Viewing Restricted FamilySearch Collections

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Magritte's"La Trahison des Images" ("The Treachery of Images")(1928-9) or "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not apipe").

René Magritte's message was that images do not convey the full sense of an object.  Observers are often fooled into thinking thata simulacrum is the real thing.

In the field of genealogy research, nothing cansubstitute for “the real thing”; i.e., the actual record, as opposed to anindex or a transcription of a record.  Thereal thing contains the complete information that you need in order to identifyan ancestor, locate his or her parents, and in general, make the connectionsyou need to fill in those blanks on your family tree.

When presented with the opportunity to access the realthing, no one wants to be confronted with yet another obstacle to gettingup-close and personal with that long-lost ancestor.  Yet that is happening with increasingfrequency on the FamilySearch website, among others.

Many of the record collections in FamilySearch arerestricted, and the number of restricted collections isincreasing due to privacy laws, among other reasons. This blog explains youroptions for viewing a particular document you have located through FamilySearch but which has restrictions placed on it. 

For example, recently FamilySearch teamed up withFindMyPast to create the Ireland, Landed Estate Court Files, 1850–1885:


This searchable collection contains 682,055 Irish land-occupationrecords from the nineteenth century. These records include details on bankruptestates as well as on landowners and tenants from all counties in Ireland.

However, when you try to display any of the actualrecords, the following message appears:

Unfortunately, FamilySearch has limited access tothese records.  This could be fornumerous reasons, including the archive's request, copyright laws, or the factthat FamilySearch purchased only limited access rights.

In order to view the image, you have the followingoptions:

  • Go to an FamilySearch Center or other LDS-affiliatedinstitution (such as the Family History Library or Brigham Young University). Find the LDS FamilySearch Center closest to you.

Hereis another example of a restricted collection. This time, let's suppose you want to access the book entitled, History of the Jacob Bastian family:histories, pictures and genealogy of Jacob Bastian, his four wives and theirchildren.  Using the FamilySearchcatalog ( OR,you learn that the book is online at:

Clickingthis link displays the following screen:

However,when you click "here" as directed, the following error message isdisplayed:

Onceagain, FamilySearch has limited access to this book.  This might be due to the author's request,copyright laws, or any number of other reasons. To view a specific page from the book, you have the following options:

  • Go to an FamilySearch Center or other LDS-affiliatedinstitution.

The next time you are unable to view a record, whetherbecause it is not online or viewing is restricted in some way, don’t settle fora mere representation or summarized version of it.  Remember that provides freelookups and will send you the desired record via email usually within 72 hoursof receiving your lookup request.  We arededicated to helping you overcome those viewing restrictions and providing the mostaccurate and complete picture of your family’s past.

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December 22, 2012
Wesley is the founder of

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