A year ago Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager explained that “[links to] FamilySearch person records and their associated images are built on a technology called Persistent Archival Links [PALs]. That is what the pal portion of the record URL means (ex. https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X79S-N78). This is a technology that makes it so that the links should not change.”
In reporting the error above, “GeneJ” complained about “PALs that aren't PALs for long.” Users were angry and fearful.
Randy Wilson, rock star and FamilySearch Information Architect, responded to the report. He said, “This looks like a bug. I will get some engineers working on it.” A couple days later the bug was fixed and old URLs worked as expected.
Wilson explained why the URLs stopped working. FamilySearch had just switched the system it uses to hold records. This caused the URLs of all its images to change. An image that used to be
and the old URL stopped working.
Trouble was, the old URLs were supposed to continue to work. The guts of the PAL (the part before the question mark) didn’t change, so an old URL was supposed to still work. It didn’t. FamilySearch fixed it. Everyone’s (mostly) happy now.
Wilson also revealed that this change won’t be the last. In the coming months FamilySearch will switch from PALs to industry standard ARKs: Archival Resource Keys. He said old PALs will continue to work.
Citation GoobledeegookThis makes me think about some citation principles and why you should always copy and paste the FamilySearch suggested image citation rather than just the URL.
I have a family group sheet that lists one source: a Family History Library film number. The problem is, the FHL changed its numbering scheme since that sheet was authored. I have a PAF file that lists a single source: a Pedigree Resource File (PRF) submission identification number. The problem is, FamilySearch changed its numbering scheme when it republished the PRF on the current website. There are citations consisting of nothing more than Dewey call numbers for libraries now using LOC call numbers. Today’s ISBN numbers will be replaced by tomorrow’s ID du jour. Using a lone identification number (or URL) in lieu of a full citation is short sighted.
Redundancy in citations is generally avoided to avoid overly long citations. But in its suggested image citations, FamilySearch is redundant. Consider this citation:
It has both the PAL URL and the bread crumb trail. If the image is moved from "Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986" to another collection, the PAL will get you to the image no matter what collection it is in. If the PAL breaks, the bread crumb trail will still get you to the image. If the bread crumb trail is changed, the PAL will still work. If several of these change, there is enough raw metadata that with some effort you will be able to relocate the image.FamilySearch has made copying the image citation convenient. Click Show Citation and Copy Citation. You can then paste the citation where ever it is needed. One day you will be glad you did.