FamilySearch Naturalization Petition

As you probably know, FamilySearch has introduced a new facelift for their website. Now I'm rather confused about citing the following record because the FHL microfilm number doesn't accompany the record database.

The record I want to cite can be located in this manner: Search > Browse All Published Collections > Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992 > Browse through 1,135,393 images > Eau Claire > Petitions for naturalization 1879–1892 vol 3 > and navigating to p. 324 [image 189]. As you can see, the record is buried quite deep. And, the database "Petitions for naturalization..." is not locatable in the FamilySearch Historical Records Collections filter.

Here is my citation:

  1. "Petitions for Naturalization, 1879–1892, vol. 3," in "Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992," digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 November 2013), Eau Claire County, p. 324, Hans Christian Hansen, 10 April 1890.

In the past it seems to me I would have been able to cite the records as follows:

  1. "Petitions for Naturalization, 1879–1892, vol. 3," p. 324, Hans Christian Hansen, 10 April 1890; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 November 2013); FHL microfilm [number].

In the first citation I added "Eau Claire County" because it is one of the selections you must make in order to reach the record manually; i.e., without searching for the person's name at the home page. In the second example I typically would just search for the FHL film number in the FamilySeach Catalog to get to the online database and images, therefore getting to the record much quicker.

Do either of those citations make sense? I was also thinking of citing the actual book the image came from. It is the first image, on the spine, and I would use this title: Eau Claire County, Record of Citizenship, 1879–1892, vol. 3 [not sure if in quotes or italicized].

While I'm at it, is it necessary to write out the full URL using "http://www...," or is it ok to simply enter ( : accessed [date])?

Thank you for any help, Chuck

Submitted byEEon Mon, 05/20/2013 - 11:02


Ah, yes. We love all the hundreds of millions of record images now at FamilySearch—but, for certain, all the website changes call for deep thinking about the best way to identify an image found there. Amid the conference-institute season that we're in the middle of, EE has not had time to explore the revamped site adequately to determine a basic pattern that will work for all things. In the interim, let's find something workable for your situtation.

1. Starting with your last question: Should you use the long URL? Considering (a) that it's so long that it would barely make it through Twitter; (b) the fact that it consists of seemingly random numbers and letters with nothing intuitive or self-identifying about it, and (c) the likelihood of making a typo in trying to copy it, EE can't recommend using the long URL.

2. With regard to your proposed citation:

"Petitions for Naturalization, 1879–1892, vol. 3," in "Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992," digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 November 2013), Eau Claire County, p. 324, Hans Christian Hansen, 10 April 1890.

Two things are noticeable here:

  • Your cited page number is considerably distant from the identity of the record book to which it refers;
  • The drastic difference between the citation and the pathway you first described makes it likely that the image would not be retrievable with the data that's given here.

Using the path you described presents another couple of issues:

  • The actual book that we find when we click on "Petitions for Naturalization, 1879–1892, vol. 3" does not carry that same title. The original book is stamped "Record of Citizenship, Vol. 3, 1879–1882."  This means that anyone who attempts to match your citation to the original book in the Eau Claire Courthouse would have a problem.
  • You cite p. 324, but the FS image base offers only 231 images. Exploring the book, which has unnumbered pages and double pages per image on the numbered ones, we can eventually find p. 324 on image 189; but a citation should not require us to do this.

3. Considering these points, it would be wise to go back to two fundamental principles of digital citations:

  • A citation to a provider's database (a new digital creation) would emphasize the database. A citation to images of original records created in printed form should emphasize the original records.
  • A citation to records digitized online has two basic parts: (a) a citation to the original; and (b) a citation to the online provider and the location of its image.

4. All things considered--including the URL vs. Path issue and the non-identification of the microfilm, EE would likely cite your image this way:

Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, "Record of Citizenship, Vol. 3, 1879–1882," p. 324, petition of Hans Christian Hansen, 10 April 1890; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 May? 2013), path: Search > Browse All Published Collections > United States > Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992 > Browse through 1,135,393 images > Eau Claire > Petitions for Naturalization 1879–1892 vol 3 > image 189.

