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Familysearch Image Viewing

LegacyUserLegacyUser ✭✭✭
edited September 2020 in Family History Centers
Kathleen McGee said: I am a volunteer librarian at a family history center in Plainview NY and I find that patrons are confused by wording they receive when they try to access an image. For example a patron tried to access a German film today and could not view the images after coming from a long distance. I had them sign into their account and we could not access the image. It said photo unavailable and it had the camera and the key like it does at home. I then tried to access a German film that I am interested in with my signon as a test and also could not view the image. I tried to access church records for Kurnbach Germany. At home the message says access in a FHC. I tried but couldn't access the record so I asked one of the missionaries passing through if one of them could sign on and see if they could access the record and up the images came, We immediately signed out of his account. I went home and tried to access the image again and find people are just seeing the part about accessing the record in a family history center but not the part about that it is can only be accessed by a church member.

I suggest the wording should say this record can only be accessed by a member of the LDS church and not give the impression that if you go to a FHC it can be accessed.

At our family history center most of the volunteers are not church members so we cannot access the film for patrons who are so disappointed.
I try to make patrons visits to our family history center a pleasant experience and hope they are fruitful in their search.
I know that films have restrictions placed on them by jurisdictions.
Is it possible for the FHC librarians to have access that church members have in the library or a FHC library only password we could use so people do not go home disappointed and can do their search in the library?
Also images load so slowly that many people give up and go home.

Kathleen McGee
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  • A van Helsdingen said: I agree that the messages about restrictions should be worded correctly so that there is no confusion.
    I personally have had this sort of experience twice. The first time was last September when the digital microfilms were first launched. A few days later I made a trip to the nearest Affiliate Library. In the morning at my house the catalog said they were viewable at a FHC or Affiliate Library. They were not when I got there. Apparently there were "teething issues". In April this year a record custodian ordered their images to be removed from FS the day I went to the Affiliate Library.

    Interestingly just yesterday I had an issue where digital microfilm that had no restrictions displayed "image unavailable". Other years and places for those same records (Irish Registry of Deeds) were unaffected. Maybe there is a bug.
  • A van Helsdingen said: "I know that films have restrictions placed on them by jurisdictions."

    That issue is a whole other can of worms. A recent discussion on this issue had to be closed due to heated language. I have noticed that the restrictions of German Protestant records are quite strict, presumably due to the need to protect Archion's revenue. I actually emailed the Protestant Archive in Hesse recently enquiring about why the restrictions exist and especially why they accepted a deal where their own adherents (Lutherans and Calvinists/Reformed) get a worse treatment than LDS. I have had no response yet.
  • Tom Huber said: Kathleen, always check the catalog entry for how the restrictions work. In some rare instances, the restrictions do impact non-church members vs church members. In another discussion, on July 18th, Robert Kehrer (FamilySearch employee) wrote:
    FamilySearch seeks the broadest and most economical access possible for all FamilySearch users. The ultimate rights governing what access FamilySearch can provide are granted by the organization that legally owns the content (e.g., a record custodian) and the privacy laws of each country.

    There are a couple of your statements above that may not be wholly correct and I'm going to try and add some additional clarity...

    Volunteer-indexed records will continue to be available for free for everyone at, as they always have been. Additionally, if you have a subscription to one of our partner sites, you will be able to view and use indexes to FamilySearch records on that site as well.

    FamilySearch is partnering with Ancestry, and other organizations, to index select record collections of mutual interest. Cooperating with interested third parties in this manner enables FamilySearch to make the best use of its limited records and to to make the largest number of indexes and images freely available to the most people.

    Most users are not aware that FamilySearch’s massive record digitization efforts far outpace the volunteer community’s ability to index these preserved records in a timely manner (volunteers index less than 10% of the digital images published annually). Consequently, FamilySearch employs a variety of models with third parties to provide the greatest access to the most records to the broadest base of patrons. With full agreement from the record owner, in some cases, FamilySearch provides the digital images to a partner, who then pays to have the records indexed using commercial indexing services.

