Notes from the past…

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Another death in the family? Maybe not…

As genealogists, we frequently reference the deaths of ancestors. This is different kind of death, however:

GeoCities seems to be on its last breaths:

Current GeoCities customers:

I don’t have a site at GeoCities, so why do I care if they are shutting down their free accounts?

Well, there are a lot of free GeoCities sites devoted to genealogy. There is a lot of valuable data at these sites. And many have not been updated in several years. Although inactive, they still contain a lot of valuable data. And since they have not been updated in years, the webmasters of these sites may not be aware of the impending demise of GeoCities.
So, “later this year”, whenever that is, (perhaps tomorrow?) these sites and this data will be lost forever!
A distant cousin has a GeoCities site that contains oodles of McBurnett data. True, very little of this info has online sources or documentation. But, of what I have gotten from this site, I have been able to document almost all of it through Ancestry, Footnote, Family Search, etc. And my sources support her data at her GeoCities site. (I like to do things backwards :) )
I emailed this distant cousin and suggested she move her site to RootWeb or somewhere (anywhere!) before it’s too late. The address I have is old, so I don’t know if it’s still correct. Or maybe she won’t be interested in moving her site. I hope she will move it. But if she doesn’t move it, it will soon….be….gone….forever….!
There is still hope, however.
Dick Eastman posted about this situation this morning. And he suggested doing something that I had not thought of:
Copying an entire web site to your local hard drive is rather easy to do. I wrote about that several years ago for Windows users at and for Macintosh users at Both products have been updated since those articles were written but the process remains the same.

You do not need to know any user names or passwords to copy publicly-available web sites. In fact, you can even copy web sites that you do not own…

I clicked on his link for Windows users, and in that post he recommends an open-source (free!) program called HTTrack Website Copier. Ok, Dick knows what he’s talking about, so I’ll give it a try.

I downloaded the first version listed, WinHTTrack : Windows 95/98/NT/2K/XP (also included: command line version).

That took maybe two minutes to download with my DSL connection. Then I installed the program, another minute maybe. I ran the program as is with its default settings, entered the address of my cousin’s site and pressed <next>, then <finish>.

I sat back and watched for a few seconds as the program began to download the website’s files. I expected this to take quite some time, so I started playing with my cellphone as I waited. After about 2 minutes, the program made a wierd noise and announced that the mirroring operation was completed!

I clicked on <Browse Mirrored Website>….

…and there on my hard drive, in a folder that I had created in my McBurnett surname folder, was her entire Geocities site, snug as a bug! All of the links worked (she used GedHTree to display her gedcom as html), all the data was there, everything.

I am thrilled, let me tell you. And this just might be the simplest “geeky” thing that I’ve ever done. My cat could have done it, I swear! Her entire site added up to only 10 MB on my hard drive.

So folks, if you have a GeoCities site of your own, or use someone else’s site in your research, don’t wait to take action. It would truly be a tragedy to lose all of these sites and all of their wonderful genealogical data!

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The McBurnetts and the Civil War

If I were to do a one-name study, the McBurnett surname would probably be my first choice to examine. Nicholas McBurnett lived and raised his family in Georgia during the most turbulent period in United States history, the Civil War Era. Of his 11 children, 3 sons and 2 sons-in-law fought in the conflict. Sons Thomas and Joshua died while in the service and son-in-law Shadrack Thompson was severely wounded in the leg and left a cripple for the rest of his life. A second son-in-law, James Seigler, developed chronic diarrhea while serving and suffered from it until his death in 1883. 2 of the men were captured at the Battle of Vicksburg and 1 at the Battle of Perryville and became Prisoners of War. The families of four of Nicholas’ sons received Confederate Pensions in later life. Son Daniel McBurnett, only 13 years old in 1860, may also have joined up. Footnote has documents for D McBurnett of Carroll County, enlisting in March 1862 into the same unit as older brother James and being mustered out in July 1862. As not many men were mustered out of the service of the Confederacy in 1862, unless due to injury or illness, perhaps this D McBurnett was young Daniel and he was discharged because of his age.

Thanks to Ancestry’s Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 and Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 and Footnote’s Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Georgia, I have downloaded a wealth of documents pertaining to the McBurnetts’ Civil War experiences.

Some of the genealogical data to be found in these documents:

  • Name of the subject, including initials or little-used middle name
  • Names of spouse and children
  • Dates and locations of birth and death
  • Date and location of marriage
  • Military units served in and dates and locations of service
  • Financial data
  • Physical descriptions and wounds or illness from military service
  • Where the subject lived after Civil War service
  • Names of friends and fellow veterans

In conjunction with census documents, I have been able to trace Nicholas’ children and their families and have developed a good overall image of life in Civil War Georgia. Still needed is land, voter and tax documentation and also anything probate.

And where are all of these people buried at? Still working on that…