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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unique Genealogical Highlights of the Brigham Young University Family History Library -- Part Four

Microfilm rolls stored in cabinets at the BYU Family History Library
Despite the constant worldwide movement to digitize documents and particularly genealogically relevant documents, there is still a huge amount of information preserved only in microformats; i.e. microfilm and microfiche. One good indication of a dedicated genealogist in today's world is their familiarity with microfilm and microfiche. Even though both formats are technologically "on their way out," genealogists who do a significant amount of research will still find a need to spend hours searching through rolls of microfilm or looking at the magnified images on microfiche.

Just to make sure you know what I am talking about, here are some images for reference. By the way, images of both microfilm rolls and microfiche are very uncommon on the internet. This is a roll of microfilm.
The microfiche is just a single sheet of film with small, very detailed photos of single pages of a document or record. Both microfilm and microfiche require specialized viewers to enable the researchers to see the reduced images and manually search the documents for information. Here is a photo of a microfiche card.

The Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Library has more than 300,000 rolls of microfilm. It also has an uncounted number of microfiche for research. These resources are stored in large, specialized filing cabinets in the main area of the BYU Family History Library on the 2nd level of the Harold B. Lee Library on the Brigham Young University campus (Lee Library).

Both of these extensive collections of microforms are cataloged mainly by film number. So, interestingly, this huge collection of microforms (both microfilm and microfiche) are searchable and stored on the shelves only by a unique number. So how in the world do you find anything? That is a very good question.
One key to both of these collections is the FamilySearch Catalog on the website. Some of the microfilm rolls and some of the microfiche are also cataloged in the Lee Library main catalog. But my experience indicates that some of both the microfilm and microfiche do not appear in either catalog. Hmm.

So even though you are doing research in the BYU Family History Libary, it is still necessary to refer to the Catalog. However, not all of the microfilm in the BYU Family History Library is in the Catalog. Where do you begin?

First, I suggest searching in the Catalog. For example, here is a screenshot of a search for Huntingdonshire Church records in the Catalog.

This item is on six microfiches in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Does BYU have this item? You can see if the item is cross-referenced to the BYU Library from a pull-down menu. This item does not have such a menu and so you should then search in the Lee Library Catalog. Copy the title of the item and use the title as your search term in the Lee Library catalog.

It does not appear that the item is in the BYU Family History Library. Here is another example also from Huntingdonshire.

In this example, there is a pull-down menu and the item is in both the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and a few other Family History Centers around the world, including the BYU Family History Library. I should also note that the little magnifying glass indicates that there is an index of the contents of this microfilm online.

In some cases, it is necessary to physically visit the Library to determine if the items you are seeking are available. Now, to carry the example on further, you should search for Ramsey Marriages in the BYU Lee Library Catalog. Now, I did not find anything with that title, but what I did find was a collection of records about one of my ancestors who happens to be the one I am researching in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England.

This is an excellent example of why you keep searching in any library's collections. I did not know this item was in the BYU Special Collections Library but I found it by cross-searching in both catalogs. Also, it is a good idea to extend the search further in and on Google. You might just find another format or item that has the same information.

The previous posts in this series.

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