Following this pattern, with emphasis on the original record, anyone can use that part of your citation to relocate the record, regardless of whether they use the FS website, the microfilm at FHL, the microfilm in some other library, or the original. It should also be locatable even after FS makes another overhaul of its website.




Submitted bychmcgeeon Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:23

Hello again!

I was digging around on your website, still looking for better ideas on using paths in FamilySearch (I just don't like all of those >>> symbols), and I found this old discussion I started.

Since my original post, I've come up with what I think is a slightly better way of citing this record:

Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, “Record of Citizenship, Vol. 3, 1879–1882,” p. 324, petition of Hans Christian Hansen, 10 April 1890; “Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992,” digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 April 2016), path: Browse through 1,135,393 images > Eau Claire > Petitions for Naturalization 1879–1892 vol 3 > image 189.

Since "Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992” has its own URL, I thought this would make a cleaner citation. But I'm wondering if that collection name should come before "digital image ..." or after the URL; i.e., digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 April 2016), “Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807–1992,” path: .... (Does it matter?)

Also, way back two years ago I asked about shortening URLs, but I wasn't referring to shortening super long ones. What I meant was would it be OK to use ( : accessed [date]) instead of ( : accessed [date])?


Submitted byEEon Wed, 04/13/2016 - 17:55

Chuck, your latest model is indeed a model. The only tweak EE might make would be to truncate that "Browse through 1,135,393 images" down to "Browse" or "Browse ...".

As for the question in your last paragraph, opinions still seem to be divided over the need for "http:// ." EE uses it in an abundance of caution. Most editors still do. Some don't. Users are also split.

Submitted bydsliesseon Thu, 04/14/2016 - 00:05

If the leader in the URL is "http:" then it's probably not necessary to quote it.  If it's "https:", however, it's important.  I've seen -- recently -- cases in which a browser couldn't figure out it was necessary to tack on the s to make things work.

(In a perfect world, of course, http: would just go away and everything would be https: and HTML5 would completely replace Flash Player.  I'm not holding my breath.)

Submitted bystoneon Thu, 04/14/2016 - 10:10

As one that deals with technology every day, leaving out the http:// on a URL is like specifying a source without a repository.  Granted, it can seem overkill when many of the URLs all start with the same prefix, but the prefix (or more correctly "scheme") tells how to access the source and there are a number of them that can be used today for genalogical citations.


http: HyperText Transfer Protocol (language of the web)

https: Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol (very different from http and not always "better")

ftp: File Transfer Protocol

sftp: Secure FTP

tftp: Trivial FTP

news: Usenet News Archives

nntp: Network News Transfer Protocol (another Usenet news protocol)

smb: Server Message Block (aka Samba) protocol (file share mounts common in Linux)

cifs: Common Internet File System (file share mounts common in Windows)

ldap: Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (common for directory information like addresses)



As of 20 March, 2016, IANA (registering body) lists 240 registered schemes.  Many new ones are appearing as technology changes.


So, if we don't put the scheme in the URL, would the expectation be to use http because that is perceived to be the most common scheme today?  If so, and the perceived most common scheme changes over time (e.g. to https), then our unspecified scheme links won't work.  


In the technology world, URLs are less permant that any of us would like.  Specifying the scheme in the URL will help ensure that our citations last at least as long as the source.


    - Brad


Submitted bychmcgeeon Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:07

Thank you everyone for clarifying how URLs work. I'll be sticking with citing them with the "prefix."

Submitted byJadeon Fri, 04/22/2016 - 08:50

Chuck's original post stated that "the FHL microfilm number doesn't accompany the record database."

It should be noted that there are many digitized images uploaded to the Historical Records site that never were on microfilm (such as a huge database of U.S. Government Land Office tract descriptions) or that have been digitized from films in possession of different entities and uploaded.  These databases never were on microfilms in possession of the Family History Library and are not listed in the FHL catalog.

