MANY records on FamilySearch.org have digitized image readily available to all signed-in users. You just click to view the original document.
Some record have no image availble--only an index. These indexes were provided by one of our partner websites and the partner chose to only provide the index to FamilySearch.org users. FamilySearch partners with many for-profit family history organizations to help make information available to as many people as possible. We respect their need to make a profit and are grateful for whatever they choose to share with us. To see where the record came from, click the little i to the right of the name of the collection.
When you click the i, the system redirects you to a wiki page about the collection. In the Record Description, you can see who provided the index. You can visit the website of this organization and decide if you want to subscribe in order to see images.
Bear in mind that some indexes are just indexes -- even on the site that contributed the record. For example, the Social Security Death Index is just an index published by the Social Security Administration.
Sometimes, if a user of FamilySearch.org who has a public account looks at a record, they see the message below:
This message is confusing to many folks. What is a supporting organization? Really, what this message means, is that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints who are signed in with an account containing their Church Membership Number can see the images for this kind of record.
Why is that? Records of this type also come from one of our partners. The partner agreed to make the index of the record available to any user, but the digitized image only available to Church members. Since it is the tithing dollars of Church members that make FamilySearch.org possible, they are given access to more record images than the general public.
Is there a way a non-LDS person could see the image? Yes. Notice where the record comes from and go to their website directly. Many have free trial subscriptions so you can use them for a while to decide if you want to subscribe.
Some records tell you that you can move to a different website to see the image and warn you that there might be fees or other terms involved in seeing the image. Know that many of these images are free to view at the partner site, so it's always worth clicking the View Partner Site link.
And some records give a different message. The first option means a Church member can see them if signed in. But anyone can see them if they visit a family history center and use a family history center computer to view the images. Be aware that you need to NOT sign in at the family history center to see these kinds of images. Just go to FamilySearch.org, find the record collection and view the images.
Again, these are records that come from a partner site and we have gotten permission from them to make the images visible at family history centers. Be aware that most family history center staff people are not aware that you can view these images as long as you don't sign in to FamilySearch.org with a public account. So, you just need to be confident and move forward.
Next time, more on images and different ways to find and view digitized records and the advantages of different approaches.