Just announced: The FamilySearch microfilm lending service will end on August 30, 2017. Let’s cover what we know so far, how it may impact you, and strategies for getting the information you need.
WHAT: FamilySearch Microfilm Lending Ends
Most of the Family History Library’s microfilm vault has already been digitized and is online–or will be within a short time. According to the website:
“Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide.”
However, the world’s largest lender of microfilmed genealogical records will be discontinuing the distribution of microfilms to Family History Centers in the near future.
“On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services,” announced the site yesterday. “The change is the result of significant progress in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. Digital imaging has made it easier to find ancestors through the internet, mobile, and other technologies.”
This means the clock is now counting down your ability to borrow microfilmed genealogical records from the Family History Library. The last day you can place an order for delivery to your local Family History Center is August 31, 2017.
It’s a change I’ve seen coming, but it’s still a little disconcerting now that it’s here. But change is the norm in today’s busy world, so let’s break down the details we know so far together.
WHY: Why are they discontinuing microfilm lending before they’re done digitizing?
It’s just too expensive. “The cost of duplicating microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically, while demand has decreased significantly,” says a FamilySearch Q&A. “At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.” FamilySearch wants to redirect its microfilm lending resources to providing more and better electronic record access.
I have personally visited the microfilm distribution facility, and the best analogy I can give you is that it looks a bit like the inside of an Amazon warehouse. It’s a mammoth and expensive undertaking, certainly not something you open or close lightly. I’m thankful that in the decades before the Internet, FamilySearch devoted so many resources to helping all of us gain access to hard-to-find records from around the world.
Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Cooke
WHEN: What will be available online and when
According to FamilySearch, they hope to finish digitizing the records that they have permission to digitize, in 2020. Unfortunately, some films we will not be digitized because of contractual limitations, data privacy, or other restrictions. Look to the Catalog for access details for the records you want.
By Lhsunshine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
HOW: How to order FamilySearch microfilms between now and August 31, 2017
I encourage you to use the microfilm lending service while it is still available. While most microfilmed records will be eventually digitized, the fate of a small percentage may remain unknown for some time. Follow these steps to view them now:
1. Go to FamilySearch.org and log in, or create a free login. (You’ll need the login to order records.)
2. Under the Search menu, select Catalog.
3. Search by location, listing first the largest jurisdiction (such as the country) and proceeding to the smallest, such as “United States, Illinois, Cook, Chicago.”
4. Review search results by clicking on the record categories and then each entry. Within the entries, watch for interesting items that only list microfilm or microfiche formats.
5. Within record entries, order items you want by clicking the microfilm reel icon on the far right, under Format. Select the lending period and the correct currency. It currently costs $7.50 USD to borrow a microfilm reel for 90 days.
During the order process, you’ll select a family history center near you to receive the item(s). When your order arrives, you’ll be notified. Check the center’s schedule before visiting; most have limited hours. Centers are free to use. When you get there, identify yourself and request your film. Then put it in the microfilm reader and scroll through it until you find the item number and pages you need. (Here’s a helpful article: How to Use a Microfilm Reader.)
What about accessing microfilmed records after August 31, 2017?
You’ll still have several options. Sunny Morton, author of the quick reference guide Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, says the FamilySearch catalog will still be a go-to resource:
“At this point, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah still plans to keep on hand microfilmed copies of records that are not yet online. So your options include going to view them in person (since to the best of our knowledge the library won’t be lending them), arrange for someone else to view them (such as through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group), or use the FamilySearch Catalog to identify the records and then attempt to locate them through other repositories and websites.
To find records you may borrow from other sources, click where it says ‘View this catalog record in WorldCat for other possible copy locations’ [see screenshot below]. This will take you directly to this item’s listings in WorldCat, which is the enormous, free multi-library online catalog. Look either for a copy at a library near you, or a copy at a facility that participates in inter-library loan. (This is the same process you already have to use to find copies of books you can borrow, since the Family History Library doesn’t lend these, either.)”
What about accessing the digitized records?
After August 31, 2017 many genealogists will be turning to the online FamilySearch catalog and Family History Center Portal. (Learn more about the Portal at the FamilySearch Wiki.) As you attempt to view records through the portal, you may be prompted to go to a Family History Center to view the record, and the site will link you to a map of all locations. It’s important to understand the difference between an official Family History Center and an Affiliate Center. We’ve learned that Affiliate Centers do not have access to what is called the Family History Portal. That portal is only accessible from an officially designated Family History Center.