FamilySearch is also now digitizing documents in repositories all over the world, which also will not appear in microfilm listings of the FHL.  As technology changes, so does the methodology of database acquisition.

Submitted byc0r8g30on Tue, 11/23/2021 - 20:52

Happy Thanksgiving week,

Following up on this thread, with a similar instance for NY Eastern District Court records, where the record I am citing has a description error at FamilySearch (anyone know who to contact about that?), would this citation, along with the discursive note, be acceptable:

District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York, “Naturalization records, cert. no. 114651-442129, 5-18 Mar. 1946,” petition of Shirley Witztum, 13 Mar 1946, cert# 441997; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 Nov 2021), p1363 of 1902; FHL Microfilm 2,406,053. Note, the film description at FamilySearch is incorrect. It describes the film as Naturalization records, cert. no. 114651–442129, 5–18 Mar. 1946,” but the first range number should be 441651.

Submitted byEEon Wed, 12/08/2021 - 17:12

c048g30, my apologies for not seeing this add-on query when you posted it.

Yes, your added notation is useful.  This particular set of records embodies other issues also.  In fact, this set differs in a quite fundamental way from the Wisconsin example that had been previously discussed in this thread: 

  • The Wisconsin example involves a specific, named, record book that is available in the county clerk’s office in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin. Anyone without access to the film can go there and easily find that one book by that title.
  • Your example involves thousands of loose papers, for whom we have no collection name or archival number and no identification of an archive or  location data as to where to find the original.

Let’s look at several issues here.

Title of the record set: 

The ID “target” created by the camera operators when the records were filmed states: "Naturalization, U.S. District Court Rec., East District of NY, Item 1." However, if we were to use this as a "title" for the records, immediately after the identity of the creator of the records, then the second field of our citation would redundantly repeat what is in the first field.

Beneath the film strip, under “Information,” FamilySearch gives no citation but provides two different descriptions of the record set:

  • Final petition and citizenship papers (New York), 1865–1958
  • Naturalization records, cert. no. 114651–442129, 5–18 Mar. 1946

Neither is a “named collection.” If we were to go to the list of collections on FS’s main search menu, and search for either set of words, we would not find it. Both pieces of info represent catalog descriptions, with the second being a subset of the first.

The upshot is that we have no collection title to put in either Layer 1 or Layer 2.


Because we lack sufficient data to cite the original record, in its original format, our Layer 1 should begin with the FamilySearch database that we are using. After identifying it, then we will drill down to the image and identify it. Layer 2, then, would report whatever source-of-the-source information FamilySearch gives.

Page number vs. image number:

On the fourth line of your citation, after the parenthetical “publication data,” you’ve cited “p1363 of 1902." Actually these are not page numbers in a book. We’re not even dealing with a paginated book; all these are “loose” papers. What those numbers represent are FamilySearch image numbers.

“FHL Microfilm 2,406,053.”

The images do come from FHL microfilm 2406053. However, FamilySearch is moving toward digital film numbers. We see the digital film number 7777591 in the top left of the screen, above the image. Because we are not dealing with a named collection, that digital film number is the key identifier for this set of digital film.

All points considered, EE would suggest using the digital film > path format for these untitled materials at FamilySearch.  In the example below,

  • Layer 1 identifies the website, the film, the image number, and the ID of what appears on that image number.
  • Layer 2 tells us what our provider cites for its source, using quotation marks around the exact words that we are copying.

       1. FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 Nov 2021) > digital film 7777591 > image 1363 of 1902, naturalization petition of Shirley Witztum, 13 Mar 1946, cert. no. 441997, District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York; citing FHL microfilm 2,406,053, “Naturalization records, cert. no. 114651-442129, 5-18 Mar. 1946.” Note, the film description at FamilySearch incorrectly states the first number in this series of certificates; it should be 441651, not 114651.