Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Print Genealogy Information from Websites - the First Time You See It

I've just learned a lesson the hard way.  I guess that's the best way to ensure that you won't make the same mistake again.

A few years back I found information on one of my brick wall ancestors, Pleasant Ann (?) McClaren (01 Apr 1823 - 15 Jul 1902) of Black Lick, Indiana County, Pennsylvania on a website called "Treasures of the Past".    I made very careful notes in my genealogy program and sourced my information correctly.  I even wrote down the full web url.

The only problem is the website doesn't exist anymore.

I suppose it doesn't really matter.  I have the data and the source.  I could order a death certificate and that would be better data anyway.  But there is something reassuring about being about to go back and look at the webpage where I got the information and be sure that I didn't forget to note something down.

Individual or free genealogy webpages are prone to disappearing.  Especially if, when you do your research, you dip in and out of different families with long spans of time passing in between.

But don't let that fool you.  It can happen on Ancestry.com as well.

I have early ancestors from Eastern New York.  Ancestry.com used to have some great church records for the Columbia County, New York area.  Then one day they stopped carrying the database.  I had captured some of the data I needed but not all of it.  That was early on in my genealogy days. I've been kicking myself ever since.

Saving Internet Information

There are two basic ways for saving what you see on the internet. (I'm sure there are many more but I'm sticking with these two. Though leave me your suggestions if you have better ones.)
  1. You can print it out on paper. I don't like printing because that means I now have a piece of paper that I need to keep track of.  I'm not good with paper.  It's guaranteed that I'll lose it. But that shouldn't discourage you if you can keep track of it better than me.
  2. You can "print" it to an electronic file.  I'll never understand why you have to "print" to save something electronically but when you create a pdf file that exactly what you have to do.  Saving as an electronic file gives you the same thing as print out without have to figure out what to do with the paper.

In order to save something as a pdf file you need to have a program that creates pdf files.  Adobe Acrobat is the original program for creating pdf files.  Since then many other developers have created programs to create pdf files, some of which are for free.  Do an internet search for "free pdf programs" and you will find some options.

If you watched the live streaming lectures from RootsTech then you had the chance to see a very in-depth lecture on Adobe Acrobat/pdf files by D. Joshua Taylor of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  Unfortunately, that's not among the ones that are currently available for viewing on the RootsTech website.

I admit that I am much better organized in my computer than with paper file folders in my office. For  that reason, I try to scan everything that I want to find again whether it is genealogical documents, annual physicals, eye prescriptions and big ticket item receipts.

I am going to have to get better at saving the webpages where I find genealogy information. It's an extra step and it takes a little extra time, but it will save my loads of time and headache in the future.


  1. Wayback Machine - - worth a shot.

  2. Oh my gosh, Marian, I am SO with you on this one. I have been there and lost that!

    And then there's the other side of the story...years ago, my poor husband awoke one morning to find that his extensive genealogy web site (with many different family pages) had disappeared. Seems that the host site had decided to get rid of personal web sites and service only corporate sites. They totally refused to put up a "forwarding" page for him so that he could let all of his frequent visitors know his new URL. The pages no longer existed, so there was no way for him to track back who had visited the site and email them. All of those great references in genealogy "how to find your family on the internet" books, useless. All of those great relationships, unknown again.

    His site and all of its pages found a good home on Rootsweb, but I still wonder how many people looked for him after he "disappeared" and blamed him.

    Lesson learned!

  3. I second the suggestion to try the Wayback Machine. When I was first starting and found lots of websites with information, I copied that information into electronic files. However, I'm sure I missed quite a few. Makes you sorta paranoid!

  4. You can also do screen captures. I prefer to do that if I feel like I need to save something I find on a website. It's easy to do and you can save high-res Tiff or PNG files.

  5. I use Evernote to capture anything that might be useful. If it turns out to be useful I save it to an image file with a transcription if needed.

  6. Very useful post. I used to print onto paper - before I had acrobat writer, but I'm not good at filing paper either. I also got caught out by a disappearing website. In my case it was a lovely photo of my own grandfather's grave in Birmingham, England, which I really *must* visit one day - to take my own photo!

  7. Hi Marian,

    Some more options -

    I use OneNote, love it! Much like EverNote.

    PDFmyurl.com. Make your pdf and save it.

    Also, when you are on the webpage you can save it. Go to File>Save As>Save As Type: Webpage complete. This will give you every picture, etc.

  8. OneNote, Evernote & Screen Captures ~ are all very easy to use, & I highly recommend them.


  9. This is a great idea. I have been using free 'print to PDF' software for a couple of years to save copies of web sites and recommend that option. I like the way it (usually) also 'prints' the URL and the time/date you visited the web site on the PDF file. I like some of the other options mentioned in the comments too.

  10. Marian,
    My roots are deep in Indiana County, Pennsylvania and Treasures has been, well, a treasure! The site is still up at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~treasures/. I found some McClaren information there. What kind of data did you find on Pleasant?