Sunday, June 25, 2017

FamilySearch Will Discontinue Distribution of Family History Microfilm

FamilySearch announced today that they will discontinue distribution of Family History Library microfilm as of 1 September 2017.  The last day to order microfilm will be 31 August 2017.

1)  See the full announcement at

Did I just hear a very loud GONG tolling the demise of book and microfilm genealogical research as we've known it?  I think so.  As we have known for several years now (a decade or more), almost all genealogical research is going to be performed online using websites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, and a host of other record providers.

Researchers without home computer or home Internet access will still be able to go to the local FamilySearch Centers and access records there online and on any microfilm that the local center holds.

The announcement says that the digitization of the FHL microfilms will be completed in 2020 and new records are being digitized by digital camera equipment.

There are still many microfilms that have not been digitized to date - approximately 1 million if I figured it correctly.   Researchers will have to wait for them to be digitized and made available through the FamilySearch website or go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

There was a wealth of material that was on microfiche also - has that been digitized yet?  I don't know.  If not, it should be, although some of it was census records and the FHL Catalog which needn't be digitized.

2)  The announcement notes that digital records can be accessed through:

*  Indexed records or browse images records available on FamilySearch in the Historical Records site - see

*  Digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries are available from the Books section on FamilySearch - see

*  The FamilySearch Catalog lists all of the holdings of the Family History Library - see

3)  As most researchers know, the Family History Library does not have EVERY historical record ever created or every family history book ever written, but they have a very large collection.  Researchers will still have to visit local, county, state, regional and national repositories (libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, town halls, county clerks, courthouses and archives) in order to find unique records that may identify their ancestral families.

4)  For me, my family's health and physical limitations are precluding me from doing research trips and distant research for the foreseeable future.  I have spent six hours in a research library, at the FHL, using microfilms of non-digitized records,  so far this year and have spent about 8 hours at the local FHC searching for digitized books and overseas records on the computers there.  At present, I do 99% of my search and research online and use my RootsMagic program to update my genealogy and family history on a daily basis.

5)  My opinion is that this change in policy by FamilySearch was expected, and should come as no surprise to anyone who has kept up with the genealogy industry.  

6)  My opinion is that it behooves local and regional genealogical societies to drag their "traditional" researchers to the computer to demonstrate and help them become competent at using 21st century technology.  

7)  Your opinions are welcome!  Please comment - FamilySearch management reads this blog.


Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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DearMYRTLE said...

I have a similar reaction, Randy. I'm thankful we have a proliferation of digital records all over the internet to help get my research done as efficiently as possible.

See also:

Seeds to Tree said...

What are the individual centers going to do with the films on "permanent loan"? I heard that that decision will be left up to each center's leadership. While I realize that those films on permanent loan are not owned by the individual that paid for them to stay, it is hoped that if the centers decided to dispose of the films, they will allow the patron to request a transfer to another LDS approved archive. I have a few film favorites - cemetery records from small towns that I would love to have access to. Not like findagrave - the books of information.) Hopefully access will be available either online or having the film transferred. (It's such a small cemetery - I wonder if they will "bother" putting it online.)

On another train of thought, 2020 is not very far away! It will be wonderful to see these records with just a click!

Amberly said...

I actually heard about this well before the official announcement (like months ago) and was slightly amused when the genealogy world went all abuzz after the announcement. I was surprised that the secret was kept for so long after I heard about it. I was worried a bit when I first heard, but I've been paying attention to the rate of digitization in the catalog and I'm not worried anymore. In fact, I went to BYU about 2 months ago and ordered two films. Before they could make me a copy and send it to BYU, I got a call telling me that the films had been digitized and were in the catalog. We'll all be okay!