Thursday, June 20, 2013

FamilySearch Image Restrictions

Sometimes access is restrictedArchives and other record custodians have the dual and conflicting missions of protecting records and making them accessible. When FamilySearch negotiates contracts with record custodians to photograph, digitize, and post records online, record custodians often wrestle with the proper balance between these two. Access to images on is sometimes restricted in some fashion by contractual agreement with the record custodian. I’ve written about this before in “South David Fair: Selective Blindness,” and “Make More Data Free.” Since the last time I presented examples, a couple of new flavors have shown up.

Here is a list of restrictions, with example collections.


UPDATE 18 March 2017: As I was checking the links in this article, I found the "Belgium Civil Registration, 1795-1920" collection no longer exists. It seems to have been replaced with a series of collections. (See Belgium, Civil Registration (FamilySearch Historical Records) in the wiki.) I tried one and images were available.


  1. The family groups records collection is wonderful, but unfortunately they did not scan the backs of the sheets. I have a collection of over 200 sheets for my Tidd family with the back sides copied. It is important to note that on a sheet by the name of the individuals there is often a asterick mark that indicates the link to another page. By following the links one can connect families. These sheets are very helpful. They do appear to be water marked.
    I have found books that must be viewed at the FHC. In the past I found images that I had to view at the FHC, but can not remember exactly which.
    I will not complain as there is so much available. Just be sure to copy what you see when you see it, as like the Chicago vital records some do disappear right before our eyes.

    1. Oops. That's a big mistake. Did you make the copies from originals? Or from the microfilm?

      --The Insider

  2. If by watermarked, you mean any text superimposed on the image, then "Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959" ( qualifies. All images are marked "Unofficial Copy". I don't recall seeing any collection with an archive name stamped on the images.
    Another example of FamilySearch sign-in required to see images is "Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953" (
    A variation on access restrictions is found in "California, County Marriages, 1850-1952" ( The collection description says "Not all indexed names will have a viewable record image due to contractual agreements." Ususally that means restrictions by date of the record, but in this case there seems to be differences by county. For example, all Los Angeles County images seem to be accessible but, although indexed, none for Imperial County are. Coverage is difficult to determine as the collection waypoints are digital film numbers.
    Like Susan, I was disappointed when the Cook County images were withdrawn. Cook County's Genealogy Online website ( while helpful for later dates, never did have many of the FamilySearch records in their own database.

  3. The Belgian Civil records are available for viewing online through the Belgian National Archives at:

  4. I administer the Utah Death Certificates at the Utah State Archives. I understand we were one of the first pilot projects for records collections. FamilySearch digitized the certificates and created the initial index.

    Since then, the FamilySearch collection has not really been updated while we 1) cropped the images to the document 2) finished matching names and certificates and made thousands of spelling/transcription updates as requested and 3) continued to add more years.

    As records custodians we are concerned about lost and confused users with various online viewing options and versions (especially when records titles vary...the "Utah, State Archives Records, 1848-2001" is a big mushy pile of various records for example), but often get on with our daily business instead.

  5. Here is an example of "Images are available when using FamilySearch at a family history center" -- Ukraine, Kiev Orthodox Consistory Records 1840-1845. These can only be viewed at a family history center and, per agreement with the Ukrainian archives, can only be viewed, not printed or downloaded - these features are disabled.
    The caption itself is somewhat misleading, as these records now contain images from 1840 through 1852 and indexed records from 1840 through 1848(?), still in process. I know that the films from which these are being digitized run up through the late 1800s/early 1900s so I suspect there is much more to come.

  6. Although stated before. It should be further noted that the Indiana Marriage Collection 1811-1959, that not all the collection will have an image. It shows that it does but it doesn't. Like previously stated the ones that do are watermarked.

  7. Switzerland Church Records contain copies of microfilmed church books for 190 Bernese parishes. "The images can only be viewed at the Family History Library, FamilySearch Centers, and by members of the supporting organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Records for other cantons can be viewed from home.)

    I was told last summer that the records would become unrestricted by the end of the year but I have lost faith in predictive statements from FamilySearch.

  8. All FamilySearch Italian collections tagged with "State Archive" belong to the type "Images available when using FamilySearch at a family history center"

    1. Thanks. I tried and found that the images are also available for free on the archive website.

  9. I have found many useful records on familysearch, so I am loathe to complain. I did, however, recently submit a suggestion via Help, regarding the "About image restrictions" link when viewing the index of a restricted images.

    Before the latest round of redesigns, clicking on the equivalent link showed an explanation of why the images were not available. The new and not improved version leads to a generic - not helpful at all.

    As far as I have been able to find this same useless link appears on every database with viewing restrictions. See for example: for Philadelphia Births.

  10. Recently, a search of the FamilySearch Book Catalog of digital images resulted in the "restricted Image" pop-up message which directed me to a Family History Center to view these images. So I visited the FHC in the Mid-County Library at Port Charlotte, FL. I have used this FHC in the past to order film from FamilySearch & the Library of Virginia.I started with the local volunteer who knew knew nothing about the FamilySearch site, except that film could be ordered by someone else at the library. Next, I spoke to the library film ordering expert; however, she knew nothing about the digitized book access capability at FamilySearch. So I gave them a demo and we received the same "restricted image" pop-up that I had received at my home. Both she & I agreed that the FS server probably was not recognizing their FHC IP address, but she said she would look into the situation. A week has past & since I have not heard from the library, I searched the FS site for some help. By browsing around, I found a document called the "Family History Center Affiliate Agreement" in a section about how libraries could become FHCs. This document clearly states that "restricted images" are not accessible at affiliate FHCs. So I sent all of this conflicting story (including cut & pasted images of the pop-up & Affilliate doc) to the FamilySearch Help center. I have not received a response, but I can no longer find the "Family History Center Affiliate Agreement" at FS.
    This conflicting information from FS is quite tedious & frustrating. That I have not received a reply from the Help center is very surprising to me, but I really have only one interest. That interest is this: Should my local FHC be able to access "restricted images"or not? If the answer is no, why does the pop-up direct me to go to a FHC to see these images?


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