FamilySearch...same image in 3 different image so confused!

Yes this is kindof a discussion on ark vs paths vs microfilm vs image group numbers...but mostly in the sense of I have confused myself on which way to cite things.

In short, when looking up a record on FamilySearch, depending on which way you go about it, the same page appears in 3 different image sets, ie. 3 different groups of images.

That is…if you access it one way, it is image 122 of 848. If you access it a second way, it is image 30 of 32. If you access it a 3rd way it is image 146 of 872.

Which has left me totally paralyzed on which way to cite it.

Option 1: cite the database abstract page:

  • PRO: Short & Sweet, relatively
  • CON: link is to the extract page, not the original image; I like citing the actual image because that is where I get my data, not the extract

Option 2: cite the image as accessed from the database abstract page (click on “view original document”):

  • PRO: links directly to an image
  • CON: really, really, long url; don’t want to use such a long url in citation
  • NOTE: image 122 of 848

Option 3: cite the image from option 2, but remove everything after the first question mark to shorten the url:

  • PRO: shorter url, linking direct to image
  • CON: image numbers change!
  • NOTE: image 30 of 32

Option 4: skip all of those and use the url of the 1870 collection page instead and use path: > Michigan > Allegan > Casco > img 30 of 32

  • PRO: shortish and plain url, no special characters, etc.
  • CON: not a direct link to the specific image; will the collection number ever change?
  • NOTE: image 30 of 32

Option 5: use the microfilm number or image group number as shown on the database page. In other words, from the option 1 link, expand the “document information”. The microfilm number is 552159. The digital folder number is 004271401_002_M9CF-VTN. If you search the catalog for film 552159, there are 2 results. Same happens if you search 4271401. If you select the top item “Michigan, 1870 federal census” you can then click on the camera icon for the line that matches 552159/4271401 out of multiple entries. This is another different set of images in that it is 872 images instead of 848 or 32. The relevant image is # 146 of 872.

  • PRO: microfilm number unlikely to ever change, though FS is moving towards image group numbers
  • CON: not as simple as using a direct url; number doesn't lead to just one catalog entry
  • NOTE: image 146 of 872


Having typed all this out, my inclination is to use either option 3 or 4 and/or combine them in some manner.


But, what on earth has FamilySearch done to make this so complicated! Why is the same image in 3 different image sets? 848 images vs 32 images vs 872 images!

Submitted byEEon Mon, 04/15/2024 - 18:31

Hello, niteowl1851. EE would likely use Option 4, for the reasons you state. As for the last paragraphs, I can't answer your question; but I do understand the feeling behind it!

Thanks EE! I definitely wrote all that out while feeling a little enraged! 3 sets of image groups with different amounts of images! ugh!


Here's where I'm at using option 4.

1870 U.S. census, Allegan County, Michigan, population schedule, Casco Township, p. 30, dwelling 263, family 248, John Decker household; accessed as “United States Census, 1870,” images, FamilySearch ( : 14 April 2024), Browse > Michigan > Allegan > Casco > image 30 of 32.


Is the word "browse" necessary or generally understood. I left it in here initially since from the collection page you do have to click on the button that says browse all images.

Niteowl1851, if we don't include that word "browse," when users of our citation its that landing page for collection 1438024, their natural instinct will be to type in the name of interest into the search box.