26
June
2017

FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm

FamilySearch, a world genealogy leader and nonprofit, announced today its plans to discontinue its 80-year-old microfilm distribution service. The transition is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. The last day for ordering microfilm will be August 31, 2017. Online access to digital images of the world's historic records allows FamilySearch to service more people around the globe, faster and more efficiently. See Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org and Frequently Asked Questions

A global leader in historic records preservation and access, FamilySearch and its predecessors began using microfilm in 1938, amassing billions of the world’s genealogical records in its collections from over 200 countries. Why the shift from microfilm to digital? Diane Loosle, Director of the Patron Services Division said, "Preserving historic records is only one half of the equation. Making them easily accessible to family historians and researchers worldwide when they need them is the other crucial component."

Loosle noted that FamilySearch will continue to preserve the master copies of its original microfilms in its Granite Mountain Records Vault as added backup to the digital copies online.

As the Internet has become more accessible to people worldwide over the past two decades, FamilySearch made the decision to convert its preservation and access strategy to digital. No small task for an organization with 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in inventory and a distribution network of over 5,000 family history centers and affiliate libraries worldwide.

It began the transition to digital preservation years ago. It not only focused on converting its massive microfilm collection, but also in replacing its microfilm cameras in the field. All microfilm cameras have been replaced with over 300 specialized digital cameras that significantly decrease the time required to make historic records images accessible online.

FamilySearch has now digitally reproduced the bulk of its microfilm collection—over 1.5 billion images so far—including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide. The remaining microfilms should be digitized by the end of 2020, and all new records from its ongoing global efforts are already using digital camera equipment.

Digital image collections can be accessed today in three places at FamilySearch.org. Using the Search feature, you can find them in Records (check out the Browse all published collections link), Books, and the Catalog. For additional help, see Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org.

Transitioning from microfilm to digital creates a fun opportunity for FamilySearch's family history center network. Centers will focus on simplified, one-on-one experiences for patrons, and continue to provide access to relevant technology, popular premium subscription services, and restricted digital record collections not available to patrons from home.

Centers and affiliate libraries will coordinate with local leaders and administrators to manage their current microfilm collections on loan from FamilySearch, and determine when to return films that are already published online. For more information, see Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm.

