Dealing with FS's catalog and collection changes with regard to old source citations

A post to the Transitional Genealogists list at states that FamilySearch is creating a new catalog; that the existing catalog was “frozen” in September 2022; and that, while work is in progress, their adding more images to the new DGS catalog system is causing problems.

I’ve noticed several changes in the catalog’s naming and organization of records collections. Some of FS’s collection names have changed (say, to update the years covered or to reflect the inclusion of additional locations) and sometimes the number of images has also changed (resulting in a different image number for “my” record in a revised grouping). As a result, my older citations are no longer accurate.

Considering that FamilySearch will likely continue adding new records to collections indefinitely—a wonderful thing in itself but not without problems—what’s a genealogist to do? Checking and rewriting “old” source citations seems futile if existing collections continue to grow (as I certainly hope they will). However I’m concerned that my existing citations won’t allow the reader to locate my sources easily. I’d very much appreciate EE’s advice.

Thank you!


Submitted byEEon Tue, 02/06/2024 - 09:56

Hello, F.T.C. 

The digital age has definitely created new problems for everyone conducting long-term research projects. When we use archived records within physical facilities, the odds are slim that the records will be subsequently reorganized. However, when we use records organized digitally, the only thing we can be sure of is that there will be changes.

So, what is a researcher to do?

1. When we create a citation, we should invest time and thought into understanding and detailing the record—both its physical characteristics and its location.

2. When we create a citation to an online database or image, we carefully and fully identify the provider’s website, the specific database (if there is one), and other essential details for digital access, so that we have sufficient breadcrumbs to follow after link rot develops.

3. When, amid ongoing research, we discover that a past citation to a virtual source no longer works, then we have two choices:

  • We may, at that point, go back through our past research notes and update all citations to that database or site—knowing that, over the course of a long-term project, we might have to do this several times; or
  • We may choose to do delay “universal” corrections until and unless we reach the point of publication (or sharing). Always, before publication, we should reexamine every citation and make certain that it is still usable.

Submitted byF.T.C.on Tue, 02/06/2024 - 13:09

Many thanks! Perhaps it will help to remind myself as I slog through citation revisions that it would have taken far longer to travel to the repositories holding the original records than it does to update my footnotes and that traveling to all of them would not have been possible given the time and expense involved.