Friday, July 28, 2017
Thoughts on the Availability of Records
The recent announcement by FamilySearch.org regarding the retirement of microfilm shipments has raised some interesting but actually not too surprising issues. See "Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." One of the main issues is the general lack of awareness of the huge number of digital records now available online from FamilySearch.org as well as thousands, perhaps millions of record-content websites on the internet. Many of the complaints about the retirement of microfilm shipments come from those who are simply unaware of what is happening online.
I have been working on a very challenging research issue involving a long list of microfilm-based records from the FamilySearch.org Catalog. As part of the research process, I have been making a list of every microfilm that I would like to review. For some time now, I have been ordering microfilm rolls from FamilySearch to be sent to the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Once I heard that these shipments would end, I began the process of seeing how the cessation of shipments would impact the list of resources I had created. In short, I found that more than 80% of the items I had identified were already available from other sources, mostly online.
Where were these records? Spread over a number of online record-content websites. My conclusion was that I would still be making trips to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library, but that these trips would continue to be less frequent just as has been the case over the past few years. The moral of this story is that many of the most used genealogical resources are readily available online. Yes, there may be a cost associated with accessing these resources, but that is nothing new. Finally, if the resources aren't there today, they will likely be there online tomorrow (or sometime soon).
End note. If your list of needed resources are very specific and of limited general interest, then your specific records may not be digitized immediately. You may still be traveling to obtain the records.