    To allow these partners to recoup their financial investment in the indexes they paid to create, these partners may be granted rights to publish the index and images on their site for a set time period with some restrictions. They can elect to limit access to both the index and/or images to their subscribers.

    During the term of the agreement, FamilySearch usually makes the images freely available on its site according to agreements made with the content owners. We can also publish the partner-created index, but usually with restricted access to members of the LDS Church and to our family history center patrons. When the aforementioned access restriction expires, both the index and images will be freely available to all FamilySearch users, according to the agreements made with the record owners.

    For more information on restricted indexes, go to
  • Tom Huber said: I should have captured the discussion URL, but didn't when I captured Robert's statements. His second paragraph doesn't make sense without the original context, so it can be ignored.

    What it boils down to is that FS, in agreement with an outside organization to get records indexed, has granted certain, time-limited rights to that organization for the indexing service. That apparently is where some of these access restrictions are coming from pertaining to member vs non-member access.

    The bigger problem is that the volunteer indexing efforts are not keeping up with the production of digitized images.

    Add to that, the fact that some people, such as myself, refuse to take part in indexing any records until such time that a means to correct my mistakes by any patron is made available. I don't care if the indexing effort is not keeping up. As it is, the indices continue to grow without a means to correct badly transcribed records.

    And yet, there seems to be no interest in quality. It is all about quantity, quantity, quantity, and patrons are demanding faster turnaround. It is endemic (a condition) of our society wanting the best yesterday and not willing to wait for it.
  • A van Helsdingen said: The complaint here is not about the restrictions themselves, but about the fact that the message that comes up when viewing restricted digital microfilm gave incorrect information and caused a patron to travel a long distance for nothing.

    I wouldn't call the LDS vs non-LDS "rare instances". I have discovered that the restrictions to LDS only apply to most, maybe even all provinces of Germany for Protestant church records. Germany is the most common place of origin for Americans today, and state registration of births, deaths and marriages began there only in 1876. Therefore for many genealogists these records are quite important.
  • MaureenE said: I agree that the "restriction" message should be accurate so that people don't travel long distances to Family History Centres, and then find the digitised microfilms cannot be accessed by them

    Kathleen McGee, can you quote some specific catalogue references, so we can see what restriction appear when we look at the catalog.

    For records Kirchenbuch, 1555-1962 and Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1810-1875
    from Evangelische Kirche Kürnbach I get the message

    "To view these images you must do one of the following: Sign in to as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "

    No mention of a Family History Centre.

    Are these are the records you are referring to in your initial post, but you get a different message? If so, perhaps this indicates the message varies according to where you live.
  • A van Helsdingen said: In New Zealand I get the same message as MaureenE.
  • Paul said: A previous thread connected to this issue illustrated that a different message was being displayed to users in the USA to that appearing to patrons in Europe. This issue definitely needs to be addressed in order to save many people the trouble of a long, abortive trip to a FHC.

    On the issue of slow loading of images, I used to find this a real problem due to slow download speeds. Check the speeds you are getting through one of the many sites available. This should confirm whether the problem is a general one, which would probably affect viewing images from all websites.
  • Juli said: I'm in the U.S. I just checked the Kürnbach Lutheran records that Maureen posted, and got the single-bullet-point (sign in as LDS) message. I wonder if it's a matter of an update that hasn't fully propagated?
  • This is not a new issue but it is a very important issue. We have this issue occur in or FHC fairly frequently, when people search for records at home and are directed to a family history center "in order to view the records." When they arrive, they cannot view the records using their non-member credentials but if a member wants to sign in and allow the patron to use their account to search the information can be viewed.

    It would be exceedingly useful to have a "familyhistory center account" to use when patrons are searching for these images and records that are restricted. If the intent is to restrict the records to ONLY members of the Church then that needs to be spelled out clearly and directly.

  • MaureenE123MaureenE123 ✭✭✭

    J. Britt Franklin, see the post

    where Jeff Wiseman quotes from the church member's version of the knowledge article ID:951

    "Consultants should not sign in to allow members of the public to access restricted images. Such sharing can violate contracts between FamilySearch and the records custodian and can cause the records to be removed from FamilySearch"

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