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Monday, June 26, 2017

Official FamilySearch Press Release re: Discontinuing Microfilm Shipments

In an official press release dated June 26, 2017, announced that it would be discontinuing the shipment of microfilm to users as of September 1, 2017. The last day for ordering microfilm will be August 31, 2017. Here is the text of the Press Release.
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 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 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
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.


  1. As I said elsewhere, I am curious why FamilySearch announced this without previously or simultaneously notifying family history center directors. It is going to be a headache and a half dealing with the public and we have not been given guidelines or directions. In addition, many center directors may not even see the press release.

  2. This move puzzles me. Why would FamilySearch end microfilm ordering when they are still three years away from digitizing all the films? I mostly do English research, but still find many cases where films haven't been digitized and a trip to the FHL is required. Not a problem for me, but what about all those who don't live along the Wasatch Front?

    1. Good question. It is mostly a matter of the rising cost and lack of availability of microfilm.

  3. Update: FamilySearch later sent an email with several links to different stories (this one listed second) but the most of the links don't work, including the information about microfilm. And the email went into Google's "Promotions" section. So, if center directors even see the email, they can't click to anything. I can see the puzzled discussions here and elsewhere, but what about the center directors in my stake and other places around the world who aren't involved in online discussions?

  4. Thanks your informative posts on this. Though we know this has been coming it will cause me some inconvience, especially in the near future. I sincerely hope Family Search is as close as they project they are at digitizing their microfilm collection and that they will follow though at making improvements in the search functions to aid the user at finding available images. Right now I often work with several of their large long-standing collections such as Scotland Marriages 1561-1910, England Birth and Christenings 1538-1975, or Germany Birth and Baptisms 1558-1898. All these collections are indexed and accessible through search but when you pull up a record all say "image unavailable" which may be or not be true. None of the above referenced collections or others like them show up in the catalog under those names. One has to enter the film number to see the correct name and to determine whether the image is available. In a quick check today of my three examples above I see that a lot of the Scotland records are available online but only at Family History Centers. The English records are generally available on line but there are many exceptions that are still on microfilm only. The German records are still almost entirely on microfilm only. In the past I have regularly ordered film to glean additional information from the record images, to locate records missed in the indexing process, and to find occasional index errors. It looks like I may be waiting until 2020 or beyond for many items. Good news is I can see that more and more is becoming available on line each day.

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment. We may all be waiting for a while.