A year or so ago I found this index-only marriage record for Richard Griffiths Jr. (no idea why they added a second "Griffiths" in) and Mary Gomersall on Ancestry. I believe it is for the right couple but I can't be 100% sure. enter image description here At the time I didn't pursue it any farther because there was no original image immediately available. I have now circled back around to it, however, in a somewhat desperate attempt to figure out who either of their parents were (they both immigrated from England).

I currently do not have an Ancestry account for financial reasons, so I can't go back and look at the indexed record for more information (I screenshot or download all of the relevant results I find, which is why I have this image). I had hoped to find the same record on FamilySearch in order to get the film number so I can request an image. However, no combination of search terms that I have tried has yielded a result.

How can I determine the microfilm number or otherwise find the original image of this marriage license?

  • Upvoted both for asking a good question, and for being able to find the record referenced in my answer before I could locate it!
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


This doesn't answer your question, but you should be aware that you don't need to have an Ancestry subscription to view the Ancestry Card Catalog. Once your subscription lapses, your account should revert to a Guest status. You can see this by viewing your account -- it looks like this:

enter image description here

By searching in the Ancestry Card Catalog, you can view the page for that specific database, and read the information underneath the search form. Let's look at the information you would have seen if you had clicked the Learn More link before you made your screenshot:

enter image description here

As you've already noted, both the Source Information and the About the Database sections are annoyingly bare. So the best thing to do is to search for other ways to access Rhode Island Vital Records on the web.

One such option is in the earlier answer but can we find more? Try looking for finding aids as well as looking for the records themselves.

One of the databases at NEHGS is Rhode Island: Vital Records, 1636-1850. Their about the database says:


In 1891, James N. Arnold began publishing a series of vital records books for the towns of Rhode Island. The series would go on to include church records and newspaper records, ultimately filling twenty-one volumes with information. This re-indexing of our original 2002 database includes records from Volumes 1-12.

All 21 volumes are available for viewing at the NEHGS Research Library, call number F78.A75. Search Tips

SEARCH for MAIDEN NAMES IN FIRST NAME FIELD. Search for spouses and/or parents names IN THE KEYWORDS FIELD.

But what if you don't have a NEHGS membership, and the database is not currently available to Registered Guest users? There are two things you can do.

  1. Sign up for the NEHGS newsletter so you will get news of promotions -- sometimes NEHGS offers free access to an entire state's records to encourage users to explore the site.
  2. Look for the vital records books cited above in other libraries, like the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (note: some books may be viewable at your local FHC; others may be available for you to download), or use WorldCat to find the book in a library near you.
  3. Because of the age of the books, you may be able to find scanned copies at digital libraries like Google Books, the Internet Archive, or Hathi Trust.

But you don't want to stop at this printed work. You want to get the original image if you can. How do you do that?

NEHGS's guide Using Arnold’s Vital Record of Rhode Island — In Print and Online has the answer:

Whether you use the printed or online version of Arnold’s set, you should always return to the original documents for the specific towns. There are many discrepancies in the original Arnold transcriptions. There is evidence of spelling changes and misinterpretation of the family data presented in the town records. It is not necessary to travel to Rhode Island to access the town documents. While the original records are available on microfilm at the Rhode Island Historical Society Library (121 Hope St, Providence, RI, 02906), these reels can also be ordered directly through the Family History Libraries of the Church of Latter-day Saints or via the NEHGS library. Use their website to find the appropriate reel numbers.

However, FamilySearch is discontinuing microfilm distribution:

On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.)

We know from the previous answer that the images are online, but if they were not (or if their image is not very readable), the NEGHS/AmericanAncestors.org research guide gives your other options for viewing the microfilm, and the FamilySearch Wiki article tells you where you can write the state of Rhode Island.

Searching for 1879 marriages in findmypast's US Marriages Collection gives 8,239 results. If I search for Mary Gomersall, I get three hits, all of which cite FamilySearch microfilms -- two different FHL film numbers. Going back to the FamilySearch catalog and entering the film numbers will show you the film notes, which will give more insight into the nature of the records.

