The problem:

I create a document library and a custom list, then use the custom list as the source for a lookup column in the library. Now I add a document to the library and set the value of the lookup column. Check version history and we can see version 0.1 ( adding doc ) and then version 0.2 ( setting the value in the lookup column )... - all good so far

Now switch back to the custom list and modify the same value chosen in the library item.

Switch back to library and we can see that the lookup value has changed - as expected - check version history and;

The version still shows last modified as version 0.2 where the property was set - but now shows the new value from the lookup.

So the question is how do you make the version history recognise that an underlying lookup value has changed and create a new version in the version history to reflect that change?

I'm hoping there is just a check box somewhere I missed.

  • I agree to what moe wrote and I want to add that with SharePoint for a lookup value the id is the most important information. Although the title of the lookup element is also stored and saved in your version 0.2 it's not relevant and therefor not worth mentioning in the version history. Changing the title in the lookup list isn't something which you should do on a regular basis.
    – Andreas
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 11:20
  • Thanks for comments, unfortunately in our case we have a lookup to an external list that changes from time to time - the challenge here is less about technology than governance - to meet our record keeping obligations the version history of a library item must capture every change made - including if an underlying lookup changes. Given that this is not out of box we could consider a workflow approach that runs when an item is modified - or even just runs when a lookup value changes?
    – Mouse
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 23:48
  • As I said I don't think SharePoint recognizes change of a title as a change of the lookup value. Only if you would change the id of the item, this would be shown in the history. So you would need to have a workflow or event receiver to react on modified items in your external lists and change your list based on those information.
    – Andreas
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


Based on my testing and experience that is expected behavior of versioning and look up columns.

As you can see in the Versioning Settings of the library, the Document Version History option is described as following:

Create a version each time you edit a file in this document library?

Now changing the value of the list item only affects the list item's version.

The support.office.com documentation says about "When versions are created" the following:


  • When the properties of a list item or file are changed.


I think there are two ways to understand that sentence, but what seems to be accurate is that this does not stand for the look up column properties. Therefore a more proper description would be the following

When the properties of a list item or file are changed inside the list or the library.

Per my understanding there's not an out-of-the-box option to enable this sort of behavior.

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