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 5,000 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Comments 1 - 20 (52)
Thank you for your message.
albert mason
28
July
2017
searching for ancestors of albert russell born wath upon dearne yorkshire 6 march 1973.
Patricia Dennis
27
July
2017
Hi! Some of my ancestor's records are online. However, I cannot download the record while I am at the Family History Center. An example is Montemitro, Italy. Is there a reason why I cannot download the record? I would like a copy for my genealogy binder for source information. Thank you for all that you do with genealogy and allowing everyone to enjoy the benefits!
Al Lopes
27
July
2017
Hi Paul, some microfilms are an index of a series of microfilms (Spain,Granada pre marriage index). They do not contain images, only information, I believe, typed by indexers. This specific digital information is from 2010. At the SLC family history center I can have access to these images getting the microfilm and search it. This Spain, Granada, pre marriage information has several microfilms. ( I believe could be close to 100 microfilms or even more as I remember). With this digitalization of all microfilms, do you believe all this microfilms will be available by 2020? My second question is when I find wrong information in a microfilm (kind of, it is a christening microfilm and it says marriage or the years on the microfilm does not match the information typed by Family Search. Could it have a way for reasearchers to inform this to Family search in a easy way? I had this problem before, I contacted Family Search, it was very complicate to find the correct people and then I got an answer that cannot be fixed or it will be fixed in the future. Years passed and it was never fixed. Is it possible to have a place to touch and report this kind of problem with a microfilm in the same screen when you are researching? Maybe having volunteers to check this mistakes in the same way as arbitrators on the indexing program? Thanks. Al
Anthony Garza
13
July
2017
I am happy that FamilySearch is going to digitize all their records. One question that I have is why are some digitized microfilms can be viewed on my home computer via FamilySearch.org, and others I have to travel to a family history center to view? I live an hour away from my family history center and then they are only open two days a week for 3 hours. So it is very difficult to travel there and research in that short amount of time. Will all digitized microfilms in the future be able to be accessed from my personal computer? Thanks.
Paul Nauta
13
July
2017
Anthony, FamilySearch has preservation and access agreements with tens of thousands of record custodians (archivists) worldwide that govern the breadth of it's ability to provide access. In some cases, record custodians of the original records impose access restrictions on the records FamilySearch has created on film or digitally. In the case of these contractual restrictions, FamilySearch may be limited to providing patron access through its 5,000 Family History Centers. I should state that of FamilySearch's vast inventory of records, those with access restrictions like this are very few.
Isabelle Drown
12
July
2017
How will a Patron access the films that are not digitized yet?
Paul Nauta
13
July
2017
Isabelle, FamilySearch's microfilms are available through its Family History Center and affiliate library network (https://familysearch.org/locations/centerlocator?cid=hp2-1047). Or when searching the FamilySearch Catalog online (https://familysearch.org/catalog/search) and finding a film you want, click on the icon of the film roll to see ordering instructions.
Carolyn Eddington
11
July
2017
I am a member of the Western Australian Geneological Society (WAGS) and LDS microfilms are sent there for viewing. This has been great service. I also use the local LDS family history centre, but there are only 4 computers there which clearly is inadequate come the move to online. I have been told by the WAGS chairman that they are an agency not an affiliate. How do they become an affiliate? If WAGS is an affiliate then I can view the records online.
ian simon
11
July
2017
Paul You keep referring to films that researchers use often. You are ignoring researchers who discover they need to hire a film to view one record because that is where the event occurred and which they will never refer to again. That is not a "popular" film. I have several cases of this. The question: is do I rush and hire the films or wait for the images to appear on line at the risk they will not appear until 2020? Is there a list of what is coming online or a list of what will not be done?
Paul Nauta
13
July
2017
Ian, Let me assure you FamilySearch is not ignoring the patrons of its microfilm collections as it makes the needed transitions. The vast majority of users of FamilySearch's vast microfilm collections will be pleasantly surprised to find in the FamilySearch Catalog that most of the microfilms they have used over the years--even those rented just one time to find only a single event--have already been digitized. We suggest that film users check the FamilySearch Catalog to see if their films have already been conveniently digitized. In the case the films you're seeking have not been digitized, then yes, it is recommended you consider the option of ordering them to use while you are waiting on their digitization. FamilySearch is also looking into the possibilities of providing some patron insight into its future film digitization schedule. Currently, this capability or feature does not exist. Thank you.
Marilyn Ponting
06
July
2017
Will Family Search affiliate libraries have access to the digital images?
Paul Nauta
06
July
2017
Marilyn, Yes, affiliate libraries have access to FamilySearch's digital image collections and can also provide patrons additional research assistance.
Paul Nauta
13
July
2017
Clarification: Affiliate libraries currently have access to those digital images available publicly online. FamilySearch is currently exploring the ability to also provide affiliate libraries access to those restricted image collections that are available to family history centers.
Marj Crane
04
July
2017
If you already have the film(s) on indefinite loan and your FHC has at least one working microfilm reader, then you should be able to keep the film as long as necessary. TALK TO THEM! If there is a film that you want but don't already have on loan, you have until the end of August to order it. DO SO! GIVE THANKS for all of the records that have been filmed over the years that you otherwise wouldn't have had access to AT ALL!!
Jane Sylvester
01
July
2017
Since records extracted from digitized records so often contain errors, I find it very frequently necessary to view the image of the record but very rarely is the image available! So what can I do? Order the film from Salt Lake. Why do they have to end this service before all the images are available? Why not continue loaning film til 2020, and what on earth is the harm of letting FH Centers retain the film they already have? I'm bewildered and unhappy.
