Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Film at 11:00

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxMy comments about the Layton FamilySearch Center and microfilm elicited some good feedback.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I work at the Ogden FamilySearch Center and we have some books and readers and film and fiche. Come on up!

Janice Nusbaum

Dear Janice,

That is good news. There is so much that is only available on film. I’m glad to hear it.

Signed,
---The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I am a FHC Director and was told not too long ago that there will be no film use within 3 or 4 years. I was told this because I was inquiring about returning films that were viewable online.

Signed,
Unknown

Dear Ancestry Insider,

They've (FamilySearch?) said they will never put all the films online?? Is that because of contract restrictions or some other reason?

Signed,
Marilyn Cranford

Dear Marilyn,

There are several reasons why some images will never be available online: contracts, laws, relationships, and strategies.

In the distant past many companies did business over a handshake. If FamilySearch/GSU operated that way, it is conceivable they have films for which they have no written contract. In the past when written contracts became the norm, companies didn’t foresee technology growth; FamilySearch has said publicly that most of its contracts did not foresee distribution via any medium besides microfilm. If FamilySearch wishes to publish these films, they will have to negotiate contracts with many record custodians and many of them won’t do so.

Laws increasingly limit what can be published. Open publication (which the Internet does) is a very different animal than closed distribution (which is what you do when you order a film to view at a FamilySearch family history center). So while some films can remain in limited distribution, they can’t be published publicly on the Internet. This trend is likely to get worse.

An article in the FamilySearch Wiki documents another scenario. FamilySearch had published some images of vital records. The contract with the record custodian was revised such that FamilySearch depublished the images in exchange for rights to obtain and publish additional indexes. Apparently, FamilySearch is willing to forego publishing microfilm that it has rights to publish if doing so can buy a continued working relationship with a record custodian.

Strategy comes into play. Some films are duplicates. Some films were not filmed by FamilySearch/Genealogical Society of Utah. I predict that FamilySearch will not digitize some films because decision makers will decide they would rather spend the money elsewhere. For example, how valuable are Soundex census indexes? Are the costs justified for the few discoveries that will result? Or would you rather have high-value vital records from your ancestral country? How valuable are the road commissioners’ ledger books? They’ll never be digitally indexed by humans. Looking at the public numbers, FamilySearch has slowed publication of unindexed images. Does that mean that low-value, hard to index films might never be published? 

Signed,
---The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

Would you be willing to give our Family History Center a plug? We have a VERY LARGE collection of microfilms for the Chicago and Cook County Vital Records.  Instead of writing to Cook County, spending $15, and waiting 6 weeks, or not getting what you want at all for your $15, you can spend 5 minutes and get that birth, marriage, or death certificate for FREE.

Signed,
Donna Roginski

Wilmette Family History Center   
2727 Lake Ave., Wilmette, Illinois
www.wilmettefhc.org

Scheduling Notice. The Center will be closed November 22 through November 26 for Thanksgiving. We wish you a happy Thanksgiving, and resume normal operation on the 29th.

Dear Donna,

This is a timely reminder of why getting rid of microfilm will be a painful process. Consider yourself plugged.

Signed,
---The Ancestry Insider

1 comment:

  1. Your explanations of the various contract issues and considerations suggest that we FHC Directors and staff might need to be especially considerate of our aging microfilm readers. (The machines, not the people.) ;-)

    ReplyDelete