Help get this topic noticed by sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Apparent end of religiously discriminatory record access restrictions

It appears that record access restrictions differentiating between LDS and non-LDS are being phased out. Today the "Germany Church Records" page on the wiki was edited by a FHL employee to remove a sentence stating that some of the images can only be viewed by LDS. I have checked many church records in the FS Catalog from all across Germany, including some I knew previously had LDS-only restrictions on them and did not find any with LDS-only restrictions. The same applied to church records in Lisbon, Portugal, though I did find one other Portuguese town with LDS-only restrictions.

If religiously based access restrictions have genuinely been removed from FS, then I am very grateful and thankful to FS. The next step, given that most of the formerly LDS-only records are now "unavailable for online viewing at this time", is for FS to negotiate access restrictions that give equal oppurtunity to both LDS and non-LDS to view the records. I continue to support reinstating the "premier user" (a better, less exclusive name could be "certified volunteer" etc) scheme that once existed at FS https://getsatisfaction.com/familysea...
This, I believe, would be a win-win for both record custodians and FS. The amount of volunteering/donations needed to gain the premier user status can be made as high as necessary to keep the number of people who can view the records on FS low enough to keep the record custodian happy, and such a scheme would encourage volunteering activities such as indexing, helping at FHCs and financial donations including LDS tithes.
Reply
  • I’m thankful to FS for permitting non-LDS to use their site to the same extent as LDS
    I someone with a LDS account able to confirm whether they can view the following images and if not what message they get

    https://www.familysearch.org/search/f...

    Thank you
    • view 2 more comments
    • Hmm. I don't know much about these restrictions. What I do know is that you should be able to go to any LDS Family History Center and get access to the records there. There are many records that are still restricted to LDS members and are only viewable at a Family History Center. If this is the case, it will say specifically that you need to go to a Family History Center to view the images. "image unavailable for viewing at this time" with no other explanation sounds like a bug to me.
    • It's not just the link above, but many other Protestant church records in Germany that are having the same thing. Previously, as a non-LDS, the message I got when trying to view the vast majority of these records was a message explaining that only signed in members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could view those images. Now, as of today, I noticed that those records are now displaying the message "images unavailable for viewing at this time". The same thing was happening to records in Lisbon that were also previously LDS-only. I jumped to the conclusion that access restrictions that gave more viewing rights to LDS than non-LDS must have been phased out, at least in Germany,hence this praise thread.

      Thank you for looking at the link. There easily could be bugs, so I'll wait a few days before coming to any conclusions about this.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited sad, anxious, confused, frustrated indifferent, undecided, unconcerned

  • As many have already responded to your previous comments, viewing of records is not a "religiously discriminated record access," it is an contractual agreement between an entity (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), its membership and the various entities owning, or controlling, the records.

    I appreciate that you are now thankful for the resolution of the problem that you have raised, I would also be thankful if you could also tone down your rhetoric .

    As far as the "end(ing) the automatic free subscriptions on Ancestry, MyHeritage etc," that, too, was a contractual agreement between the affected entities and does not actually create any need to call it "(un)welcoming for users of all religions."

    "Free LDS-Ancestry subscriptions are available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints per an agreement between Ancestry and FamilySearch." https://support.ancestry.com/s/articl...

    You, too, can get access, the same way - buy a membership, or have an organization to which you belong negotiate a contract to join whichever entity you choose to do so.

    In the meantime you are more than welcome to continue to use the
    FamilySearch site, and this forum, at NO COST, thanks to the contributions of your fellow users, who Church members and the many (majority) who are not even using the site. You're Welcome, and thank you for your continuing participation in this vast undertaking of a world-wide universal tree.
    • The definition of "discriminate", as least in the English of New Zealand, means to treat differently and the word can be used very broadly, e.g. teachers discriminate between students of different ability by giving them different work. The word does not necessarily have a negative connotation. If there has been misunderstanding (as can so often happen between American English and the English of other countries), I apologise. The use of the phrase "religiously discriminated record access" simply describes in neutral terms what is happening- members of one religion (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) get access or free subscriptions while members of other religions do not.

      I don't, as you seem to imply, give nothing back to FS and fail to show gratitude. The many records FS has made available for genealogical research, particularly in the Netherlands has prompted me to make thousands of edits to the FS Wiki and index/arbitrate/review 28,000 records. I also contribute to the FSFT, though that is not entirely unselfish.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. sad, anxious, confused, frustrated kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited indifferent, undecided, unconcerned

  • The point made when this issue was raised previously was that the only way of "resolving" it would be a legal challenge to any contract made between the LDS Church and another party that effectively limited viewing of material to members of one religious denomination.