Susan Blakeney
30
June
2017
I keep seeing messages to order microfilm from Familysearch.org, but I cannot seem to locate how to order them. Please send instructions.
Paul Nauta
02
July
2017
To order microfilm go to FamilySearch Microfilm Ordering https://familysearch.org/films/.
D Jackson
30
June
2017
It would appear that the common opinion of the consumer is that your decision to discontinue the microfilm ordering into Family History Centers is somewhat premature. We do not know what the urgency is, especially by your own comments, you will not have the collection digitized until 2020, but it would have definitely been a better plan to advise people that it would be stopping in one or one and a half years rather than several months. Had that courtesy occurred, people would have had time to better plan the course of their research. You also have not adequately addressed the needs of the people when you dump decisions onto the local administrations. When a film was ordered for an undetermined period of time, people did it so it would be handy for their own research and for that, they paid additional funds. That arrangement was made with you, not local administrations. Most people were aware that this was to happen at sometime but such short notice is not right. I also believe you have been inconsiderate to your many volunteer staff at the Family History Centers who now have to face the concerns of the patrons who, on such short notice, are now forced to deal with these changes. How do you believe their reply regarding that film which has not yet been digitized and is low on your priority list, and might be available sometime in 2020, might go over? It is not wise to turn off people. Remember that many people do not have the option of a trip to Salt Lake City in order to access material they need. I think this decision deserves a second thought.
Charlette Louise Barron nee Hoppe
30
June
2017
It has been such a pleasure using your records both on microfilm and on the internet. Probably a good idea to change from using microfilm to the internet. Ofcourse provided you upload or transcribe ALL your records. I ordered a film a few months ago through the Port Elizabeth branch of the LDS. It was a dreadful copy and mostly unreadable. It was a film on the Evangelical Church records in Muldszden, Gerdauen, Konigsberg, Prussia. A further comment - you should be mindful of who transcribes South African records. I have seen some and the spelling of names was dreadful and gave me quite a giggle - one really needs to understand the Afrikaans or Dutch names to get them correct. Regards Charlette
Paul Nauta
06
July
2017
Charlette, We appreciate your patronage. We agree with you that the highest quality indexing is done by local or native volunteers who are most familiar with the record sets, names, and local terms found in the historic documents for a locale. We love it when locals get involved as FamilySearch volunteer indexers online to champion the indexing projects from their local communities for the very reasons you mention. For more information on how you or others might contribute to indexing projects of interest, go to https://familysearch.org/indexing/.
gunter h Fahlke
30
June
2017
without question with the availably of the microfilms your church has done a tremendous service to all genealogy research. Like it or Not; it is your prerogative to make changes as you see fit, even as it's comes at a very short notice. My dilemma, where will I find my information, as from the area of my research I have found so far nothing digitized! As I am 84 years of age time is of an essence for me. As you have so far only 62.5% of your inventory digitized, maybe could make it possible that the not converted films are still available in the old manner. Or do you have an other answer? Thank You GHF.
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
Gunter, First, verify if the films you're commonly using are available digitally online for you to view from home. Digital collections are published under not only Records, but also in the Catalog. You want to check out both locations on FamilySearch.org. Check out Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org (http://broadcast.lds.org/fhd/FH_Find_Digital_Records_A4_WEB.pdf) for instructions. Second, if your films are not digitized but you are currently using them in your local family history center or affiliate library, ask them to keep your films in extended loan so you can continue to use them until they are digitized online. Please read through the FAQ to answer many of your other questions: https://familysearch.org/ask/faq#overview. You can also call our support team at 866-406-1830. Thank you for your support.
mike wood
30
June
2017
Poor decision. this announcement will impair and impede genealogy research. It is unrealistic to think researchers will fly to salt lake or find the films elsewhere. LDS should allow researchers to request all films not yet scanned. "Transitioning from microfilm to digital creates a fun opportunity for FamilySearch's family history center network." I disagree. This does not create a fun opportunity. suggestion: You need to create a mechanism whereby FHC's can borrow films from each other. Create an online searchable inventory of all FHC center film holdings. Assign oclc#'s to each FHC. Then let the FHC centers borrow film from each other. of course, this does not solve the problem of: 1) films that are not yet scanned, 2) films that are not held by any FHC center.
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
Mike, Thank you for your suggestions. We have been exploring a range of options for quite some time and will continue to do so as we convert the remaining film collections to digital. We will make sure your insights/suggestions are noted. You can also call our support team at 866-406-1830 with additional feedback or suggestions. Thank you for your support.
Vicki Bullard
29
June
2017
I can understand making the transition from microfilm to digital images, but why stop your microfilm rentals three years prior to having all of your records digitized and online? And how much do you want to bet that your three year estimate turns into four or five? We all know that kind of thing happens frequently. I sat in your library this past Tuesday and waited to gain access to a computer while technicians were working to upgrade the system. They said it would take 20 minutes. I finally left after an hour and a half when I realized that they hadn't even started because they couldn't get the software to download. The little corner of the world that I am researching in right now is not one of your priority locations since you have more film in your vaults than you do online. So I can only assume that as of Aug 31, I will have to wait a minimum of three years before I can continue my research. That is absolutely heartbreaking after the time, effort, and don't forget the $ I have given to Family Search in film rental, to research my family. You really need to rethink your timing on this action you are taking. It is way, way, too premature!!!
