Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Yet Another Comment on the FamilySearch Discontinuance of Microfilm Shipments

This image is a screenshot of a list of microfilms in the Catalog. The screenshot does not show the entire list of 20 rolls. This is just one small part of the microfilmed records that I am currently using to do research. Normally, I would start by ordering the first couple of rolls and then work my way through the list. Since the Brigham Young University Family History Library limits my orders to two microfilm rolls at a time, I will have to order the first two, then wait a week or two until those two rolls arrive at the Library and then I can order two more. Even assuming that I could order this entire list through a Family History Center there is still a major problem.

The recent announcement of the discontinuance of microfilm shipments comes with a couple of zingers. There are some explanatory Frequently Asked Questions that go along with the announcement. Here are a couple of responses in the list of questions that concern me when I look at this list of microfilm rolls that I need to search.
What if a microfilm is not available digitally on 
Microfilms may not yet be available digitally on for the following reasons:
  • The microfilm may not be a priority to scan now, because the same content is already available on, a partner or subscription site offered in family history centers, or a free archive site.
  • The microfilm may be scheduled for future scanning because it has been in lower demand.
  • The microfilm may have a contractual, data privacy, or other restriction preventing access. FamilySearch is making every effort to ease restrictions, which is dependent on decisions of record custodians and applicable laws.
Let's assume, which is very likely, that the above list falls into the category of "low priority" films. In addition, there is another explanation of what is going to happen.
Will microfilm continue to be available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City? 
The Family History Library staff continually evaluates the needs of patrons and the balance of services it provides. Microfilm that is currently in the FHL collection that is not yet online will stay. Most other microfilm will stay for the time being, although some may be removed here and there to accommodate space needs. There may be opportunities to add films to the collection from other locations. The library will no longer be able to offer ordering of new films from the vault.
Hmm. I live here in Provo and I can drive or take the train to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, so theoretically, I could go to Salt Lake to view the films in the list. But I note that several of the films are stored in the Granite Mountain Vault. According to the last sentence of this question, those films will not be available even at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. So, I have a deadline. I have to go through this list of films by August 31, 2017 or wait up to three years or forever for the films to be digitized. In short, I will likely lose the opportunity to look at this list of films and many other microfilmed records that are in the same category of obscure.

I guess my research in some areas will simply come to a complete halt. What about the chance that some other company will pick up these obscure German records? Who knows. How about a program where I can pay to have these films digitized? Of course, that does not answer the underlying issue listed in the first question above about the contractual, data privacy and other restrictions that might prevent the digitizing of these films anyway.

I see a huge loss of some of the less used and obscure records.


  1. It's not just the more obscure records that are affected here. Almost none of the vast collection of German church records have been digitized. This would seem to be a high-priority collection, considering the huge number of German immigrants to America. Our area is very heavily German, so research will grind to a halt for some of our most active patrons. Does anyone know the reason for the hold-up with these collections?

  2. Could the German church records fall in the category of "the same content is already available on ... a partner or subscription site..."? I've looked a bit at www . archion . de/en/ (take out the spaces in the links) and it seems to work quite nicely.

    I would also suspect that the German archives would not be to excited about giving permission for FamilySearch to give free access to online digital images of the records they want or downright need to charge for in order to finance their digitalization and preservation efforts.

    To quote their website: "20 million pages of church records make it possible to search more effectively for your ancestors. Our database is being continually expanded, supplemented and updated – and new digitized church records from across Germany as well as the former eastern areas of Germany are being added every day."