21
September
2021
|
08:00 AM
America/Denver

FamilySearch Completes Digitization of Massive Microfilm Collection

Effort makes billions of historical genealogy records freely available online

FamilySearch completes initiative to digitize its 2.4 million rolls of microfilm for free online access.It is a milestone 83 years in the making. Today FamilySearch International announced the completion of a massive project to digitize its collection of millions of rolls of microfilm containing billions of family history records from around the world. The archive containing information on more than 11.5 billion individuals is now freely available to the public on FamilySearch.org.

"We hope that all those who contributed to this milestone in the last 80 years feel a sense of humble accomplishment today,” said Steve Rockwood, the CEO of FamilySearch International. “And we hope the millions of individuals who will discover, gather, and connect generation upon generation of their family members for years to come because of these efforts will have a deep sense of gratitude for the many unheralded contributors who made those discoveries possible."

“It's a game-changer for everybody in the world. So, instead of having to come to the library, people can start accessing these records from home,” said Becky Adamson, a research consultant at the FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Over 200 countries and principalities and more than 100 languages are represented in the digitized documents. Completion of the project makes it much easier for individuals to make more personal and family discoveries.

To explore FamilySearch’s free collections of indexed records and images, go to FamilySearch.org and search both “Records” and “Images”. The Images feature enables users to peruse digitized images from the microfilm collection and more. A free FamilySearch account will be required to access the service.

History of FamilySearch Records Preservation

FamilySearch staff digitizing microfilm for convenient, free online access.FamilySearch and its predecessors have been collecting, preserving, and providing access to genealogically significant historical records for more than 100 years. Those records include birth, death, marriage, census, military service, immigration, and other types of documents.

FamilySearch began microfilming in 1938 as the Genealogical Society of Utah. It was one of the first major organizations to embrace the use of microfilm imaging. That microfilm collection eventually grew to more than 2.4 million rolls.

For many decades, duplicates of the original rolls could be ordered and viewed at one of FamilySearch’s more than 5,000 family history centers worldwide. The process of duplicating and distributing microfilm copies, and the laborious research that followed, seems excruciating by today’s instant online research standards, but at the time, it was innovative and the easiest, most economical way available to help patrons worldwide find family information without having to travel to an archive holding the original records.

(Watch "Billions of Microfilm Records Digitized" Video News Release) 

FamilySearch ended its microfilm distribution to family history centers in September 2017 when it began its transition to an all-digital, free, online access approach. The microfilm collection will continue to be preserved, but the information the rolls contain can now be easily viewed and searched online.

FamilySearch continues to capture images of original records at an ever-increasing rate, howbeit in digital form, bypassing the need to transfer the information from film.

The Microfilm Digitization Timeline

Digitization of the rolls of film began more than 20 years ago when FamilySearch purchased its first microfilm scanners in 1998. The project was expected to take over 50 years to complete, but advances in technology helped shorten the timeline by nearly 30 years. The last of the microfilm scanning was completed this year. The project took a leap forward in 2006 when software and processes were developed by FamilySearch in conjunction with the Church History and the Information and Communication Services Departments of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The scanning began with about 5 employees. As the process was developed, up to 30 employees using 26 scanners were working on the process, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The digitization effort has been directed by the Church Historian and Recorder and executed by preservation professionals in the Church History Department. The last roll of film added to the collection was captured by FamilySearch’s in-field cameras in 2018.

FamilySearch is committed to collecting, preserving, and providing access to the world’s genealogical records to help individuals and families worldwide discover and connect with their family histories. FamilySearch will continue to increase the digitization of new records worldwide from its digital camera operations and partnerships. It will also begin digitizing 335,000 microfiches in its collections.

NOTE: All of the microfilms are digitized and published on FamilySearch. However, they are not all “available” for viewing. While the majority are broadly accessible, some will have varying degrees of access limitations governed by contractual agreements or other restraints. Where access limitations exist, most will be available through the FamilySearch Family History Library, a local FamilySearch center, or a third party website. There are also some digital collections that are not currently available. We apologize for any inconvenience in these circumstances. 

RELATED

Church Completes Microfilm Digitization Initiative (Church Newsroom, 21 September 2021)

FamilySearch's 2.4 Million Rolls of Microfilm Are Now Digitized (Church News Article, 21 September 2021)

Explore Historical Images Tool Unlocks Data in Digital Records (FamilySearch Blog, How-to, 18 February 2020)

FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm (FamilySearch News, 7 September 2017)

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 (44)
Thank you for your message.
Patricia Marie Boucher
05
October
2021
In the 80's, my little girl & I would travel 1 hour plus by bus & metro, to a Family History Library. We were always warmly welcomed & had great times viewing microfilms. We made use of everything available there, hunting down so many records. Sharing all that we'd found with family, especially my parents, was the best part. It always sparked lots of stories, so much laughter & love. It was a special experience, one that I'll always treasure.

