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Digitization: Those pesky icons & more

The Legal Genealogist was as dismayed as anyone when FamilySearch announced back in June that microfilm ordering would be ended this fall… and there were some gaps in the new system for access to microfilmed records.

Never fear.

Many of those gaps in the system have been filled, and more are being filled on a regular basis.

Here’s the story:

FamilySearch told us all back in June that it would be switching from providing access to its huge collection of records on microfilm to providing access digitally.1

In some ways, that was good news: it’s been more and more trouble to keep microfilm readers working and even to find raw microfilm to make new copies of microfilmed records. But there were other ways where it was bad news since the entire collection of microfilm won’t be fully digitized until 2020, and there were some questions about accessing the records in the meantime.

One open question when the announcement was made was about accessing records that can’t be put on the FamilySearch website because of contractual issues. While they could be accessed at Family History Centers (FHCs), it wasn’t clear whether they could be accessed at affiliate libraries such as the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Clayton Library in Houston and a vast array of other similar facilities.

The big advantage to affiliates, of course, is their longer hours and greater accessibility.

At the time the announcement was made, affiliate access hadn’t been resolved. It has been since then as the result of successful tests of a security system and it’s now clear that virtually all of the contractually-limited digitized records will be accessible at both FHCs and affiliates.2

Another issue at the time of the announcement was films that are labeled Granite Mountain Vault films. In the past, you could order those films only if you were at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and they’d be delivered a day or two later for you to use at the library. The original announcement said that would be ended, and that would have meant a gap in accessing those vault film records until they were digitized — which might not be until 2020.

That’s been resolved. Patrons at the Family History Library can still order the vault films, and once they’re delivered to the library, they’ll remain there and be added to the digitization queue.

Those were the big issues — and they’ve been fixed.

Then there was the minor annoyance of the icons at the FamilySearch website that became a major annoyance to anyone trying to access these newly-digitized films at home.

Now I get it: FamilySearch is a free non-subscription website provided as a public service and it seems a bit petty to complain about the way it works (definitely “first world problems” here). But the forty-‘leventh time you click on a camera icon that suggests a record set is available online only to get the message that it’s only available at FHCs and affiliates, the words that can come out of your mouth are really not pretty.

So I’m pleased to report that’s been fixed too.

As you can see from the image above, the FamilySearch website now has different icons for record sets that are digitized and available to view at home on your computer and record sets that have been digitized but can only be viewed at FHCs and affiliates.

Definitely moving forward at FamilySearch… and I for one am most grateful.


Note: a tip of the hat to Ann Donnelly for pointing out the new icon!

  1. See “FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm,” FamilySearch, posted 26 June 2017 ( : accessed 28 June 2017).
  2. See “UPDATE: FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm,” FamilySearch, posted 30 Aug 2017 ( : accessed 25 Sep 2017).
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