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Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm

On September 8, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm circulation services. Due to system outages during the week of August 20, 2017 FamilySearch has decided to extend circulation an additional week.

Family history centers including affiliate libraries may retain their microfilm collections already on loan from FamilySearch after microfilm ordering ends (The last day to order microfilm will be on September 7, 2017.) All microfilm currently in circulation will be converted to an extended loan. Additionally, recent changes now make it possible to view many formerly restricted images in affiliate libraries as well as local family history centers.

FamilySearch is a global leader in historic records preservation and access, with billions of the world’s genealogical records in its collections. This change is the result of significant progress made in microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of vesicular microfilm as an access medium.

  • Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including all microfilms that have been borrowed in the last five years
  • Microfilms, not available digitally, are being scanned at a rate of 1000 films per day and the remaining portion of the collection should be digitized by the end of 2020. New digital images will be made available as they are scanned on FamilySearch.org.
  • All new records gathered in the ongoing global efforts are captured using digital camera equipment.
  • FamilySearch remains committed to providing access to the vast record collection. Increased online access to digital images of records allows many more people to use these records faster and more efficiently.

Those seeking digital images of historical records, can be access them today in 3 places on FamilySearch.org under Search.

  • Catalog includes a description of genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, etc.) in the FamilySearch collection • 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.

Family history centers will continue to provide access to relevant technology, premium subscription services, and digital records, including restricted content not available at home. 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.

What will happen to microfilm at family history centers once ordering is discontinued?
All microfilms currently in circulation have been converted to extended loan. When approved by local leadership, centers may continue to maintain their existing microfilm collections after microfilm ordering ends.
Family history centers have the option to return microfilm that is available online or otherwise not needed. As films are published online, centers may re-evaluate whether to retain those microfilm holdings. The microfilms are on loan and are the property of FamilySearch. Do not donate, give away, sell, or relocate microfilms or microfiche to another facility, individual, or organization. If approved by local leadership, an exception may be granted to relocate microfilms to another family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library by contacting FamilySearch Support for permission.
How can I see the digital images available on FamilySearch?
Digital image collections can be accessed today in three places on FamilySearch.org under Search.
  • Catalog includes a description of all the microfilms in the FamilySearch collection. A camera icon appears in the Catalog when a microfilm is available digitally.
  • Records include collections that have been indexed by name or published with an image browse.
  • Books include digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries, including many books that were previously copied to microfilm.
For additional help, see Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org or watch this how-to video "Where are the digitized records on FamilySearch?"
How much of the microfilm collection is available online?
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. In addition, many records that FamilySearch has not yet published can be found online on partner or free archive websites.
FamilySearch plans to finish microfilm digitization by 2020. Digital images may have contractual, data privacy, or other restrictions. Insofar as possible, restricted images are accessible by logging in with a FamilySearch Account or by viewing FamilySearch.org at a family history center or affiliate library.
I have been trying to order a film on the online film ordering system and keep getting a message that states the film does not exist. Why can’t I order the film that I need?
An update was made to the FamilySearch web site that caused a temporary outage of some site functions, including online film ordering. There was a bug that caused a message to display saying, "This film does not exist". In most cases, this message appeared for films that are not available to order, either because of a legal restriction, or because they have already been digitized and can be viewed through the image viewer. However, some films that are not online and not restricted were also affected. This issue has been resolved.
Because of these disruptions online film ordering has been extended one week. The last day to order microfilm is September 7, 2017.
I have been ordering microfilm to continue my research and keep getting an error message. I am seeing multiple charges on my credit card though, what should I do?
The recent update made to the online film ordering system also caused some orders to show as an error, but they have actually gone through. If you have experienced this problem and were charged multiple times, please reach out to FamilySearch Support and the duplication error can be resolved.
What if a microfilm I need for my research is not available digitally on FamilySearch.org?
FamilySearch has priority digitized most films that have been rented by patrons in the last five years. There are various reasons why microfilms you need may not yet be available digitally on FamilySearch.org:
  • The microfilm may not be a priority to scan now, because the same content is already available on FamilySearch.org, a partner site, or a free archive site.
    • Family history centers have access to several premium web sites at no cost to patrons. The FamilySearch Wiki may also help with locating online records on other sites. Try searching for a country and looking for a link to online records. You may also try an internet search of the information you are looking for to find records.
  • The microfilm may be scheduled for future scanning because it had not been borrowed in the last five years.
    • FamilySearch is currently scanning 1000 microfilms per business day and will post new records to the site as they are completed. FamilySearch plans to complete microfilm digitization by 2020.
    • If you have a film you need that has not been digitized, you can reach out to FamilySearch support to express your interest in having that particular film being prioritized earlier in the scanning process.
  • The microfilm may have a contractual, data privacy, or other restriction preventing access. FamilySearch is making every effort to ease restrictions, which is dependent on decisions of record custodians and applicable laws. FamilySearch strives to obey all laws and restrictions regarding records.
    • Some records are limited to viewing only in a family history center and some are restricted from any access. Microfilms that previously were restricted from circulation will remain restricted from access in digital format until legal conditions change.
Is the microfilm I want or need at the bottom of the list for digitization?
FamilySearch has already scanned most of our most frequently ordered films, and we are currently scanning the remaining microfilm at a rate of 1000 films per business day. FamilySearch is prioritizing scanning based on the value of the records for genealogical research and the anticipated geographic areas of greatest demand.
Patrons can contact FamilySearch Support to express up to 5 films they would like to see added to the priority digitization list for microfilm.
It is currently not possible to know where a film you need is on the priority digitization list, but you are encouraged to visit the catalog often to see if a particular film has been digitized.
Why is the microfilm distribution service being discontinued before microfilm digitization is complete?
  • With digitization nearing completion and many of the records FamilySearch has not yet digitized available on other websites, patrons have greater digital access than ever before. By reinvesting resources in digital efforts, FamilySearch can accelerate digital access.
  • While microfilm remains an important preservation medium, its use for access has been in decline for a couple of decades since the advent of digitization. The cost of vesicular film used to duplicate microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically while demand has decreased significantly. Today, duplicating and circulating a microfilm costs exponentially more than the subsidized loan fee currently charged by FamilySearch.
  • It has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.
How are family history centers affected?
Family history centers, including FamilySearch affiliate libraries, will continue to be a resource to help people discover their family history. Transitioning from microfilm to digital is an opportunity to change the center environment and focus on giving more personalized help to families because access to information will be more immediate and widely available.
Centers will also continue to provide access to relevant technology, premium subscription services, and digital records, including restricted content not available in homes.
What is the process for returning microfilms?
Microfilm may be returned to the local LDS Distribution Center using the current process for returning microfilm pertaining to your area. In North America and Europe, please refer to the Family History Center Operations Guide for instructions. North American returns should be limited to no more than 500 microfilms per shipment. If there are questions about the microfilm return process in your area, contact FamilySearch Support.
What about microfiche?
Microfiche circulation is also ending at the same time as microfilm. Microfiche that is online or not needed by patrons may be returned. As an exception, the following microfiche sets may be discarded: International Genealogical Index (IGI), Family History Library Catalog (FHLC), Accelerated Indexing System (AIS), Restricted Microfilm List. All other microfiche sets are returned in the same manner as microfilm.
What is the process for handling microfilm or microfiche readers and cabinets?
Staff in LDS family history centers should coordinate with local leaders and the facilities manager for removal of unneeded microfilm and microfiche readers and cabinets. If there is a local entity that would like them, readers and cabinets may be donated. Cabinets may be recycled. FamilySearch affiliate libraries are responsible for handling their own equipment and furnishings.
Will the original vault master microfilms be preserved?
Yes, the original master copies of the microfilm will continue to be preserved in the Granite Mountain Records Vault as a backup to the digital images. The masters are preservation only and not for circulation.
What will happen to Online Film Ordering and other film ordering systems?

