FamilySearch will Discontinue Microfilm Distribution, Soon

On Monday of this week, FamilySearch in Salt Lake City announced that they will soon stop distributing microfilms and fiche. We all knew this would happen eventually, but I for sure didn’t expect it to happen this soon. The last day to order microfilm will be August 31, 2017.

FamilySearch has made significant progress in the digitization of its vast collection of microfilm, making access to records easier than ever. This progress, coupled with changes in the microfilm industry, have made it possible and necessary to discontinue microfilm distribution services.

FamilySearch has now digitally reproduced the bulk of its microfilm collection, with over 1.5 billion images available online. The digitization of remaining microfilms is expected to be completed by 2020. The most requested collections are already available digitally, and all new records are being preserved using digital camera equipment.

Brass tacks:
• you can order films for the next 2 months, until Sept 1
• you can view recently ordered films for 90 days, last day Dec 1
• dinner party to celebrate Dec 7
• the locally stored films will remain here, for now.

This is not the end of the world. Most of the films are already digitized and online. Viewing a digitized “film” online is just like viewing a film, except you don’t turn a crank, you click a mouse button. It is true, scanning through an online film isn’t that fun, but truthfully, neither was hunching over a film reader.

What is good about the online versions is that they are slowly being indexed too! Indexing takes longer than simply copying the film to disk. And spelling errors in the indexes will require that you “crank” the “film” anyway.

There is a gap -> new records are being digitized now using cameras. They estimate the last films won’t be online until 2020. That means some old, not-so-popular films won’t be viewable anywhere for 2+ years. I assume FamilySearch has figured out the order to process films that will have the smallest impact on the fewest people. But if you are concerned, and are reading this now, don’t delay any longer. Order that film soon!

Different History Centers will have different return schedules. Local leaders will manage their collections on loan from FamilySearch and determine when to return films that are already published online. Since we have facilities here to handle storage, it is thought that we will be keeping our rather large library here locally for some time. But that time is unknown.

There are some films here in Seaside on long term storage that are “smoking guns” for my research. I will be making a plan to copy those important images to personal flash drive! And perhaps I might have to do more advertising for folks to index records!

(The one thing I worry about is viewing fiche online. I don’t see how….)


“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” – Thomas Hardy


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