Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

No, everything has not been digitized

During the past few months, I have spent a considerable amount of time viewing records on microfilm. I can say with absolute surety that not all of the world's records have been digitized. My life would be much simpler if all of these records had been digitized, but I suspect that they will not be and if they are, they will not be available for free on my own computer.

Even before we get to the question of digitization, one of the first issues with microfilms is that a specific film may only be available for use in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The policy is explained as follows from the "Family History Library Microfilm Restrictions" page on the Research Wiki.
If you use the microfilm collection of the Family History Library, you may see a note in the catalog saying the film is restricted. If you visit the Library there may not be a problem with using a copy. But if you are in a family history center you won’t be able to order a copy. Restrictions are usually due to the contractual agreement made with the archive holding the original material. Some reasons films are restricted are:
  • The copy in the library can’t be duplicated for circulation.
  • Only one copy of the film can be in circulation at a time.
  • A film can only be circulated within the borders of specific countries.
  • The film may contain several items and one or more of them are restricted.
 Many of the films I need for my current research fall into this category. The good news is that it only takes me an hour or so to get to the Family History Library.

Another category of records that are restricted include some of the records concerning ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints done in the Church's Temples. Here is the policy, again from the Research Wiki in an article entitled, "LDS Temple Records."
Most temple records are available to the public. For example, about 75 percent of temple records have no restrictions and can be used at the Family History Library and at Family History Centers. 
Only about 20 percent of temple records are restricted, especially records that include information about living people. Restricted temple microfilms are housed in the Special Collections room in the Family History Library, on the 2nd floor (northwest corner), and do not circulate to Family History Centers. The hours for Special Collections are 9am to 4pm Monday to Saturday.
Even if these records are ultimately digitized, they will very likely still be restricted. This is probably one good reason why the Family History Library will not go out of business due to digitization any time soon. As the reasons outlined above point out, there are a lot of very complicated reasons for these restrictions and the conditions requiring those restrictions probably will not change.

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