Interpreting 'Returned Mail'
or Dealing with Bounces

Returned mail or `bounces' can be the bane of a list administrator's email day [well that is after spam, the complaints about spam and of course everything else ;-) ] but they can also be used to help manage the problems that exist and gain that little bit more knowledge.

Error messages can emanate from either the RootsWeb server, the receiving server (ISP) or from some server along the path of transports.  This can also help explain why it may have been working before and it is not now, and if you are a slightly more experience list administrator it helps to workout where to complain to if you wish to do something to resolve the problem.

Tim the Guru says:- If were refusing mail from RootsWeb due to failures, the bounces that the list administrator gets will be from  Bounces from, means that this system actually accepted the mail from RootsWeb but then decided not to or that it could not deliver the mail.

The dominant software used for mail delivery is SENDMAIL (it is also the software that RootsWeb uses) and the errors/comments that we see are mostly originate from that software, thus the plethora of Returned mail: messages with explanations.

There is other mail delivery software that is becoming more widely used,eg. QMAIL, and the error messages explanations for that are still in theirinfancy.  There is also a number of ISPs who have developed their own error messages and as these come attention we will add these too (you can help with this by bringing them to our notice). Here for these others.

Glossary of terms

Subject: Returned mail: blah blah blah  of bounced message

FATAL problems existing ...

FATAL problems existing ... (digests)

TRANSIENT problems existing ...

Other mail software and specially designed responses from ISPs

QMAIL problems


Glossary of terms

When a MIME package is returned to you in a bounce, you should find that one of the parts of the bounce package will be labelled Final Recipient: rfc822. What you will find enclosed in this little bundle is the information that will tell you what happened (or didn't happen), who the mail was actually to and when.  This info should help in your problem solving.

How can you help?

If you get an error message that is not listed, please forward the bounced message with annotations to the webmaster so that it can be added to this list.