Not sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!
Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.
I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.
Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!
Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.
These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)
To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:
Podcast Listener Joan wrote me recently: “I get to spend a day at the National Archives. What should I do to prepare to take full advantage of the visit? I checked their website, but it was not as helpful as I hoped. Any suggestions?”
While this first resource is from the National Archives in the UK, it’s applicable to archives in other countries as well. Check out their video series called Quick Animated Guide.
Another good approach is to search for presentations on archive visits using Google. By conducting a ‘file type search’ in Google you can uncover presentations posted on the Web that are geared to doing research at the National Archives.
I conducted the following search in Google: .ppt national archives research and came up with a Powerpoint presentation called Beginning Your Genealogical Researchat the National Archives which comes from the US National Archives website. When you click the link above you’ll be prompted to RUN the presentation, and I found that it detected Powerpoint on my computer and opened the presentation in my Powerpoint program.
This little genealogy search gem can come in quite handy. Sometimes you know exactly what kind of file or document you are looking for online. By searching for the keywords of the subject and then adding .ppt (the file extension for Powerpoint presentations) Google will pull up only Powerpoint presentations that include those keywords.
You may not be able to get out to genealogy conferences very often, but some creative searching may bring up presentations that cover topics that interest you right from your home computer. That’s a little gem you need to add to your search toolbox for sure! For more search gems check out my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Available in the Genealogy Gems Store
And finally, when it comes to preparing for and making a trip to an archive or library Margery Bell of the Family History Centers offered some great ideas for preparing for a research trip, regardless of whether it is to the National Archives or the Family History Library. The interviews are episode 17, 18 & 19 in the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.
Great question Joan and have a wonderful time! Happy hunting everyone!
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 18: Using Family History Centers, Part II
This episode is the second in a series about Family History Centers, the regional satellite facilities of the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
My very special guest is friend of the show Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Family History Center in Oakland, California. Last week Margery Bell introduced us to the Family History Center, and walked us step by step through the process of ordering and using microfilm. She also discussed the wide range of resources beyond microfilm that you will find at both your local Family History Center and one of the 14 larger regional centers.
In our first segment in this episode she preps us for our visit and reveals the subscription websites you can use for free at Family History Centers. Then in our second segment, Margery discusses making copies in all forms, the future of digitizing microfilm, and the future of Family History Centers.
We also talk about tips for visiting the main Family History Library (see link below and link to Show Notes, above).
In next week’s show, part three of the series on Family History Centers, Margery Bell will talk about educational opportunities through the centers, she’ll give us her 7 top tips for getting the most out of your visit, and we’ll wrap up with some wonderful inspirational stories of genealogical serendipity.
Some Family History Centers are now called FamilySearch Centers. Many Centers have opened in public and private libraries in the past few years, not just in meetinghouses of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click here to find a FamilySearch Center/Family History Center near you.
Many records are now available online, either in indexed form or just the digitized images. Click here to visit the online catalog of the Family History Library. When you find something you’d like to order, look at the catalog entry. If it’s digitized and online, you’ll see a link.
Many of the same principles apply to visiting the Family History Library and Family History Centers. Click here for updated information about preparing for your visit to the Family History Library (this is instead of the handout mentioned in the podcast).
Here’s a link to the main Family History Centers page on the FamilySearch website, which has an updated list of databases available there (and a lot more information).