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
Vicki, FamilySearch shares your passion for making family history discoveries. The transition from film to digitize is enabling us to extend the joy of discovery to exponentially more patrons. Unfortunately, the need to discontinue the microfilm duplication and distribution part of our operations needs to occur before we have been able to digitize all 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. If you continue to frequent the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, you will find a considerable inventory of our microfilm accessible for your continued research. If the films you use the most are in inventory at your local family history center or affiliate library come August 31, 2017, you can ask those center directors to keep your films on extended loan until they are available digitally online. Please feel free to contact support team at 866-406-1830 if you have additional questions or suggestions. Thank you for your support.
Narda Foust
29
June
2017
I am concerned that the microfilms that have not yet been digitized will not be available to get at the local Family History Libraries around the country. I think that the microfilms should be available until they are digitized, then they become unavailable to be sent to the local church locations for patrons to view on the microfilm machines. This will force people to go without those resources until they are digitized which could be another 3 years until the project is completed. This is sad news to me. I appreciate the effort to digitize all of the records, but not having some microfilms available between now and 2020 is disappointing.
John Bellotti
29
June
2017
I can't tell you enough how disappointed I am. I have been doing research for more than 15 years, and still going. I have a list of about 10 microfilms on my to-do list; NONE of them have been digitized. In fact, in all my years of doing this, not one microfilm I have ever ordered had been digitized, even today. I cannot understand why the microfilms that have not been digitized cannot be made available to researchers until they ARE digitized. I'm not even certain that all microfilms will "eventually" be digitized. What a way for my genealogy research to end.
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
John, If the 10 films you use the most are in inventory at your local family history center or affiliate library come August 31, 2017, you can ask those center directors to keep your films on extended loan past that date until they are available digitally online. That should allow you to continue your research without disruption. Please feel free to contact support team at 866-406-1830 if you have additional questions or suggestions. Thank you for your support.
RJ Smith
29
June
2017
It's a bummer. But as long as they make photo scans of the page images and place them on the web, It's all good. but to just make a listing of the info is not useful. We want a copy. not an index listing.
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
RJ, When we scan a film for online access, it is making a high quality digital copy of the images found on the film. Creating searchable indexes of the information found in those images is what our online indexing initiative is all about (see FamilySearch.org/indexing). Similar initiatives to promote more online access and family discoveries, but different operations. Perhaps you are referring to collections we have online that exists of just indexes--not liked to images. Often this is due to contract restrictions imposed by the record custodian of the images. We continue to work in these cases to give patrons access to restricted images by redirecting them to the partner's site or allowing them to view in a family history center or affiliate library. Please feel free to contact support team at 866-406-1830 if you have additional questions or suggestions.
TomP
29
June
2017
First, I wish to take this opportunity to indicate my appreciation for the many years of access to microfilm that has been provided by the Family History Centers. Without it I would never have been realistically able to research my family as far back as I have. It has truly been invaluable. That said, I am concerned regarding the changes now in process. I am concerned about microfilm I currently have on permanent loan at the local FHC. For the most part, none of these tapes have as yet been digitized. Three years is a long time to lose that access with no actual guarantee that those tapes will be available in digitized form. Additionally, I am concerned as well that the digitized images will not ever be available, only the indexed transcriptions. While I appreciate the extreme effort put forth in the indexing and transcription process, I also must point out that it is not always sufficient. The images with which I have worked are written in a combination of Polish and Latin, with centuries of changes in format, handwriting, and language structure. That results in difficulty in attaining accurate transcriptions. To add to that complexity is the fact that many, many of the records have additional “side” notes made on them. These notes do not fall into the structure of the document, but often convey extremely useful and informative information regarding individuals. Often this data is not available anywhere else. I always want to see the actual image to be positive of accuracy and complete information. I do not see how this issue can be addressed unless the actual images remain available. This is an extremely important point to consider.
Paul Nauta
30
June
2017
Tom, Thank you for your loyal patronage over the years. If the films you are using the most are in inventory at your local family history center or affiliate library come August 31, 2017, you can ask those center directors to keep your films on extended loan past that date until they are available digitally online. That should allow you to continue your research without disruption. In the case of published indexes to collections online that are not linked to the digital images, this is often due to contract restrictions imposed by the record custodian of the images. In these situations, we either redirect the online patron to the record custodian's site where they can view the image or we are working on solutions to make those images viewable in our family history centers as a restricted image collection. Please feel free to contact support team at 866-406-1830 if you have additional questions or suggestions. Thank you for your continued support.
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