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About that transient web

It’s a resource The Legal Genealogist has consulted dozens of times.

Put together by a researcher named George Baumbach, it’s entitled Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families, and it sets out a vast array of known information — some of it nicely documented, at least with secondary sources — about my own branches of the Pettypool family.

The introductory page begins:

Recent information uncovered from Granville County, North Carolina estate settlements documented that the parents of Elizabeth Pettypool Jones of Rutherford County, North Carolina, wife of John Jones, were John and Sarah Pettypool of Granville County, North Carolina.1


Guess who my fifth great grandmother was? Yep. Elizabeth Pettypool Jones of Rutherford County, North Carolina, wife of John Jones.

So, since my database reflects that John and Elizabeth (Pettypool) Jones were married 21 July 1771 — making that event a great candidate for a Saturday family blog post — and since the database reflects that the Baumbach website was my source for that some 17 years ago, I figured I’d check to see the source of that source and see if I could nail down just where that information came from.

And promptly hit the bump in the road.

That fabulous Baumbach website about Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families?

It’s been offline for years.

Wayback negative search

The last update noted on the index page was in 2012,2 though at least one individual page has a later “updated” notation.3

Huge amounts of research and data no longer accessible at the website where it originated.

Now… this isn’t a total loss. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, a feature of the Internet Archive, the vast majority of the Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families website is still accessible.4

Not all of it, mind you. One key page noted on the entry page, a section entitled “Pettypool Ancestors from Great Warley and Barking, Essex County, from London, and from Stepney, Middlesex County, England,” updated in October of 2012, isn’t retrievable at all.5

That too isn’t a total loss, thanks to the fabulous work of the late Carolyn Hart sough, a fellow Pettypool descendant, and carried on by James Furman Poole, another descendant, that English research is fully documented at the website The Pettypool Family: a One-name Study.6

So… what are the lessons learned here?

First and foremost, any website can disappear overnight. Nothing but nothing online today is guaranteed to be online forever. And much content that was created and published only online has already been lost, permanently. So lesson #1 is to make sure that any website we hope to access in the future is captured by the Wayback Machine on Internet Archive, in full. There’s a “Save Page Now” link on the Wayback Machine entry page that lets us help create that archive of pages that were once — way back in time (like last week in internet parlance) — available online.

Second, and a corollary to the first, there isn’t even a guarantee that an archived copy will be available forever. It’d be foolish to think that even the Wayback Machine on Internet Archive will be around forever. So lesson #2 is to ensure that we’ve personally captured all of the information from any website we consider essential. Our working notes and research files ought never to depend on easy access to a website that may just not be there when we need it.

And third, and most importantly, we need to research the sources of our online sources. At a minimum, we need to include in our database citations the source of any online source so we can get to that underlying source if the website goes belly-up. But, even better, we can try to get right to the source of our online source in the first place and cite that instead of the online source.

Or — sigh — discover that there is no known source for our online source.

The Wayback version of the Baumbach website does say that John and Elizabeth (Pettypool) Jones were married 21 July 1771 in Rutherford County, North Carolina.7

And there’s no source cited for that fact at all.


Back to the drawing board.

With lessons learned.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Lessons learned…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 25 July 2020).


  1. Introduction,” Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families ( : accessed 7 June 2003).
  2. Ibid., “Index to Biographies And Documents .”
  3. Ibid., “Pettypool Immigrants to America (William (1)).” Note that square brackets in these titles have been converted to parentheses to avoid a conflict with the footnote plug-in I use for this blog.
  4. See Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families, captured 17 June 2016 by the Wayback Machine ( : accessed 25 July 2020).
  5. A search for that page at the Wayback Machine returns the sad statement: “The Wayback Machine has not archived that URL.”
  6. See Carolyn Hart sough, “The Pettypool Family in EnglandThe Pettypool Family: a One-name Study ( : accessed 25 July 2020).
  7. John Pettypool(4) (of William(1) , William(2) , Seth(3) ) (born 1725) married c1748 Sarah ?Sanford,” Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families.
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