Thursday, January 8, 2015

FamilySearch Eliminates Photo Duplication Service

FamilySearch Family History LibraryFamilySearch recently announced that it has discontinued its Family History Library online photo duplication service. Users could previously request no charge copies of individual images from microfilm or fiche, copies of records, or pages in books. This was a great service and I am sad to see it go. FamilySearch cites the availability of online digitized films and books as the reason.

I think publication only increases the need. I’ve come across poorly digitized images on and I’ve had the luxury of running across the street to the Family History Library and copying single pages from microfilm. Most people can’t do that. They’ll have to pay for an entire roll of microfilm to be delivered to their local family history center when all they need is a couple of images. Some flawed logic also suggests another reason. As FamilySearch publishes more and more of its books and microfilm, more and more of what’s left can not be published for legal reasons. That increases the need for the photo duplication service. (The flaw in that logic is that the absolute number of unpublishable books and films doesn’t increase.)

FamilySearch suggests that in place of using this service for microfilm that is not available online, order the microfilm in your local family history center. I endorse this as being a more sound research methodology. As I’ve highlighted recently, you need to view a record in context to see surrounding content.

For books, FamilySearch advises using the OCLC WorldCat link in the FamilySearch catalog to see what nearby library has the book you need. Some may be available via interlibrary loan. I think the NGS book collection is available via the St. Louis County Library. Otherwise, a library may be willing to copy a few pages for you. For hard to find family history books, I advise you check libraries with large genealogy collections. I know the Allen County Public Library has a photo duplication service and for a reasonable fee will copy a few pages for you. I don’t know about the DAR library in Washington, D.C. or the NEHGS library in Boston. The Library of Congress is also one to check.


  1. This was a service that I highly valued. I tried not to use it frequently, but it was great when needed. I would be happy to pay a fee if they would restore it.

  2. Firstly, my family history centre does not have facility to copy pages from a film. Furthermore, the last time I was there the film reader was broken and there were no plans to fix it because 'more people use the computer than the film reader'. Now that, is flawed logic.

  3. Very sad to see this service stopped. To view films I would need to travel over 200kms north or just under 200kms south. Researchers living in rural Australia are now disadvantaged indeed. I used this service sparingly and first tried to source information using other avenues.

  4. This was an extremely useful and valuable service. I agree with Doris about paying a small fee if they would restore it. Let's say they charged $5 per vital record, which is all I ever ordered. That would be great income for the FHL and still be a very valuable resource for researchers. They could figure out a charge per book page too. I wish they would reconsider. I too wrote about the discontinuation as I had many readers who used the service after reading my blog post about it.

  5. I know we are always trying to get Utah members to become missionaries and it's difficult to get enough of them, but how about suggesting they actually call youth missionaries to provide this service. I realize there is still an expense but I can't believe that the requests have gone down because of the increase in online access to records. Sad to see it go.

  6. I was also very sad to see this service withdrawn. I have now had to order 3 films to come to me in Nottingham, England, which risks the possibility of those 3 films getting lost or damaged on the way. I know exactly which 3 pages I need (they are all marriages outside their usual places of residence, so no local knowledge to be gained by searching the whole film), so once they are viewed the films will be making the long trip back to Utah. I too would have been happy to pay for the service. Insider, would you be so kind as to lobby FamilySearch on our behalf? Many thanks.


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