Monday, March 09, 2009

MORE about microfilm access online

Regarding DearMYRTLE'S 1, 5-10 year possibilities (Part G) - microfilm access online.

My original blog posting about the future of genealogy included a prediction (without any insider knowledge) that perhaps the Family History Library will allow access to microfilm online, without waiting for things to go through the process.

One can always hope.

Reader Diane responded as reported in my follow-up blog entry Sponsoring microfilm access online. Her comments referred to a presentation at the St. George Family History Expo on the new Family History Library Catalog, and the possibility of sponsoring microfilm access onlined iscussed during a WorldVitalRecords/FamilyLink class session .

Since that time, Myrt has exchanged emails with’s Jim Erickson, the intended presenter of the class in St. George. He was called to London to attend the Who Do You Think You Are? Live conference the same weekend. As his email explains, his replacement explored ideas, to get feedback from class participants. Nothing about online ordering of microfilm is etched in stone. It just happened that Ol’ Myrt’s suggestion in 1, 5-10 year possibilities (Part G) - microfilm access online AND this class asking for participant feedback came out at the same time by coincidence on the very same topic.

Here is some of my communication from Jim Erickson followed by additional comments from Ol’ Myrt here.

From Jim Erickson
Thanks for your recent blog and message regarding what we are trying to accomplish through a Web 2.0 implementation of the Family History Library Catalog through our collaboration with the FamilySearch team. I wasn’t in attendance at the conference in St. George, Utah last weekend, but my associate Scott Spencer presented a vision of what we hope to accomplish.

I’d like to clarify a couple points that may not have been clear in the presentation that was made and to add a little more information that seem to have created some confusion on your recent blog postings.

We announced the relationships we formed with the LDS Church to enhance the current implementation of the Family History Library Catalog last year and included some of the details we plan to include through this implementation. The announcement by Paul Allen on his personal blog is found at

This project will be launched within the next few months by, Inc. (owner of under the brand. We are also working with the folks at FamilySearch to determine an integration schedule to enable the same catalog functionality through FamilySearch. Some of the functionality Scott presented and discussed during his presentation last week will not be made available immediately with the launch of the enhanced catalog; however, we are hoping to add the functionality as soon as possible.

The concept of scanning and bringing microfilm online is something that has been discussed, but no implementation details have been agreed upon. We have presented the concept at two conferences as a means to gather audience feedback on possible implementations, but any final decisions will be made after conducting additional research and consulting with the Family History Department of the LDS Church.

The purpose of this presentation was to let people know about the exciting functionality that is forthcoming as well as to share our vision of what is possible to accomplish through this implementation of the Family History Library Catalog. As with many such presentations, the line between today’s reality and tomorrow’s vision can become blurred, especially when presenting a large concept in a short amount of time.

Thanks again for mentioning us in your blog and for all you do to promote family history research.

Ol’ Myrt here appreciates your clarification about online availability of digital versions of microfilm, and the possibility of also ordering online.

The opportunity to get out from behind our collective desks to interact with genealogists who experience real life research challenges is a benefit of attending conferences and expos such as provided by through their recent St. George event.

Genea-bloggers such as Ol’ Myrt here tend to collect ideas, wishes and dreams of a better research experience from our readers, and take occasion to discuss them in our blogs. The idea of viewing microfilm online in digital format seems a reasonable 21st century alternative to ordering microfilm and paying for snail mail.

In recent conversations on this topic with Gordon Erickson, FGS board member, past President of the Fairfax (VA) Genealogical Society, and current 27-28 March 2009 Conference chair, several additional thoughts have emerged:
  • Archives and courthouses could elect to “sponsor” the immediate scanning of existing microfilm, expediting the digitization process.
  • Said archives and courthouses may elect to “house” the digital version on their respective websites as a means of making truly public the so-called public records they are charged to archive.
  • Said digitized microfilm goes into a “queue” for eventual attention. It obviously takes less time to scan than to index a film.
  • Links in the new Family History Library Catalog would lead a researcher to the online “house” site of the digital images, in addition to providing references to the microfilm at the Family History Library.
  • Individuals and local genealogical societies could access the “queue” to index the digitized pages.

Gordon also discussed a possibility of local societies sponsoring digitization of local courthouse records not yet available on microfilm format, as a function of that society's committment to preservation and public service.

Ol' Myrt here is sure that this discussion isn't over. As emerging technologies expand possibilities, the genealogy community will continue to explore how these can be applied to records access and preservation.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.


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This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to . Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.