According to Bloomberg Businessweek, genealogy is currently ranked as the second most popular internet activity, so we know people are going online to seek out their ancestors.
However, after working as a volunteer for one of FamilySearch’s geography-specific Facebook communities, I discovered that very few of these Internet genealogy enthusiasts know how to find microfilmed versions of their ancestor’s offline records.
Alas, the largest private microfilmer of genealogical records–FamilySearch.org–buries their microfilms in a hard-to-navigate catalog that takes ten steps to access, so it is an “insider secret” of sorts.
Today, I’m sharing the secret with everybody! 🙂
Here is how you can get started:
~ How to Find Microfilmed Records ~
The folks at FamilySearch.org have been traveling the world, making copies of birth, death, and marriage records everywhere since 1894. Most of these records are on microfilm–and you can rent copies of those microfilm no matter where you live!
Here’s how it works:
- You look up the location of your ancestor on FamilySearch’s Family History Library Catalog.
- Find the record type that interests you (land records, military records, or whatever)
- Then you order a copy of the microfilm to be sent to the FamilySearch center nearest you (there’s one in almost every town in America).
- You pay for shipping (currently $7.50 each)
- When the film arrives, you can scroll through it until you find your ancestor’s military record, birth certificate, or whatever it is you are looking for, then you can make a photocopy or scan a copy to take home with you.
Below are some screen shots, to walk you through the process:
1) First: go to FamilySearch.org and click on “Search”
2) Next, click on “Catalog” at the top of the page:
3) Enter the country where you are searching, then wait while the site pulls up a list of cities. Then click on the city you are looking for:
4) Then, go to the “Search These Family History Centers” option and choose “Family History Library.” (This is where the worldwide collection of microfilms is catalogued)
5) After you click “Search,” you will be taken to a list of record types on film for that location:
6) Click on the arrow to the left of any record type, and it will drop down to reveal the name of each record collection:
7) Click on the hyperlinked title of the record collection that interests you most. This will take you to a page of detailed information about the collection, including the microfilm number. Click on that microfilm number to order a copy to be sent to you:
8) Clicking on the film number will take you to an order screen, where you can pay $7.50 to have the film sent to you at the nearest FamilySearch Center (there is one in almost every town in America).
9) Once the film arrives, the FamilySearch center will email you to let you know. You can then visit the center, scroll through the film, then copy or scan any documents with your ancestors’ names on them. You can’t take the film home with you, but you can take as many copies as you want! 🙂
Here’s a video that shows what you can expect in these centers and what the microfilm machines look like:
10) When your rental period expires, the FamilySearch center will send your film back to the Family History library, or you can pay extra to keep the film longer, if you need more time for research.
If, after reading this post, you still have questions about how to find ancestors offline, please feel free to ask me more in the “Comments” section here below! 🙂
Good luck, and happy hunting! 🙂
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