How many times have you searched the internet, seeking a lead on your family history research when you come across a website that sounds promising? You click in anticipation of discovering a hidden treasure only to see in big bold print “File Not Found.” Your heart sinks as your excitement is crushed, and a possible lead has disappeared as fast as it came.
Genealogical sites can come and go for various reasons and that can create a problem, when you think that site may hold important information in your family history research. Your mind immediately goes to the ‘what ifs’. What if this site offered clues to my ancestors? What if that missing link could offer a small piece of information that could break down my brick wall? What if an opportunity has passed me by?
Don’t be discouraged. You can obtain the page you are looking for in a few quick easy steps. Here are two options to turning back time.
If Google produces the File Not Found Page
1. Hit the back button
2. Look for a link to a “cached page” copy of the page
3. Click on Cached
4. This will return a copy of the page as stored in google archives
5. Your search term will be highlighted in yellow within the page.
Another option for finding lost pages is via a non-profit digital library of Internet sites in digital form call the The Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org/ . This site provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the public. Enter an Internet address in the search box; the Wayback Machine will present a list of dates showing when that particular page was archived. Click on one of the displayed dates to see the archived page. The asterisk after particular dates designates when the Wayback Machine detected a change in the page.
The advantage of using the Wayback Machine over Google cached pages, the Wayback Machine includes images. From a historical researcher’s perspective, the Wayback Machine offers a view of significant portions of the web, as it existed at times from 1996 to the present as well as recovering sources lost because of URL shifting.
On a side note, The Wayback Machine is hosted by Archive.org. This website also houses one of the largest library collections of interest to family historians, including the American and Canadian libraries collections. It offers millions of books in digital format that includes over 300 city directories and 1000 family histories free for searching, viewing, downloading and printing.
I hope that these tips will help you find your lost link but makes no promises you will find any hidden family history treasures. However, you can be assured no webpage will be left behind.
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