Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Is FS Losing information from Collections?

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Over the last year or so I have noticed a number of changes in a few of the Family Search databases.  The largest to date has been in the “Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992” database:

The following is the information that I found when the collection came on-line:

[Dear readers, Jack had a bunch of text here showing what he originally found. In addition to the information in the “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934 record in the second image, below, the record also had

  • Bride’s birthplace: Decatur
  • Bride’s marital status: Single
  • Indexing project (batch) number: M02682-2
  • System origin: Iowa-EASy
  • Film number: 1671443 ]

When I recently returned to check additional marriages from the 1809-1992 collection, I noticed some changes. Digging showed that [groom’s birth date and age were missing]. This is what I found:


I understand – at least I believe I do – that the batch numbers and the system origin numbers represent two different original source records. What I do not understand is where the missing information can now be found.

I did find another record for this couple in the “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934” collection.  [Shown below.] But that record does not contain all the info I found the first time.


So, what’s going on? 

I’m left wondering if I now need to check every source that I have retrieved from to assure they still provide the exact info that I originally recorded!?

Hopefully, I’ve provided enough info for you to clue me in on these changes.

Jack Coffee

Dear Jack,

First I apologize for heavily editing your message. I hope I didn’t lose the gist.

Despite the different system origins, the two records you’re looking at are almost certainly from the same original. I’ve quite often seen collections in the past that contained two entries with different system origins for the same original record. This occurred when records from one database system were copied into another. Then the records from both systems were copied into FamilySearch Record Collections.

But what you’re seeing is troubling. FamilySearch has the same record in two different collections and neither is complete. Let me sum up the differences:

Collection Bride’s Birthplace Bride’s Marital Status Groom’s Birth Date Groom’s age
Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992     Missing Missing
Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934 Missing Missing    

I will ask FamilySearch what is going on and get back to you.

--The Insider


  1. I've noticed the same problem. Thank you for checking.

  2. It will be interesting to read what you find. My suspicion is that it will be one of two things. Either the same record was indexed twice with different guidelines as to what information to extract or one extract is from a marriage license application and the other is from the marriage license or the marriage certificate. Maybe the two extractions were at one time automatically combined until someone realized that could introduce errors and now they are listed separately.

    In any event, I think the question brings up a more fundamental issue. So the information in the index as changed a little, who cares? Why are you trusting that information in the first place? The only reason for the index is to let you easily find the right film. If you have not seen the microfilmed original you have not seen the record. Jack needs to order film 1671443, get a good copy or scan of the marriage document or documents, and use that for his source of information. The information in that scan will never change and he can have as his source not:

    "Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 Feb 2013), John Coffey and Gertie M. Bibbey, 1915." which could change, have its URL modified, or completely vanish one day.

    but the much better:

    "Wayne County (Iowa). Clerk of the District Court. 'Marriage records v. 12-13 1915-1925' [Family History Library US/CAN Film 1671443]. Book 12, page 55, certificate No. 4205." a copy which he has in his files, or on his hard drive, or in his on-line storage linked into his personal genealogical database forever.

    There might even be important information in the actual record that both of the indexes left out.

    1. I have the same problem and there are three [3] copies of the same information in that index. Name to search on is Claude Wessling.
      Martin Wessling; Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992;spouseLena Summers; child Claude Martin Wessling; groom's nameClaude Martin Wessling; groom's birth date1885; groom's birthplace; groom's age 25; bride's name Veta Pearl Tallman; bride's birth date1889; bride's birthplace; bride's age21; marriage date14 Feb 1910; marriage place Ogden, Boone, Iowa; groom's father's nam eMartin Wessling; groom's mother's nameLena Summers; bride's father's name Winfield Harrison Tallman; bride's mother's name Edith Jane Gauser; groom's race; groom's marital status; groom's previous wife's name; bride's race; bride's marital status; bride's previous husband's name; indexing project (batch) numberI09639-9; system originIowa-EASy; source film number 1034320; & film #004265545 and again another 1034320 rendition of it.
      Pasted from

  3. My complaint has to do with the fact that some information was provided by FamilySearch (FS). At the time I used the information, I also used the convenient citation FS provided. When I used that citation to go back and look at the information again, the information had been changed; e.g., omitted information that had been there previously.

    Whether or not it was accurate at the time I looked at it is of little consequence to this discussion. I understand that I can drive 120 miles to look at a microform of some sort but that rather defeats the purpose of having the FS info on line?! In any event, someone a few years in the future will decide to double check my sources, what are they going to find? Will it be the info that FS told me a year ago or, will it have changed?

    A reply that I received from Support at FS, told me that the Iowa Marriages, 1809-1992 collection was "republished due to record relocate." Apparently "record relocate" means original data was "removed from the older, less reliable Legacy collection [whatever that might be] and placed in the newly indexed collection." It seems to me based on this one example I have provided, that the record relocated from the Legacy collection would have been just as reliable had it contained the same info plus, any additional information.

    I have also written to them asking for a definition of the "source detail" that appears in their presentation of any fact to their users. I'm talking about words like "Virginia-EAsy," "Washington-ODM," etc.

    I have yet to receive a reply.

  4. I am so glad that when I started tracking my family I was so inexperienced that I printed everything when I found it because I didn't know if they were the right people and I learned real quick that I'd never find the document in question again. This new policy is very frustrating. I sometimes find the document I am looking for but it doesn't match what I have. So then I wonder if the one on line is a new one that has surfaced or did it replace the one I have printed or is the printed copy I have the wrong person even though everything matches my family. Genealogy is hard enough without the "professional" sites changing the rules willy nilly.


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