Online database marriage records

I am a bit confused...I have created two different citations for a marriage record that was found on Family Search and I am not sure which one is correct.

Allen County, Indiana, Marriage Records, vol. 86:201, Alfred Richard Lueders-Martha Katherine Belschner, 4 January 1936; "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2019", Family Search ( : accessed 19 May 2020), image 106 of 311; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis, Indiana, imaged from FHL microfilm 004201537

This one seems to give the information from the original record, where I found the image and where Family Search retrieved their information from; however, I am confused where the FHL microfilm number should appear.

Then the second citation, I believe, states the location of where I found the image of the record, what I discovered on the record and where Family Search retrieved that information. Again the microfilm number seems not to be located in the correct spot.

"Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007", database with digital images, FamilySearch ( : downloaded 19 May 2020), image copy 106 of 311, marriage of  Alfred R. Lueders and Martha K. Belschner, 4 January 1936; citing Allen, Indiana, Marriage Registration, Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1935-1936, vol. 86, p. 201; imaged from FHL microfilm 004204537.

I think the first citation is correct because it cites the record and then how the information was gleaned, but I am not confident. Can anyone please walk me through what my thought process should be on this?


Submitted byEEon Wed, 09/22/2021 - 19:26

Tami, can you give us an exact URL for either the database or the image. From your citation, there is no way to go from the home page to the exact image. I tried using the film number but FS identifies that number as "Pennsylvania, Berks County, Hamburg, obituary and marriage collection, 1825-1994."

Submitted byEEon Thu, 09/23/2021 - 08:22

Tami, at that webpage, you are not using the marriage records created by Allen County, Indiana, marriage orricials.  You are using a FamilySearch database entry—something created by FamilySearch from data entered by FamilySearch volunteers. You have no idea whether the names, dates, and places are read correctly. You have no idea whether there are other details on the original record that were not copied into the database, because a database entry is always restricted to the fields decided upon by the database creators. Random records within the collection could have other comments. Since you were using a database entry accessed by typing a name into a query box, rather than using the original register, you were not able to check entries before and after to see if there are other relevant entries on same day that would provide additional clues for research. In fact, from the database entry, you don't even know the name of the register in which someone would look for that marriage. The database entry gives us a page number but not a book name or number.

In fact, from this database, you do not know the actual marriage date. The database title is "Indiana Marriages," but the database fields provide only for a marriage license date. The marriage could have occurred days, weeks, or months after that—or marriage plans might have been canceled after the license was obtained.

Evidence Explained would use the citation that FamilySearch provides on that page, which is already crafted in Evidence Style. EE would also make two alterations:

  1. EE would identify the locale (in the citing layer) as Allen County, Indiana—rather than Allen, Indiana—because most people identify American locales as City, State (Fort Wayne, Indiana; Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; etc.) or City, County, State (Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana; etc.)
  2. EE would, as you did, add the explanatory words "imaged from" before the phrase "FHL microfilm 004204537."

As for the microfilm ID, yes, it is placed correctly.

Finally, note that the title of the database on the page to which you link is "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2019," while you're citing "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007." FamilySearch also has a database, "Indiana Marriages, 1780–1992," but I don't find one with the dates "1811-2007."


Submitted byEEon Thu, 09/23/2021 - 09:03

Tami, from your discussion it also appears that you did consult the original image. If so, that is what you should cite instead of FamilySearch’s database entry. There are generally two ways we can do this.



Begin our citation (Layer 1) with a cite to the original register. FamilySearch “database with images” would then be cited in Layer 2 where we identify the source that delivered the images. Then the microfilm ID would come at the end, in Layer 3.


However, we have a problem here because the filmed images do not show the cover of the register and the title thereon. The only ID we have is secondhand: FamilySearch tells us that it’s from “1935-1936 Volume 86” but that’s FamilySearch’s ID, patterned to create an orderly database. If we go into the courthouse and look for that marriage record, we might not find a marriage book with that wording on the cover.

The bottom line here is that FamilySearch’s ID of the record book is copied into the “citing …” layer. We do not put it in the layer in which we identify the original record.  That means we don’t have enough information to cite the marriage book as the lead element.