So how do you know which location on the map is official, and which is an affiliate? I turned to genealogy blogger and friend of Genealogy Gems Amie Tennant for clarification:
The (online) FamilySearch map of Family History Centers is not accurate. With the new changes to microfilm loans, this is going to be a big problem. In other words…if a person assumes all FHCenters are the same and travels to the nearest one, they will be sorely disappointed to realize that this one will NOT have access to all the digitized microfilm. (Researchers) should call ahead to confirm whether the center they see on this map is an affiliate or a full FHC with access to the portal.
I’ve reached out to FamilySearch for additional official information on this and several other important questions that have arisen with the discontinuation of microfilm lending. I’ll report to you here on the Genealogy Gems blog and the podcast as more information becomes available. Check out Amie’s article for more information on the various levels of access.
What do you think?
The end of the FamilySearch microfilm lending service is a major milestone. It signals exciting future online access, but provides obstacles for the next few years. What suggestions do you have for researchers to gain additional access to essential microfilm? Please share with the Genealogy Gems community in the Comments below.
The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.
Recently I’ve seen two calls for volunteers to help “georeference” old maps. Basically, you’re tagging the maps in a way similar to tagging photos of people on social media sites. This makes finding old maps online easier and more accurate. It also allows sites to overlay the old and new maps. “Some places have changed significantly or disappeared completely, creating a puzzle that reveals an exciting contrast,” explains the British Library.
These two sites are asking for volunteers:
The British Library Online Gallery. The British Library is asking for volunteers to help georeference 50,000 maps it’s put online. Go right to the site and you’ll see the invitation to help on the home page. You’ll also see that you can click on a tab to search maps that are already georeferenced! The British Library tells its volunteers: “Your name will be credited, and your efforts will significantly improve public access to these collections. Contributors can see the results of their work, as well as the progress of the pilot and other participants, and the top contributor will be publicly announced.”
David Rumsey Historical Maps. This mega-maps site is also looking for volunteers to help add locations to its online map collections. On the home page, click on the left where it says Georeferencer: Help Add Location to Maps.
We blog about maps a lot here at Genealogy Gems. To learn more about using old maps online and for genealogy, go to our home page and search on the Maps category on the lower left side of the page. Additionally, Genealogy Gems Premium members have access to full-length video classes like these:
Not a Genealogy Gems Premium member? Click here to become one!
Did your Irish ancestors have a dog? Over 3.5 million Irish Dog Licence registers have been added to a collection already online at
“More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate.” Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page. No known copyright restrictions.
FindMyPast. “Now containing over 6 million records, the Irish Dog Licences list not only the name, breed, colour and sex of your ancestor’s four legged friend, but also the owner’s address and the date the licence was issued, making them a valuable census substitute,” says a recent FMP press release.
Also new on the site are other notable collections, as described by FMP:
- Trade Union Membership registers (3.4 million+ records) with digitized images of original records books from 9 different unions. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, names of spouses, and a number of unions published profiles of their members or those who held offices. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). These records allow you to follow your ancestor’s progress within the union and perhaps uncover previously unknown details of their working lives and careers. The documents can also include details about the trade unions themselves, such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business. Many trade unions also included international branches from Ireland to Australia to Spain and Belgium.
- Indexes to over 28,000 articles in 2000+ PERSI-indexed periodicals. These include magazines, newsletters and journals, according to location, topic, surname, ethnicity and methodology. (Learn more about PERSI on FindMyPast in our blog post on the topic.)
- Peninsular War, British Army Officers 1808-1814 dataset, compiled by Captain Lionel S. Challis of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles shortly after WW1. Using Army lists, Gazettes, despatches, official records and regimental histories, Challis gathered information on more than 9,600 officers who fought for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars and recorded them on index cards. Each record contains an image of the original handwritten index cards and a transcript.
- South Australia Births 1842-1928. Over 727,000 records and date back to when the compulsory registration of births first began in 1842. Sourced from an index transcribed by volunteers from the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., each records consists of a transcript that usually includes the child’s full name, gender, date of birth, place of birth and registration number. The names of both parents will also be included and in some cases the mother’s maiden name will also be present. South Australia’s colonial origins are unique in Australia as a freely settled, planned British province.
- South Australia Marriages 1842-1937 contain over 457,000 records. Each record includes a transcript that can contain a variety of information such as the first and last names of the bride and groom, their ages, birth years, marital status, the date and place of their marriage as well as their fathers’ first and last names.
- South Australia Deaths 1842-1972 contain over 605,000 records and span 130 years of the state’s history. Each record consists of a transcript that usually lists the deceased’s full name, gender, status, birth year, date of death, place of death, residence, the name of the informant who notified authorities of their death and their relationship to the informant.
Are you making the most of your online searches at FindMyPast and other genealogy websites? What about on Google? Learn more about search strategies that work in this blog post!
