Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Mailbox: When an FHC is Not an FHC

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

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 & 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?

Dave Woody

Dear Dave,

Among many genealogists, “Family History Center,” refers specifically to a family history center owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is especially true of employees and volunteers of FamilySearch. These are different from public and institutional libraries who have established an affiliate relationship with FamilySearch (AKA the Genealogical Society of Utah) giving them film-loaning privilege. These public libraries are not considered “Family History Centers,” even though it is possible to rent films there from the Salt Lake City Family History Library.

A topic in the help system mentions the document you referred to, and answers the question you had:

The authorized agent of a public facility is sent the Genealogical Society of Utah Affiliate Library Agreement. … Patrons of approved affiliate organizations can order unrestricted microfilm and microfiche on loan to view at the affiliate organization. Books and CDs do not circulate from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Access to additional family history websites is not part of the affiliate agreement. Additional access to restricted images on is not part of the agreement.

(See “Public Libraries, Archives, or Genealogical Societies Requesting Affiliate Status,” FamilySearch [ : accessed 22 November 2015], search help system for “affiliated libraries.”)

I recently learned that FamilySearch does not officially claim the name “Family History Center” as a trademark. I guess it is because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not allow trademarks of such generic phrases. In officially reviewed communications, FamilySearch does not use “Family History Centers” (uppercase) as a proper noun, but “family history centers” (lowercase) as a common noun. Unfortunately, that leaves Church owned family history centers without a name that distinguishes them from family history centers owned by other organizations. FamilySearch should create a new name and use it throughout its products, to prevent the confusion you’ve experienced.

---The Ancestry Insider


  1. As a follow-on, this blog post

    sounds like such good news, but it really isn't.

    Since I have no FHC nearby, and microfilm is being discontinued, I - and many others - will no longer have access to the records that have proven so helpful.

  2. The films in the library in Salt Lake City are being digitized and placed on-line through You may have already come across some of these as you have searched. Over many years books and records have been filmed and many different contractual agreements have been made between the owners of copyrights/records. Those agreements have to be renegotiated with the current owner before placing the film on the web. Sometimes the owner is unknown or won't give permission to place the item on the web. Sometimes the owner agrees to only let the digitized version be viewed in the Salt Lake City library, not in branch libraries or other locations. Thus there are many different messages which show up when we try to access an image. Often the wording of the message makes sense only to the programmer who wrote it! Don't worry, there may be other ways to get the info. Try the many websites shown in or in the Wiki on Also you can often find what you need by just searching for the names on the web. Some of the images are actually from other partner sites like or Allen County Public Library, etc. If can't show the image, try the partner's site, they may be willing to show it, or answer an inquiry about it.

    1. But not available from home. With no FHC anywhere near, I have no access.

    2. I am often stymied by these "restricted" hits. Many of the documents I wish to view are available at an Ohio library that I have no way to access and at other locations. I wish Family Search would either remove these inaccessible hits or move them to a database of their own called "Restricted Access Documents" or some such name. It is good to know that these items exist and can be accessed someplace but it is still so very disappointing that I cannot view them.

    3. I agree, Barbara, very frustrating. When the blog post first came out, and I could see camera icons galore, I was elated. Days later, and nothing but "no access," I am very disappointed.

  3. The FamilySearch page "Find a Family History Center" [ ] apparently includes affiliates as well as the "real" Family History Centers. If you exclude those that clearly reference a Public Library in the name, it should be possible to narrow down which locations to investigate further for access to restricted images.

  4. This is very enlightening. Thanks

  5. The original letter from Mr. Woody might be referring to FamilySearch's online books. These books are under various agreements according to who owns the original books. Many times the agreement FS has with the original owners is that the book may be used by only one reader at a time, hence, the "restricted notice" appears so many times. When I find this happening, I keep trying and finally the book becomes available.


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