It's fantastic that so many will be able to have that same experience from the comfort of their homes! Thank you to all who participated in this monumental effort. Your dedication & generosity is amazing. Kudos!
Sid Severe
27
September
2021
Thank you for making genealogy research available to so many in the comfort of their own home.
Elaine Brown
27
September
2021
As a DAR Registrar, I need documentations to complete prospective member's application. Thank you for making this research possible.
Kelly W.
27
September
2021
How wonderful it is that FamilySearch.org was able to meet such an outstanding goal! It's such a blessing that the records of these people have been taken care of by such a Great Organization! The hard work of FamilySearch's staff and volunteers is apparent by all of you achieving this momentous goal! Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication!
John Kinsworthy
27
September
2021
This is wonderful!!! Congrats to all. What isn't made clear though is that even though they've been digitized, not all have been indexed. Right? There are still thousands and thousands of digitized reels that still need that part of the work done, correct? Your announcement makes it sound like everything is both digitized and indexed which is not correct. Please clarify.
TC
27
September
2021
They make it very clear: "It is a milestone 83 years in the making. Today FamilySearch International announced the completion of a massive project to DIGITIZE its collection of millions of rolls of microfilm containing billions of family history records from around the world."
Paul Nauta
27
September
2021
John: Correct. Completing the work of digitally preserving all of our microfilms is not the same as indexing. Creating the name indexes for the digital collections will continue to proceed and be an ongoing effort since we use digital cameras in the field to continue to capture more records worldwide. For more information on the latest tech advancements in the field of indexing and using technology to assist in this endeavor, check out the following two sessions on Computer Assisted Indexing (CAI) from RootsTech 2021.

https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/rtc2021/session/insights-in-archives-and-computer-assisted-indexing
https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/rtc2021/session/familysearch
Mary Bayer
26
September
2021
Many thanks for your years of work that will be of benefit to so many for years to come!
Jon
26
September
2021
Thanks for the digitizing of records. Some of the records I would like to view can only be seen at a Family History Center. Will these be available to view at home in the future. Also when will microfiche records be digitized? Thanks
TC
27
September
2021
PER the Facebook posting made: " (While all of the microfilms are digitized and published on FamilySearch, not all are “available” for viewing. The majority are broadly accessible, yet some will have varying degrees of access limitations governed by contractual agreements or other restraints. Where access limitations exist, most will be available through the FamilySearch Family History Library, a local FamilySearch center, or a commercial website.) "
Paul Nauta
27
September
2021
Jon: From the end of the news release..."FamilySearch will continue to increase the digitization of new records worldwide from its digital camera operations and partnerships. It will also begin digitizing 335,000 microfiches in its collections." That's all we know at this moment. Thanks.
Jennifer
26
September
2021
This is so exciting!! Pretty please digitize the Anderson County, Tennessee land records too!!
TC
27
September
2021
Many government agencies decide what they will and will not allow to be scanned and shared. For many, it is a source of revenue, and they are controlling it. I have had great luck here however : https://andersoncountytn.gov/archives-records/
ROGER MASCIO
26
September
2021
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE. I HAVE A FAMILY SEARCH ACCOUNT AND IT HAS BEEN A BIG HELP WITH ME DOING MY FAMILY GENEALOGY.
THANK YOU
Sander
26
September
2021
Congratulations!
Where can I find the digital version of: 988.15/G1 B3
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/769488?availability=Family%20History%20Library
Paul Nauta
27
September
2021
Sander: The item you are seeking is a book on microfiche, not microfilm (See the description below). Consequently, it has not been digitized yet. FamilySearch has 335k microfiches. Digitizing these will be a focus of their next digitizing efforts. In the meantime, you can use the Lookup Service in the Family History Library online to have a staff member pull the fiche and look up an item for you. Or see if your local Family History Center has it.

"Also on microfiche. Salt Lake City : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2003. 5 microfiche. Family History Library
International Fiche 6055439"

Frances Burke
26
September
2021
TO ALL THAT MADE THIS POSSIBLE.

TO EVERYONE WHO MADE THIS POSSIBLE

THANK YOU



MAIZL József
25
September
2021
Congratulations and thank you very much!
I found a lot of information about my ancestors (they came from Germany around 1720) in Hungary.
Even though most of the films - Births (in part), Marriages, Deaths - are not yet indexed, I am able to browse through the images.
Mario
25
September
2021
Thank you FamilySearch. You have made such a difference in the lives of so many persons including myself in researching their ancestry. It is greatly appreciated and keep up the good work!
Anna
25
September
2021
Thank you all for doing such a tremendous job of collection, sorting and preserving all of these records. I could never thank FamilySearch enough for helping me in finding my ancestors on all four of my grandparents. You all deserve a much needed rest! Thank you a million, no, a billion times over!! : )
Patrick Mayamba
24
September
2021
congratulations to familySearch for the commitment and determination to collect, preserve and provide access to the world's genealogical records to help individuals and families around the world discover and connect with their family histories.
I would also like to serve in the project to digitize archives and other documents for the benefit of the African and Congolese community (Area Centrale Africa) and finally to promote the vision and mission of FamilySearch in the world.
Freddy Mendez
24
September
2021
Thank you all for this impressive achievement. It is hard to express in words (particularly, since English is my second language)for this incredible task that, first consisted in microfilming such amount of documents in different parts of the world, then digitalizing and finally, with help of many enthusiasts volunteers, indexing them. It is probably the biggest contribution anybody made for genealogists and researchers. Thanks!
John Abreu
24
September
2021
Thanks to Family Search.org I was able to find a vast information about my family in Venezuela and build a Family Tree with more than 400 people. Some of the info would has been impossible to find without the digitization of old written archives.
Thank you very much for your work and lots, ..., lots of love for sharing.
Love you all.
Theresa Wardley
24
September
2021
Well done to all that have completed this massive task
Debbie V Johnson
24
September
2021
Wow!50 years worth of work done in 20!! That is really getting things done. Thank you for all your hard work. You are appreciated ?
Wilma Bland
24
September
2021
Thank you to everyone involved in doing this. Much appreciated the access to the records available online as I have researched and continue to research my family history.