    I would think very few of us would want things to come to this. I'm sure practically all non-members are grateful to the Church for letting us share its facilities, both online and at its FHCs. However, in certain countries we have become so conditioned to challenging any right that exists for one group over another that I can see A van Helsdingen's point.

    Previous comments have also stressed that not all LDS members pay their tithes and that many non-members either do contribute financially to the work of the Church and/or make significant volunteering contributions.

    To be honest, it does seem wrong to me that the Church is willing to sign contracts that restrict viewing of what has become an ever-increasing amount of material. For example, everyone could once freely view most microfilms but, now they are only generally available in digitised form, these records can no longer be seen.

    No, I would not be happy to see that anybody's action might lead to a situation where access to genealogical material could be lost for everyone. As Tom Huber has stated, some members have allowed non-members access to restricted material via their LDS accounts - although I doubt everyone would be happy about this! Nevertheless, this is a serious issue for many non-members, especially those who devote a considerable amount of time and energy to either indexing or through their contributions (in adding countless thousands of names) to the Family Tree project.

    Again, as has previously been highlighted, in the case of general contracts restricting access to membership of a particular group the answer would be to take out a subscription and join that group. However, things are obviously not that straightforward when it comes to joining a religious organisation.

    I doubt if the contracts signed by the LDS Church with other organisations are unique, but they do not fit comfortably with the ideas of many who live in countries where such practices have become at odds to what we have become conditioned to expect.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. sad, anxious, confused, frustrated kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited indifferent, undecided, unconcerned

  • Although my husband qualifies to join many early American genealogical groups, we cannot access their records without paying fees. His great great. . . grandfather's military service records are accessed through websites we must pay for to research. I cannot see my relatives birth marriage and death registrations without paying for them. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and still cannot access many of the records I have indexed without paying. Life is full of situations which may seem unfair. I try to instead be grateful for the millions of records I can access that my grandmother could only dream about. And hope and pray for the millions more that are currently being discovered and recorded.
    • Christine

      My concerns here do not relate to "unfairness". The main point I see as up for discussion is whether it is morally and, in some countries, legally acceptable for the LDS Church to negotiate contracts that effectively give exclusive access of certain records to members of one religious organisation.

      I had already mentioned the point that payment of fees not being an issue - this option is not open to non-members under such contracts, however willing they are to pay.

      If these records are available on other websites (where fees are required or otherwise) the argument here is weakened. My main point is whether it is correct for the Church to sign-up to any agreements whereby certain material is available ONLY on the FamilySearch website and, furthermore, ONLY to LDS Church members.

      Believe it or not, this is not a major issue for me, personally. However, I do feel it strange (and maybe this relates to my background and where I live) that there is not a more general feeling of unease about such contracts.
    • To be fair, I don't believe there are many records on FS which are ONLY on FS AND restricted to LDS members only. In the case of the German church records I have been focusing on, many (but not all) of them are on the website Archion. The cheapest subscription there is 20 euros, which gives you a maximum of 50 records to be used within a month. A yearly subscription with a limit of 600 records is 179 euros. My point is that LDS don't have to pay those charges because they can see the records at home for free.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. sad, anxious, confused, frustrated kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited indifferent, undecided, unconcerned

  • Yesterday I started this praise thread believing that access restrictions differentiating between LDS and non-LDS had been phased out. But I now believe this might not be the case.

    This all started with the wiki edit I mentioned above. The "Germany Church records" page was edited by a FHL employee to remove a sentence stating that some of the records in the FS Catalog were LDS only. The reason, I have now found out, is not because access restrictions were changed. Supposedly, FS has at least one contract with a record custodian that prohibits FS publicizing the fact that some of their records are LDS only.

    Secondly, as discussed above with Latter Day Saint Mary Koeven, the records not showing as "image not available for viewing at this time" might (not yet confirmed) be still viewable by LDS. If that is the case, nothing has changed.

    If Mary Koeven had not kindly quickly looked at one set of records of Germany, I would never have known that LDS could view those images. And if I were to rely on the Wiki for information about accessing the records, I would also be unaware of what was going on.

    So essentially, it appears that FS is trying to cover up the fact that some records can be viewed more easily by LDS than non-LDS.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited sad, anxious, confused, frustrated indifferent, undecided, unconcerned

  • I now rescind my praise. The new messages were not indicative of any changes to access restrictions, but rather are temporarily and probably in error, according to a missionary on the online chat help service.

    See also https://getsatisfaction.com/familysea...
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image
    I'm

    e.g. sad, anxious, confused, frustrated kidding, amused, unsure, silly happy, confident, thankful, excited indifferent, undecided, unconcerned