  1. film 2364529 (cited in the earlier answer) is part of Births 1886-1902 and marriages 1885-1902, returns of births and marriages 1900-1902 (Pawtucket, R.I.) from Pawtucket (Rhode Island). Town Clerk (Main Author), published in 1996 and 2003, and contains "Marriage records v. 4 ( 1902, from p. 247) ; returns of marriage: 1900 ; 1901"
  2. one search result from film 001845636, which is part of Providence, Rhode Island : births (1876-1890), marriages (1870-1891), and deaths (1880-1892), from Providence (Rhode Island). City Registrar (Main Author), and contains "Marriages : v. 10 (1870-1873), v. 11 (1873-1876), v. 12 (1876-1879)". This film is available to view online but is not yet indexed and must be browsed (camera icon only).
  3. two search results from film 001822995, which is part of Vital records & indexes for births, deaths, and marriages, 1853 through 1900 from Rhode Island. Division of Vital Records (Main Author) and consists of "MARRIAGES Vols. 26-28: 1879-1881". The images for this microfilm are available at a FHC and presumably to people with an LDS account -- clicking the camera icon results in this message: enter image description here

On findmypast, the image from film 001845636 shows a register book with the headers "Marriages registered in the city of Providence city register for the year ending December 31st, 1879.". We can get a hint about the equivalent record at FamilySearch by examining the URL:


Note that the old PAL number is encoded in the code. See https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/4154/1006 for a discussion of identifiers, including PAL, FamilySearch's article on Persistent identifiers, and Wikipedia: Archival Reference Key for more information on ARK.

Adding information from the comments:

I tried browsing Film 1845636 but had difficulty finding the waypoint for the register books. However, the image is there:

Rhode Island, Vital records, 1846-1898, 1901-1953," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C955-R1KT?cc=1935767&wc=7CWR-B83%3A1590162406 : accessed 29 July 2017), 004146235 > image 739 of 781; Rhode Island State Archives, Providence.

Note that this register book says who performed the marriage -- that gives you a pointer to church records.

Presumably one of the hits from Film 001822995 is the index and the other is the register (the state's copy, rather than the city copy which is the one on Film 001845636). This is why we're supposed to check all jurisdictions.

  • 1
    That's great, thank you. I had been unable to find images of any of my relatives Rhode Island marriages, so I hadn't realized the images were actually online until today (I guess I missed that when reading about the collection). Hopefully they are organized more or less by date....
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 22:36
  • I was getting excited there for a minute. Alas, it appears that the FamilySearch records for 1879-1882 actually only covers January to April 1879, then skips to May of 1882. I suppose the September of 1879 records may be mis-indexed elsewhere, I'll have to see if I can find where.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 22:55
  • I just got into film 001845636 on FamilySearch. Let me see if I can find the record in there.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 22:59
  • 3
    BINGO!!! We have success! Richard Griifiths Jr. and Mary Bruce Gomersall, September 14, 1879. Film 1845636, page 739. Thank you very much Jan, you were a huge help.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 23:05
  • 3
    I'll have to go to the nearest FHC (only 25 minutes away, which is nice) and check out film 001822995 to see if that adds any more information. But I now have two new names and confirmation on two others, which is fantastic.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 23:25

The index record is still present in Ancestry.com but no longer has the doubling up of Griffiths:

Name:   Mary B Gomersall
Spouse: Richard Griffiths Jr
Marriage Date:  14 Sep 1879

You may be interested in another record for Mary, which does have an image:

"Rhode Island, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1630-1945," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F8KQ-YB7 : accessed 29 July 2017), Mary B. Cumersall in entry for Richard M. Dugdale and Emily Griffith, 13 May 1901; citing Marriage, Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, Rhode Island State Archive, Providence City Archives, city and town clerk offices; FHL microfilm 2,364,529.

  • 2
    I guess though that part of the original poster's issue still stands. That Ancestry Index contains nothing in the way of a useful citation to enable anyone to understand where they got their 1879 data from. Just a vague description. That was the first place I looked - at the description of the index database - only to discover it said nothing useful. Other Ancestry entries can be much more useful.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 11:41
  • @AdrianB38 I was hoping to look for the same record in FindMyPast but I only have a U.K. subscription for that.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 11:47
  • I don't think it breaks the no look up rule if I tell you that FMP's Rhode Island record sets have 378k births and baptisms, 269k deaths and burials but no datasets dedicated to RI marriages, only a mere 15k dataset of Church Records.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 11:55
  • 1
    Yeah, I was really hoping to find some citation or information to narrow down where to find an image of Richard Griffiths and Mary Gomersall's marriage license. That said, that marriage license you linked is also quite nice, so +1 for that, because that is my great great grandfather and grandmother. I have the original physical copy of their formal marriage certificate, but hadn't seen the state vital record before.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 21:14
  • 1
    Because, I now see, @JanMurphy that it's in "United States Marriages". D'oh.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 6:45

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