Also, when using the original, we’re not given a film number; all we are given is the ID of an office that, we presume, physically holds this volume—although it could be the state agency that authorized the filming. From what we’re told, we don’t know. That is one reason why, when we copy a citation (or record identification) from our provider, we preface it with the words “citing …” to indicate: “This is what my provider says about its source, but I don’t know for myself that the record is there and.or can’t be sure what the provider is intending to say.”



Begin our citation with the database, then use the path (waypoints along that parth) to carry us down to the image:

“Indiana Marriages, 1811—2019,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 September 2021) > Allen > 1935-1936 Volume 86 > image 106, being page 201, Alfred Richard Lueders to Martha Katherine Belschner, license dated 2 January 1836 and return citing marriage on 4 January 1936; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.

This waypoint citation is what EE would recommend in the kind of situation you are dealing with here.

QuickLesson 19 goes into more detail on the thought process behind choosing to emphasize the record vs. choosing to emphasize the database.

Finally, there is one further on that original image that needs to be noted. EE would add it at the end of the citation:

“Indiana Marriages, 1811—2019,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 September 2021) > Allen > 1935-1936 Volume 86 > image 106, being page 201, Alfred Richard Lueders to Martha Katherine Belschner, license dated 2 January 1836 and return citing marriage on 4 January 1936; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis. Note that each page of this register carried the notation "Unofficial Record."



Submitted byTamion Thu, 09/23/2021 - 12:47

Thank you for the response. I think I am understanding and see that part of my confusion is not understanding Family Search records. I didn't understand that the Allen>1935-1936> volume 86 was linked to the database and not the original record. Also, I believed that the first page (which is where I found the FHL microfilm number 004204537) was just an abstract indexing the information from the original document and that both citations provided by Family Search would be the same.

If the title of the book had been provided in the front of the digital images, would I then have three layers in this citation? 

Also, in Quick Lesson 19 it states, "When we view an original document online and the digitized image has been reproduced from film, rather than from the original document, we have at least three layers..." How does one know the difference between an image being reproduced from film rather than from the original?



Tami, yes, if the title of the book had been filmed and if, from examining the film, you found the other pieces of information necessary to create a full citation to the book itself, then your Layer 1 might cite the original and your Layer 2 might cite the website that provided the images. Then, any additional source-of-the-source data given by the website provider would go in Layer 3 (the last layer being the "citing ....." layer).

As for whether the digital images are made from old microfilm or directly from the original, we can usually discern that in one of two ways:

  1. Typically, when FS makes modern digital images from its microfilm (which could have been made as much as 70 years ago), the first few frames of that set of images will identify the film and depict "targets" created by the filmers to identify what they were filming and where the records were at the the time.  As a matter of habit, anytime we use online images that are part of a set of images, we should scroll to the start of that set to see what data is there--just as we would in using a published book. We would not just photocopy, say, p. 321 of a book and go blithely on our way. We would also flip to the front of the book and get the author/title data from the title page, and the publication data from the title page and its reverse; and we'd look for a foreword of something similar that explains important issues, etc.
  2. We can (should) look up the digital film number in FS's catalog and read the cataloging data that FS provides.  We find that cataloging data through this path: > Search > Catalog > Fiche/Film number > [then fill in the blank with the specific film number]

Submitted byTamion Thu, 09/23/2021 - 12:54

Also, can you direct me to the spot on how to learn to shorten the url with "=waypoints"? I have no idea how you knew where to add the "=waypoints" in the above url. 

Yes, as a rule. Thanks for adding, GeneaBell.   I'm also curious about one thing, which you may be able to explain. Sometimes, when we cut the URL immediately before the question mark--and then we go away to a different browser to test the shortened version—the shortened URL will work, but then FS will add back several of the characters we cut. That happens in the example above. FS's internal system adds back ?i=105 for image 106.

Tami, waypoints are always placed immediately after the parenthetical publication data (URL : date).  The waypoints then tell us how to navigate from that URL, through various menus, until we arrive at the image.

Have you discovered yet QuickLesson 25: ARKs, PALs, Paths & Waypoints (Citing Online Providers of Digital Images)?