Sunday, August 13, 2017
The Impact of the Microfilm Issue
People continue to express concern over the recent announcement about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments from FamilySearch. See "FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." So, during the past week, I started taking an informal poll of those attending the classes that I taught. I probably asked about 100 people who were interested enough in genealogy to come to a class on the subject. Many of these people were experienced researchers. My question was simple: how many had viewed microfilm during the past six months? I then extended the question to a year or more. What was the response? I am guessing that there were fewer than five people who responded positively to my questions.
The reality of genealogical research today is that almost all of what is passing for "research" is being conducted online using primarily the basic records, such as census records, vital records, and cemetery records. Most of my classes this week, included looking at entries in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and analyzing the content. With very few exceptions, the sources supporting the entries looked essentially like this list:
In short, the entries were confined to the three categories I outlined above. None of these entries require even thinking about microfilm. Here, in this example, there are no records at all substantiating the birth, marriage or death of this individual.
In my recent trips to Salt Lake City to visit the Family History Library to use their microfilm collections, I see the same trend. In years past, the microfilm readers were the center of activity in the Library. In recent years, when I have been viewing microfilm, I hardly see anyone else using the machines. The reality is that much of the information that had to be extracted from microfilm in the past is now freely available online in digitized format. Unless the researcher is highly experienced and looking for an extensive variety of records, there is no longer and need to resort to microfilmed records.
Personally, I am still very much involved in microfilmed records. But then again, I clearly realize that I am part of a vanishingly small minority of researchers. As shown by my very limited and informal poll, very few people involved in family history today will even notice the change in the availability of microfilm. Now, before you write and tell me about your own particular need for microfilm, please take the time to search and see if your own needed microfilm has not already been digitized and is available online in one or the other of the large genealogy programs.