HTML structure behind any Web page.

NOTE: I would suggest you also add a valid doctype statement to you page as well as using all lowercase letters to type your code. You can read more about doctype statement from the links at the end of this article.

Screenshot basic html code.
8. Think of a title for your Web page and type it between the <Title> </Title> tags. This title will not appear on your Web page anywhere; it will appear on the title bar of your Web browser. NOTE: The title of your page should reflect what your page is about, not My Home Page, or Welcome to My Home Page.
9. Type something simple, such as “This is my first Web page,” between the <Body> </Body> tags. This text will appear on your Web page. Anything on your Web page goes between these two <Body> tags.

Your document should look similar to this:

<TITLE>My Web Page</TITLE>
<BODY>This is my first Web page</BODY>

Screenshot basic html code.

10. Click Save. You will be taken back to the main File Manager page, where you can see the file, titled “index.html.”

Screenshot FreePages File Manager.

Congratulations. You have now created your first Web page. You should be able to visit it by opening your Web browser and typing in the URL that was sent to you in Step One. It should look something like this (your account name will be behind the ~ in your URL):

Note that whatever you put between the <Title> </Title> tags is in the title bar of your Web browser; whatever you typed between the <Body> </Body> tags is on the actual Web page.

Screenshot title tag and content placement.

Next time we’ll explore some ways to create a more dynamic, interesting page with images, formatting, and links to other pages.

By the way, if you have more experience with building Web pages, feel free to write in. I would love to get a dialog going. Send in neat tips—like how you added a guestbook to your freepage, where you found easy-to-use freeware online, or some tricks you’ve learned about using the RootsWeb freepage tools.

In the meantime, check out some tutorials written by RootsWeb users on HTML and creating your own freepage:

Pat Asher’s “Web Tutorials”.
Pat Geary’s “Website Design for the Genealogist”.

End of original article.


Additional Resources:


  1. This is my first effort to build a site to include two cemeteries. As a total amateur, this project is completely foreign. I wish your tutorial had continued thru the entire process. But thanks for your help to this point.

  2. Personally, I find the Rootweb on-line editor very difficult to use which is one reason the tutorial does not continue. As far as I know, there has not been a Part 2 done by the Rootsweb staff. There are plenty of free web editing programs you can download and try out that are much easier to work with than the RW on-line one. Check Genealogy Web Creations on the right-hand sidebar for some of them.

  3. Ariel M says:

    Hi, try
    Is very simple and cool..

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