QuickLesson 25: ARKs, PALs, Paths & Waypoints

Dear Editor,

I have read the QuickLesson 25 (many times) but I think I am really losing the plot today.

I am trying to cite a record found on FamilySearch, that has not been indexed, and is at this point of time, only found through browsable images. There is however, an ARK identifier that will lead directly to the image.

So far, this is what I have constructed:

Exeter, Devon, Diocesan Records, John Chave-Elizabeth Rowe, 1742; accessed as "England, Devon, Exeter diocesan records, marriage bonds and allegations, 1660-1905," browsable images, FamilySearch  (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XCHS-7X5 : 12 November 2019); FHL microfilm 4,339,785, image 15 of 58.

Should I use the ARK weblink or use with the catalogue details with way points. If I do the catalogue, there seems to be a lot of repetitive wording....

Thanks in advance for your opinion.



Submitted byEEon Thu, 11/14/2019 - 19:00

Robyn, look again at the first part of your citation. You have a location (Exeter, Devon) and a type of record (“diocesan records”—i.e., district level church records). If I were to tell you that there's a marriage record for that couple in church records in the the city of Exeter, would you consider that enough to identify the record? Where in Exeter, Devon, are these records?

Your ARK takes us to a specific image. That’s a convenience. But it does not give us the details we need to evaluate the source. Yes, the database that you cite in Level 2 does tell us “England, Devon, Exeter diocesan records, marriage bonds and allegations, 1660-1905,” but that’s a very broad catch-all category that leaves us with other ID questions:

  • What exactly are you citing? The phrase “Exeter diocesan records, marriage bonds and allegations” can be interpreted various ways (which the use of an Oxford comma might clear up, but one's not there). Does that database title mean
    • diocesan records AND marriage bonds AND allegations? Or…
    • diocesan records—specifically marriage bonds and allegations?
  • Which are you citing: A bond or an allegation?
  • Are you citing a record created by the diocese itself, or a copy sent from the local parish to the diocese?

When we use the ARK, the first thing we see is a pop-up screen that says:

This raises other questions about the ID and location of the records being used. The Devon City Council is a civil government agency. Are we being told that these are civil copies of the diocesan (religious) records?

The citation that we end up with needs to answer these questions. We, as researchers, need to answer these questions in order to understand the record’s level of credibility and the conclusions that we draw from it. The text of the record itself tells us that we have a marriage bond, but other questions are left unanswered.


You ask whether you need to use catalog details with way points. The image in this case carries no header that identifies waypoints. So how would one determine what the waypoints are?  That leads to more analysis, which answers some of the questions above.

If we click the “Information” tab in the bottom left of the screen that the ARK leads to, that tab gives us two things:


  1. It gives us a smaller collection name, "Marriage Bonds and Allegations, September-October 1742," which looks like it could be a waypoint but we don't yet know how or where it would fit into the path.
  2. It gives us a link to the catalog description.

At the link, we see this …



If we click the link at “References,” we get this:


The background data is very helpful, but it also introduces confusion.

  • It tells us that these are “marriage bonds and allegations” from 1660–1912. But then it tells us that the documents between 1734 and 1842 are licenses.  Your document of interest is from 1742. It’s definitely a bond, not a license.
  • It tells us that the 1843–1876 records are bound into volumes while the pre-1843 records are not. (In other words, what we're seeing are the original loose bonds, as posted with the bishop.) The cataloging further tells us that that 1734–1842 records ("licenses") are archived as “Chanter 131–140” but does not tell us which chanter number would have the loose licenses/bonds from 1742—specifically those of September–October 1742, as identified in the bottom-right corner of FS's information tab.

If we were to attempt to create waypoints from this, we would have

Devon and Cornwall marriages, 1660-1912 > Devon > chanter 131-140


Devon and Cornwall marriages, 1660–1912 > Devon > Marriage bonds and allegations, September-October 1742

But we don't know how the "September-October 1742" fits into "Chanter 131-140." We cannot carry the waypoint any further. At this point, the waypoints would have to switch from an archival description used in the Devon Record Office to a film number created by FamilySearch. We would not want to do that.

Below the cataloging data, we see a list of all the film that delivers this collection. If we scroll down the list to microfilm 4339785, we see this ...


This echoes the data given to us under the "Information" tab but  we still need a bridge to get from the archival description/chanter nos. (which cover 108 years) down to box that covers two months. Our efforts to find waypoints still need a bridge that still is not there.

When we click on the camera icon, we’re taken to images 1–58 that you cite. There is no front matter to describe or identify what we are using.

Bottom line here: We use waypoints when the website's architecture gives us a clear path— clear menu options so that one click leads to the next to the next.


EE's recommendation:

 The best approach is a standard citation with three layers, in in which

  • Layer 1 describes the original record we are eyeballing, with whatever data we can verify through our visual examination of the image
  • Layer 2 identifies the database and website
  • Layer 3 identifies the source-of-the-source information given us by the image provider in its catalog.

Original (loose) marriage bond for John Chave-Elizabeth Rowe, 9 September 1742, marriage to be performed in the church of Tiverton or Sompford; imaged in “England, Devon, Exeter diocesan records, marriage bonds and allegations, 1660-1905,” database with browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/71903/3:1:S3HT-XCHS-7X5 : accessed 12 November 2019); citing FamilySearch microfilm 4,339,785 and Church of England Diocese of Exeter, Marriage Bonds 1734–1832, Chanter 131–140, Devon Record Office, Exeter.

As a breakdown:

  • Layer 1 identifies the document and parties, the date, and a key piece of data that points to where the marriage would have occurred. That's all we can glean from eyeballing the record.
  • Layer 2 identifies “Database Title,” type of database, Website Name which is Eponymous, so Creator Is Not Named (URL/ARK : date).
  • Layer 3 reports the provider’s identification of source by (a) its microfilm number and (b) Name of Record Creator, Identity of Record Group, location within record group, Archive name and location.

Interesting exercise, Robyn!  And to think that, after all this, we still don't have a marriage date or even proof that the marriage ever occurred.  So let's ask our readers: Where would you go from here?


Submitted byRobynRon Fri, 11/15/2019 - 04:14

Dear Editor,

I already had the church register record of the marriage (John Chave-Betty Row) which I have now attached - maybe I should have mentioned the in the first query...I found the record on FamilySearch just recently. I do apologise. I am reading your answer on the fly at the moment, but am most definitely going to take the time to read it very carefully to evaluate your suggestions.

Thank you so much for the time you have taken to look at this and reply.



Robyn, no apologies needed. We're glad you have the record.

That added thought in my last paragraph was a "broader teaching lesson" to all our readers. So often we do see a bond cited as proof of marriage. You provided an excellent opportunity to remind our readers of two things: (1) a marriage bond is not a marriage record; and (2) every time we find a document, we should ask ourselves how we can use the details from this record to find something else.


Submitted byRobynRon Fri, 11/15/2019 - 04:30

So not to confuse the question any further, I had found an image of the original church register on Findmypast, in the "Devon Marriages" database with images, in 2017;  that was the image just uploaded. However, I had only just discovered the England, Devon, Exeter diocesan records, marriage bonds and allegations, 1660-1905 on FS recently.