Monday, August 14, 2017

FamilySearch Microfilm Ordering Being Discontinued

The latest big news in the genealogy world is that Family Search will no longer be sending microfilms to local LDS family history centers. This is really big news. If I hadn't been able to obtain the microfilmed church records from Moesbach and Ulm, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germany by going down to the local family history center, my Panther family research project would never have happened. I would have had to make a trip to Salt Lake City to view the microfilms there. Add in the fact that I ended up scanning in every page from these films and there is absolutely no way I could have accomplished this.

Now, this is all tempered by the fact that Family Search has been making enormous progress in digitizing the films and putting them online, along with getting many of them indexed. In fact, by moving their resources from microfilm shipments to the digitizing project, they expect to have all of the microfilm available online by 2020. This is even better than getting them at the local family history center. The thing that still holds back my enthusiasm is that not all microfilm will be digitized. There are agreements in place that don't include digitization. What is going to happen when someone needs access to one of those films? In the past, they'd just order it and in a few weeks, go down to their local family history center and view the film there. From what I can tell, starting in the next month or so, they'll need to make the trip to Salt Lake City. That, to me, is short-sighted.

So what should they do? If I were making the rules, I'd be updating the microfilm ordering database so that whenever a film is digitized, it is no longer available to be shipped. This means that fewer and fewer resources would go towards the shipping of microfilm as more films are digitized. Eventually, the only films you would be able to order would be those that are not going to be digitized. If no films whatsoever will be able to be ordered, that will put genealogy out of reach for many beginners.

Say you're just beginning genealogy and the first film you'd need to view happened to be one that they didn't have authorization to digitize. In the past, you'd order the film and go to your local LDS church to view the film with just a small outlay of time and money. Now, that beginner would be required to make a trip to Salt Lake City, in the hopes to see their first bit of information about their genealogy. Then what they need might not actually be there! How would you feel if you were a beginner and the only way to see if you could find your ancestor was to either travel to Salt Lake City or pay a professional researcher? I know I'd be pretty frustrated and likely wouldn't bother.

The good news is that the genealogy community is friendly and helpful. If you're reading this some time in the future when family history centers are no longer getting microfilms delivered to view, please post your requests to the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group. Someone should be happy to do your lookup for you.


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