With the end of microfilm distribution, the Online Film Ordering webpage will be replaced with information about the end of microfilm ordering.

The Online Film Ordering Admin Panel, also known as OFO Admin or Magento, will be renamed the Film Admin Panel and will be maintained so centers can manage their remaining film inventory, if applicable. As microfilm and microfiche are returned, staff should update the Film Admin Panel to remove those film numbers and keep their inventory list current. For information about how to manage film inventory, see the user guide.

Other film ordering systems, used in some areas, will also be disabled. No admin version of those systems is planned to be maintained after microfilm ordering ends.

Will microfilm continue to be available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City?
The Family History Library staff continually evaluates the needs of patrons and the balance of services it provides. Microfilm that is currently in the FHL collection that is not yet online will remain available. Most other microfilm will stay for the time being, although some may be removed to accommodate space needs. There may be opportunities to add films to the collection from other locations. For a transitional period, visiting guests will be able to continue to order microfilm from the Granite Mountain Records Vault to the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City.
How can I find out if there are other locations where the film can be viewed?
Family history centers have access to several premium web sites at no cost to patrons. The FamilySearch Wiki may also help with locating online records on other sites. Try searching for a country and looking for a link to online records. You may also try an internet search of the information you are looking for to find records.
The index of the record may be incomplete or inaccurate, how can I verify the information without access to the microfilm?
If the microfilm has been digitized and published on FamilySearch, you can click on a camera icon to view the image of the original record and compare it to the index. There are some collections where indexing is allowed, but access to the digital images is restricted. FamilySearch strives to make these indexes as complete and accurate as possible so that the information can be found even when the images are not available. If there are gaps or inaccuracies, it would be ideal to be able to compare the index to an image of the original record. If it is not possible to view the digital images on FamilySearch, due to legal restrictions, then it may be possible to access the records in another way, such as through the archive that holds the originals. Again, FamilySearch is making every effort to increase access within the law. FamilySearch also strives to improve the quality of its index data over time.
The family history center in my area has few computers and is only open a few hours per week, what can be done?
Please speak with the family history consultant responsible for the family history center regarding the hours you would like to visit. It may be possible to make arrangements, such as visiting a center by appointment outside of the regular hours, adjusting opening hours, or maintaining a sign-up schedule for using the computers. Please be patient as centers are operated by volunteers who often take time outside of employment or other commitments to serve in the center. Opening hours are usually determined by available volunteers to help staff the center. You may consider becoming a volunteer to help increase the open hours and help others in their family history efforts.
You can also look to see if there’s an affiliate library that serves your area. These facilities now offer similar access to records as a family history center and have extended hours of operation.
It is impossible for me to get to the family history center. Can you give me special access to restricted images?
FamilySearch is committed to honoring the contracts we have signed with record holders around the world as well as data privacy and other applicable laws. Because of that commitment, we are unable to offer viewing rights that would violate those terms. We are sorry that we cannot accommodate personal requests for special access.
Why if there are still companies that make microfilm are you moving to all digital images?
  • Online access to digital images of records allows many more people to use records faster and more efficiently.
  • While microfilm remains an important preservation medium, its use for access has been in decline for a couple of decades since the advent of digitization. The cost of vesicular film used to duplicate microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically while demand has decreased significantly. Today, duplicating and circulating a microfilm costs many times the loan fee charged by FamilySearch.
  • It has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.
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