While doing last minute preparation on Sunday for my final lecture at the Texas State Genealogical Society’s excellent conference in San Antonio, I noticed a new feature on FamilySearch. They have rolled out an easier more direct way to access those unlinked (non-indexed, non-searchable, browsable-only) digitized collections.
I wrote an article and tutorial on those collections back in 2015. Many of the digitized collections on FamilySearch have not yet been indexed and made searchable. These collections are often missed by researchers who only use the Search features on FamilySearch to access collections.
Some records in these collections have indeed been indexed, but through earlier indexing projects like the IGI (International Genealogical Index), not through the current indexing projects. These older indexes still live on FamilySearch, and are discoverable using the Search Historical Research tool. However, they are not linked or connected to the actual digitized record image referenced in the index entry.
The search results show these as simply an index entry of extracted transcribed data (see the paper icon highlighted in red in Figure 1 below, in the View column). If this index entry was attached to the actual digitized record image, a camera icon would show up to the right of the paper “index” icon. The pedigree icon on the left side of the View column means that those index entries are attached to someone in FamilySearch’s Family Tree.
Identifying These in Our Search Results
The New Message
After clicking on the index entry “paper” icon in the View column for a particular search result, you might encounter the message I have highlighted in red in the screenshot below.
FamilySearch appears to have recently added this new message to some index entry item records like the example I explained above.
Figure 2 below tells us that the index entry item record pertains to a record collection that has been digitized and is available elsewhere on the FamilySearch website. That relevant collection just is not indexed and searchable itself…yet. But this new type of notation is a big help. The “Browse the film” link takes us directly to the specific digitized microfilm roll that contains the digitized record image for the life event referenced in this index entry. It is a shortcut message and link.
The Old Message
Previously, when encountering the item record for an unlinked (non-indexed, non-searchable, browsable-only) digitized collection, we would see the message highlighted in red in Figure 3 below, telling us there is “No image available.” We would then have to go into the Catalog and look up the microfilm number identified under that message (also highlighted in red).
When the Digitized Document is Linked
If the item record is linked to the specific digitized document image (versus to just the digitized microfilm roll), you would see an item record like the one below in Figure 4. Here the item record displays the camera icon in the View column as well as a preview of and link to the digitized record.
In playing around more this week with this new feature, I encountered what (in my opinion as a web developer) is a web design flaw resulting in an inconsistent and confusing user experience. In the new feature highlighted in the scenario explained in Figures 1 & 2, sometimes that new message box and link shows up and sometimes it does not.
I still kept seeing the message highlighted in Figure 3 (“No image available”), even for item records that I knew recently displayed the new message shown in Figure 2. This had me stumped most of this week.
What I figured out is that the old message (“No image available”) is displayed whenever the user clicks on the Name link in the search results. Figure 5 below illustrates this. The Name field and link (highlighted in orange, and as option 1) opens up the item record details, showing the old message.
The new shortcut message (shown in Figure 2, highlighted in red) is ONLY displayed when the user clicks on the transcription “paper” icon in the View column. I have identified that step in Figure 5 below as option 2 highlighted in green.
Another way, although an awkward one, to get to the new view and shortcut message, is to copy and paste the item record permanent URL into your browser. That permanent URL is shown in Figure 5 below, also highlighted in green, under Citing this Record.
The New Feature
What is the added benefit of this new message and feature?
When you click on the “Browse this film” link in that new message, the system takes you straight to the particular roll of digitized microfilm that contains the relevant document image.
Instead of having to search the Catalog for that roll of digitized microfilm, that shortcut message saves you that step. Yes, you still have to go it old school scrolling through the microfilm images, just like we do with actual microfilm, to find your specific digitized document. But this is one step closer to FamilySearch connecting those old item index records from the old indexing projects to the growing collection of actual digitized documents.