Opinion

Latter-Day Saints Church will end its microfilm service

The Church of Latter-Day Saints has announced that huge changes are about to happen with their genealogical microfilm collections and the way they can be viewed by researchers.  For years genealogists have relied on their local Family History Centers to order microfilms and microfiche of records unavailable elsewhere.  It made it possible to view records of everything from Hungarian church baptisms to the 1770 tax roll from Boxford, Mass., while staying right here in Maine.  It was a joy for genealogists who couldn’t travel to the sites of these original records.  

All that is now changing.  The church has announced that due to decreased demand for microfilm/fiche and the overwhelming interest in researching via the Internet, the church will discontinue microfilm/fiche ordering on August 31st of this year.  Centers that have microfilm/fiche in their collection will decide individually whether to retain these or ship them back to Salt Lake City.

The church has been digitizing its entire microfilm collection for several years and now has over 1.5 million records or transcripts on their website for searching.  They have focused on scanning the most requested and popular films.  They admit not all records are online but they project they will be by 2020.  Some of these records will only be viewable at Family History Centers due to contractual agreements.  The original microfilm collection will be preserved but not copied or circulated and all future additions will be added using digital cameras.  

Online there are comments from users which range from delighted to dismayed especially at the short notice given to genealogists.  If you are used to ordering microfilm or if you were thinking of doing that I urge you to get online and check to see if your needed film is already there.  If not, you should order as many as you can envision you will need to view and get an extended rental.  This is especially important if the film you need to view isn’t listed among the available ones on the Family Search site as there is no way to know if it will be next month, next year, or three years before it’s available for researching.  The website (www.familysearch.org) is your first stop.  Create a free account if you are a first-time visitor.  You can check “search records” for an ancestral name or place.  If what you need isn’t there check under “catalog” which will give you the entire listing of the collection.  There are help features for finding and ordering also on this site.  

Don’t delay, especially if you are seeking records that aren’t as frequently used or available on other sites.  Like many of the genealogists who commented online about this change, I wish more notice had been given to researchers but we must accept the reality of this decision.  I also advise checking the Family Search website frequently as I’m told new records will be posted as they become available.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

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