Using the Wayback Machine for Genealogy

Geocities Has Closed

Geocities Has Closed

The Wayback Machine, a project of The Internet Archive, (cur­rent ver­sion:; new beta ver­sion at is an attempt to archive the com­plete con­tent of the Internet. Brewster Kahle, the co-founder of the Internet Archive spoke about the project at the Saturday keynote address at RootsTech 2011.

The key pur­pose of the Internet Archive is to make the Internet avail­able for future his­to­ri­ans and other researchers, in order that they might know what we were say­ing and doing in this often ephemeral envi­ron­ment called the Internet.

But it can also help us in the here and now. If you ever encounter a pub­licly avail­able site that has dis­ap­peared, you may find it else­where on Google, but, fail­ing that, you may find it in the Internet Archive.

For exam­ple, on an old Rootsweb page that I am in the process of migrat­ing to this site, I have a link that is no longer work­ing. (As the lingo goes, I have “link rot”.)

I try to link to:

When I try to nav­i­gate to this site, I get a mes­sage saying:

Sorry, the GeoCities web­site you were try­ing to visit is no longer avail­able.
GeoCities has closed, but there’s a lot more to explore on Yahoo!”

This does not offer much solace. However, when I go to the Wayback Machine and enter the URL I was search­ing for, I receive the fol­low­ing link:*/

Alternately, if I go to the beta ver­sion of the new Wayback Machine and enter this search I get to:*/

This page shows me the var­i­ous snap­shots the Internet Archive got around to mak­ing of this page. When I click on the most recent, I see that it has a link to a new location:

I can also look at other snap­shots to see what the site looked like at that time.

The Internet Archive can­not instan­ta­neously cap­ture the whole Internet, but every cou­ple of months, it tra­verses most of the pub­lic web, cap­tures what has changed, and moves on. You should not rely on it, either as a web user, or as a web­mas­ter, how­ever it can prove very handy at times. Try it the next time you run across a link that you are sure used to work, but no longer does.

OPENGEN - Genealogy Standards Alliance OPENGEN.ORG - Genealogy Standards Alliance