Featured this week are new records for Canada, including the 1851 Canada Census, and BMD for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Other records include new Irish collections, updated New Zealand birth, marriage, and death collections, new marriage record collections for England, and the launch of the New York State Death Index.
Canadian Genealogy: New Online
Ancestry.com has new collections for Saskatchewan, Canada available online now. These collections include Cemetery Transcripts (1850-1994) and Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials (1867-1932). These collections are both also available on MyHeritage.
Claire Banton, Library and Archives Canada (LAC)
Also at Ancestry this week are new records for Manitoba, Canada. You can search Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials (1834-1959), and keep in mind that some of the records in this collection pre-date Manitoba’s creation as a province, and, as a result, are from locations that do not exist in present-day Manitoba. Some records may also appear in French. You can also explore Manitoba Census Indexes (1832-1856 & 1870).
The 1851 Canada Census is available now at Findmypast. It contains over 1.3 million records and images for Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. This collection is also available at MyHeritage, as well as at the Library and Archives Canada (though their search tools may not be quite as robust).
For fabulous quick tips on Canadian research, take a listen to Lisa’s interview with Claire Banton of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Available free on the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #199.
Irish Military & Bank Records
County Cork. A new database of Irish soldiers is now available online: Deserters, acts of heroism, and IRA murders unearthed. According to the site: “The details of some 2,187 people – soldiers and their families – recorded mainly in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel have been recovered using the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials between 1810 and 1922 now in the safe custody of the RCB Library, and further research using a variety of additional resources have further unlocked their hidden stories.”
Snippet from a detailed spreadsheet containing information on the 2,187 soldiers and their families recorded in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel.
Newstalk. The Central Bank of Ireland opens its archives up to the public, including an online catalog. According to a recent article: “The bank says the archives can now be used for public research purposes for the first time. They include a range of materials created and acquired by the bank – such as objects, documents, and ledgers dating from 1786 to 1986.” All materials are open to the public in a dedicated research room, and an online catalog is available to determine what materials may be of interest.
Updated New Zealand Collections
Thousands of records have been added to Findmypast’s collection for New Zealand. Updates include 19,000 added to the Birth Index 1848 onward, 10,000 records added to the Marriage Index 1854 onward, and over 32,000 records added to the Death Index 1848 onward.
British Marriage Records: New Online
It’s wedding bells for Britain! Findmypast has a new collection of Oxfordshire Marriage Bonds 1634-1849 with over 46,000 records. You can also browse the new British Marriage Licenses 1446-1837 collection, where 15 English counties are represented including London, Lancashire, Suffolk, Exeter, Lincoln, Yorkshire, and more. Lastly, explore the thousands of Fleet marriages in Findmypast’s new collection of England Clandestine Marriages 1667-1754 of over 42,000 records.
United States: Newspapers & More
New York. Ancestry.com has just launched a collection of New York State death indexes 1880 to 1956. Ancestry says that “the collection includes more than 5 million names of people who died in New York State.” This death index is available online elsewhere for free, but Ancestry subscribers will appreciate the convenience of searching it on the site.
Colorado. Colorado Virtual Library: “The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection recently added four new titles; the Brush Lariat (1884-1885), the Morgan County Republican (1912-1920), the Louisville Times (1942-2007), and the Whitehorn News (1897-1907). These four new titles, added by a longtime CHNC partner and two new partners, join 205 titles of historic Colorado newspapers.”
Florida. The Greater North Miami Historical Society had a collection of historical images. Its historical collection dates back to the 1930s and includes over 4,000 negatives, photographs, and other items. *Only a fraction of the material has been put online and the project continues.
Newspapers (Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, & Washington D.C.)
Accessible Archives has announced the completion of additional titles in its African American Newspapers and Women’s Suffrage collections. The five newspapers are now fully imaged and searchable. These tiles range from mid-19th century to early 20th century.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Does your local library, historical or genealogical society have a newspaper collection to share? Let the NEH help!
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting proposals from institutions hoping to participate in the the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This program creates “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in U.S. states and territories.” Guidelines for 2014 are now available and proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2014.
According to the press release, “Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections, primarily from microfilm negative. Titles may be printed in Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish. The program provides access to this resource through the Chronicling America web site hosted by the Library of Congress. The site currently includes more than 6.6 million newspaper pages in English, French, German, and Spanish, from more than 1100 titles digitized by institutions in 30 states.”
For more program information, please visit the NEH’s program page or this page for technical information from the Library of Congress. Click here to see what institutions have participated.
I can’t say enough good things about this and other initiatives to support more digitized newspapers online. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers will provide you with more about using these awesome resources to flesh out your family’s story, a tried and true research process, and loads of resources. Check it out in paperback or pdf e-book!