FamilySearch, a world genealogy leader and nonprofit, announced today its plans to discontinue its 80-year-old microfilm distribution service. The transition is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. The last day for ordering microfilm will be August 31, 2017. Online access to digital images of the world's historic records allows FamilySearch to service more people around the globe, faster and more efficiently. See Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org and Frequently Asked Questions.
A global leader in historic records preservation and access, FamilySearch and its predecessors began using microfilm in 1938, amassing billions of the world’s genealogical records in its collections from over 200 countries. Why the shift from microfilm to digital? Diane Loosle, Director of the Patron Services Division said, "Preserving historic records is only one half of the equation. Making them easily accessible to family historians and researchers worldwide when they need them is the other crucial component."
Loosle noted that FamilySearch will continue to preserve the master copies of its original microfilms in its Granite Mountain Records Vault as added backup to the digital copies online.
As the Internet has become more accessible to people worldwide over the past two decades, FamilySearch made the decision to convert its preservation and access strategy to digital. No small task for an organization with 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in inventory and a distribution network of over 5,000 family history centers and affiliate libraries worldwide.
It began the transition to digital preservation years ago. It not only focused on converting its massive microfilm collection, but also in replacing its microfilm cameras in the field. All microfilm cameras have been replaced with over 300 specialized digital cameras that significantly decrease the time required to make historic records images accessible online.
FamilySearch has now digitally reproduced the bulk of its microfilm collection—over 1.5 billion images so far—including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide. The remaining microfilms should be digitized by the end of 2020, and all new records from its ongoing global efforts are already using digital camera equipment.
Digital image collections can be accessed today in three places at FamilySearch.org. Using the Search feature, you can find them in Records (check out the Browse all published collections link), Books, and the Catalog. For additional help, see Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org.
Transitioning from microfilm to digital creates a fun opportunity for FamilySearch's family history center network. Centers will focus on simplified, one-on-one experiences for patrons, and continue to provide access to relevant technology, popular premium subscription services, and restricted digital record collections not available to patrons from home.
Centers and affiliate libraries will coordinate with local leaders and administrators to manage their current microfilm collections on loan from FamilySearch, and determine when to return films that are already published online. For more information, see Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm.
Family History Microfilm Discontinuation
On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.)
The change is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology.From talking to some Family History Center Directors, I know that some centers have been told to return all of their microfilm to Salt Lake City. Unanswered questions include the following:
Digital images of historical records can be accessed today in 3 places on FamilySearch.org under Search.
- Online access to digital images of records allows FamilySearch to reach many more people, faster and more efficiently.
- FamilySearch is a global leader in historic records preservation and access, with billions of the world’s genealogical records in its collections.
- 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.
- The remaining microfilms should be digitized by the end of 2020, and all new records from its ongoing global efforts are already using digital camera equipment.
- Family history centers will continue to provide access to relevant technology, premium subscription services, and digital records, including restricted content not available at home.
When approved by priesthood leaders, centers may continue to maintain microfilm collections already on loan from FamilySearch after microfilm ordering ends. Centers have the option to return microfilm that is available online or otherwise not needed. As more images are published online, centers may reevaluate whether to retain microfilm holdings.
- Records include historical records indexed by name or organized with an image browse.
- Books include digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries.
- Catalog includes a description of genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, etc.) in the FamilySearch collection.