I am in a situation where I found a matching birth date in a baptism certificate through the search function of family search, but upon following the link to the index, I don't find that information reported anymore. Sadly, the original records don't seem to be viewable online. Can someone shed on what to think about such a situation?

Here is the link to the search that I performed. The second entry "Johanne Dorothea Schulz" is the one giving me headaches.

  • 1
    I agree that this question needs to be edited for clarity. Ancestry sometimes displays the search terms used by the user in a way that makes it appear that they should be in the results when they actually are not, but I've not seen the same kind of problem on FamilySearch.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 10, 2014 at 15:54
  • I think the record points to an ancestry.com document. I suppose what happens here is that the index of the search engine has more information than is made available by ancestry.com for "public viewing"?
    – kutschkem
    Feb 10, 2014 at 19:28
  • The catalog entries are a bit confusing, maybe because the collection is being republished. But this seems to be the entry associated with Batch number C-99816-1: familysearch.org/search/catalog/… The catalog says it is a computer printout of extracted records, so -- no images of the original registers. Pity.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


"What to think?"

I would think, "I don't know enough about what I am looking at." and look for more information about the collection of historical records I had found.

  • Do I have a good understand of the how the search engine works?

What turns up in a search result is a function of how 'fuzzy' your search was. If you don't understand why something was presented to you in a search result, or why you didn't get any results when you were expecting to get something, sometimes it helps to take a step back and learn more about how the search functions work.

  • Some online displays of search results can be misleading or confusing

FamilySearch vital records are displayed with a stock template which includes all the different fields one might commonly expect in a vital record. These have many fields by nature because they need to cover all the contingencies that indexers might encounter. That is, different geographical areas will include different information, but the template has to cover everyone. Researchers who are not familiar with the indexing process may not realize that, and assume that all that information should be found in every vital record, when this is not the case. Most providers have an explanation somewhere of what information is actually contained in that particular record; for FamilySearch.org, that is the The FamilySearch Research Wiki.

  • Some collections have problems (known issues)

The FamilySearch Research Wiki has attached articles on problems with some collections. For example, for one of the collections of Massachusetts Marriages, the Known Issues article says:

Question #1: When searching Batch I00949-5 in this collection, I find that the date listed for the marriage date is the same date as the death date found in Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915. Is this the death date or the marriage date?

Answer #1: All of the marriage dates found in Batch I00949-5 are death dates. This can be confirmed by searching for the same person in the Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915 collection and viewing the image of the actual death record.

In this case, the reason that searchers get an unexpected result is that there is actually something wrong with the data extraction, or that the information is misleading. (The difficulty may have arisen in this particular case because this is a user-submitted batch. Death certificates have information about the spouse, thus there is evidence that a person had been married, but there is no date of marriage on the death certificate. Presumably someone tried to preserve this inferred evidence.)

  • What to expect from a particular collection

The wiki can also help you understand the reason the historical records were collected, and give more information about what you can expect to find in a search result. For instance: your question is about a baptism, but if you had searched for a UK birth certificate from after 1834, I wouldn't expect an index to have an exact matching date in the index itself because the indexes report the quarter in which the birth was registered. The other thing to consider is that an index is a finding aid, so --

  • Find the original records

The original records may not be available online, but that doesn't mean you have to stop there. You can look the records up in the catalog and order the microfilm. The questions How can I find out more information about the microfilms and indexes in the FHL before I order the film? and How can I find out if records in a FHL microfilm are available to view online? and their answers have some examples of how to use the catalog to determine what microfilm you might need.

  • For more information, look for other finding aids and articles about the records

See the Q: How can I find out if records in a FHL microfilm are available to view online? for a discussion of the Family History Library Register describing the vital records held by the FHL for the area under investigation. Are there similar finding aids for the area you are looking in? Check the catalog. If there is a Register for that area, it will explain what records are held by the library, including indexes and records. Other local libraries and archives might have similar finding aids for their own collections that may help you understand the context of the records and the information you might expect to find in them.

Here is the relevant article. See the bolded part of this quote:

Germany Births and Baptisms (FamilySearch Historical Records)/Known Issues

Question #2: Some indexed entries have missing or incorrect information regarding the birth date, birth place, baptism/christening place, or film number. Is the missing/correct information available?

Answer #2: Birth/christening records that were previously viewed on FamilySearch may not currently be available on-line. This collection is one of three collections that were formed from a previous large FamilySearch collection. When the new collections were published, some of the records were omitted. This issue is being researched to determine when and if the purged records can be recovered. Since all of the records were extracted from microfilms that are still available, any missing records can be located by searching the Library Catalog and viewing the relevant films at a FamilySearch Center.

Known specifics concerning missing or incorrect information regarding the birth date, birth place, baptism/christening place, or film number are listed below:

The birth date and birth place may be erroneously excluded from an indexed entry. In such cases, this information can be found on the search results page (prior to opening the record).

  • Perhaps I should have waited until we got more information about the question, but I tried to write a general answer that would help anyone who got a search result and then said "what? I'm confused".
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 10, 2014 at 17:11
  • 1
    The fact that these records have been republished might be the cause of the REFERENCE-ERROR in the citation -- see Citing this Citation at the bottom of the detail page: "Deutschland, Geburten und Taufen 1558-1898," index, FamilySearch (familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NDSF-L85 : accessed 11 Feb 2014), Johanne Dorothea Schulz, 04 Nov 1866; citing [REFERENCE-ERROR]; FHL microfilm 245399, 245400, 245401.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 11, 2014 at 7:21

FamilySearch uses templates to display information on record detail pages. The templates define what information should be shown, including the name of the field and where in the record that information is found. The record contains a birth date but the template for the collection "Germany Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898" is looking for the birth information in a different field.

I'm not as familiar with how the search engine works but I imagine it has a list of different field names where birth dates can be found, so it's able to correctly index and display it.

I would report this issue to FamilySearch via one of the options in the "Get Help" dropdown.

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