Eureka! I got all my lost data back.
It wasn't without more grief but it's safe and sound again. Once again backed up across multiple drives.
Got up early this morning, ate some curly fries while assessing the task at hand, and got to work.
Windows wasn't on my laptop nor desktop so I had to dig out my Windows XP Pro CD and wipe Linux Mint off desktop. This was necessary because my GetDataBack program runs on Windows.
Install was no problem but on boot the ethernet card wasn't recognized. That was par for the course considering to find the drivers for it I would need internet access. Worked back and forth between Linux laptop and Windows desktop to find the drivers and get it installed. Probably about an hour process.
I wasn't able to recover off the USB stick but got everything back off the external 80GB HDD even though the drive had been reformatted prior to the last backup pushed to it.
I only want to acknowledge the company who provided me with a new key to the GetDataBack software I had purchased about 8 years ago (Mods if you must delete this paragraph my apologies, but in this day and age of greed it's so refreshing to work with good people and I cannot pass up the chance to thank them publicly). My key was lost and I had an older version. Not only did they provide me with a new key without grief but they gave me one for the most recent version. All I was able to provide them with was full name and previous address where I lived when I had purchased their product. I no longer had the invoice not could I even remember which email address I had used at the time let alone it still being valid and in use. With that minimal info they must have been able to track down original purchase details. And the whole process from time I submitted request until I had the program running was less than half an hour. By the way this was about a year ago when I had to use it for some else's data recovery but now I needed it myself this morning and all was well.
Weeks of work averted and whittled down to only about 6 hours. Also realized I had a few other critical files in that folder too other than websites. Life is good.