Monday, August 7, 2017
How will the FamilySearch Discontinuance of Microfilm Shipments Affect You?
For almost eighty years, genealogy and microfilm have been closely entwined. Every seriously involved genealogical researcher today has probably either used microfilmed records or has found that the records needed are available only on microfilm. As a technology, microfilm has been a huge success and enjoyed a longer life span than many other technologies. If you think about it, in 1938 when the predecessors of FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began acquiring their ultimately 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, almost none of the electronic wonders we have today were in existence. Computers, the internet, cell phones, online genealogy and much more were all in the distant and unimaginable future.
But as with many of our modern technological artifacts, microfilm has now seen its day. We are now well into the digital age and the transition from analog information storage, such as microfilm, to digital storage is well underway.
Since genealogists are among the few beneficiaries of microfilm technology at a very personal and consumer level, it is only natural that they should be the ones most highly impacted by the change to digital storage. I am certain that absent my interest in genealogical research, I would likely never have looked at a roll of microfilm in my lifetime. So far, the digital revolution has blown by many genealogists. These late adopters have simply ignored the technological changes and continued to work the way they and their own ancestors have for hundreds of years. I continually meet genealogists and others who are almost proud of the fact that they don't use a cell phone and that they are "computer illiterate."
So how will the announcement of the cessation of microfilm shipments by FamilySearch.org affect you?
Of course, if you are not a genealogist and have no interest in your family history, you probably do not even know microfilm shipments from the FamilySearch.org Granite Vault and Family History Library exist. It is also a given fact that you are very unlikely to be reading this blog post.
At the next level, you may be interested in genealogy but have never seen a roll of microfilm in your life. This is entirely possible. You have simply never gotten to the point in doing research where you were compelled to go to the Family History Library or a local Family History Center or some other library or archive and view a roll of microfilm. You are essentially in the same category as those who are not interested in genealogy when it comes to missing microfilm.
Now, let's suppose that you are a casual user of microfilm. You occasionally order a roll or two, but you are not extremely involved. Likely, the rolls that you have ordered in the past have already been digitized and have not been available for rental for some time. You may not even know this because you haven't looked at the FamilySearch.org Catalog for a while. The end of shipments of microfilm will not affect you at all.
The crux of the matter is that there is an extremely small number of genealogical researchers who are wedded to microfilm. They are like me, using microfilm regularly when we are in the mode of doing serious and very challenging research. We can't imagine life without microfilm. Hmm. But what is happening is happening. For some time now, I have watched as digital images of microfilm rolls have replaced the need to find or order microfilm from Salt Lake City, Utah. The reality is that much of the information I would have found while being dependent on microfilm has been adsorbed into the online digital juggernaut. I am finding more and more of the information I would have used online.
Should we be upset about the discontinuance of microfilm shipments? Only if we are genealogical ostriches with our heads firmly planted in the sand. Also, if you get to this point in reading this post and do not know what I am writing about or understand the point of this post, then you are not a genealogical microfilm user and should ignore the whole problem.