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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A wonderful find at Ancestry! (I think…)

My McBurnett research continues. Right now I am studying Nicholas McBurnett’s oldest child, James McBurnett.  Yesterday, I found Confederate Pension records for James. His date of birth, date of death, financial details, even his physical condition. Poor guy had a pretty severe inguinal hernia, or so his doctor said:

JamMcBurnett ConfedPension4

All of this should be just wonderful, you say? One minor problem: there are apparently at least 2 and possibly 3 James McBurnetts, all born in Carroll County, Georgia about 1830. 2 may have served in Co H, 41st Georgia Infantry, both may have been captured at Vicksburg on 4 July 1863 and 1 or the other applied for a Confederate Pension.

So, how do I know if I have connected the correct James McBurnett to Nicholas McBurnett and hence to me? A lot more research, for sure!

Stay tuned!

P. S. This post was written using Windows Live Writer, which “developed by Microsoft, is a desktop blog-publishing application that is part of the Windows Live range of products. It features WYSIWYG authoring, photo-publishing and map-publishing functionality, and is currently compatible with Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint blogs, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, Community_Server,, JournalHome, the MetaWeblog API, the Movable Type API, and all blogs that support RSD (Really Simple Discoverability).”

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And the winner is…

For the past several days, I have been searching, Googling for the perfect desktop note-taking application. The successful candidate must reside on my computer’s desktop, be very user-friendly, have an unlimited storage capacity, be searchable and be capable of accepting images and links, both internal and external. I want to be able to format it as needed for my genealogical research. Oh, yeah, did I say free?

Several folks have offered suggestions (thanks Thomas, Debbie, Vickie and Yoonsun!). I checked them all out, and all the programs were really great, but still not quite what I wanted.

I kept searching and finding and discarding. I’m just too picky, I guess.

So I then I looked at TiddlyWiki again. I was introduced to it some time ago by Denise of Family Matters. At that time I downloaded it and played around with it for awhile, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. Kinda shoved it to the back burner and went on with my old pencil-and-paper system. Until…

One day about a week ago, I got to looking at my desk and… couldn’t find it for all the bits and scraps of paper! My pencil-and-paper system… half of my notes I couldn’t even read… there’s gotta be a better way… hence Adventures in Googling!

I went back to Family Matters and found Denise’s post about TiddlyWiki. She has created an excellent, very readable guide to using TiddlyWiki for Research. I went to the TiddlyWiki site and downloaded the most recent version. I reread Denise’s guide again and also a wonderful tutorial, TiddlyWiki For The Rest of Us. I actually read them this time!

Now on my second attempt with TiddlyWiki, life is good! There apparently were a couple of bugs in the older version that I had, gone with the new download. Thanks to Denise and TWFTROU, I have it set up the way I want and everything is working perfectly:

There are no images in my “virtual spiral notebook” right now, since the images I have been studying for Nicholas McBurnett are all census sheets and are just too big to add to the notebook. The links are there to the images in my Picasa Web Album, however.

In the Main Menu at the upper left, I have added a couple of “helper links”, until I get used to the formatting needed to add links and images.

If you’re looking for a really great way to keep up with your research notes, give TiddlyWiki a try. And definitely read the manual. It does make a difference!