Sunday, March 3, 2013

Microfilm

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This would be me at the Georgia Archives looking at microfilm. I would love to know if there are any blog readers out there that have never used a microfilm (or microfiche) reader. Back in the olden days this is all we had other than books and trips to the courthouse. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent glued to one of these things. The one I am using here is a fancy one. This is the first time I have used one that allows you to download the images directly to a flash drive. I have since learned that this is actually an older model and there are even fancier machines out there. Living in the sticks does have its disadvantages sometimes.

I just worry that new researchers rely too heavily on the internet because it is so available and easy to use.  The problem is that the internet only has a mere fraction of what the Family History Center, the National Archives and the State Archives have on microfilm.  There are also many records that have never even been microfilmed or digitized and you will only find those by visiting the state archives or courthouses in person.  Please don’t limit yourself to just the internet because all it will do for you is build a lot of brick walls.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

13 comments:

  1. Okay, I'll confess... I've never used a microfilm reader! I have only recently begun searching for my family history (about 6 months ago). I have found obviously a lot of info online, but also have sent for copies of original records through state and county archives. Unfortunately, I live in CA and my family mostly settled in PA after immigrating from Ireland and England, so I don't have the option of heading to those courthouses in person. I am aware of the Family History Centers, but as of yet there hasn't been anything I've wanted that I would need to get through them. I expect at some point I will end up needing records that I can get through them. Another factor is that, in the generations I've researched so far, I'm only in the late 1800s. And obviously info is easier to find on those folks than it will be going further back.

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  2. I used a microfilm reader for the first time when I was in Cincinnati, OH for the NGS Family History Conference last year. I have to confess that after an hour or so of it, I got terribly motion sick and had to go back to my hotel for the rest of the day. Like the previous commenter, I live too far away from Ohio and Indiana to take advantage of the records there. I got one film from the Family History Center, but to be honest, I have to feel pretty sure a record will be on it to pay the $7.50 to borrow it. A couple of reels of film add up pretty quickly and it's disappointing when you can't find what you hoped was there or the quality of the film or reader prevents you from seeing some of the information well. Any ideas on how to prevent the motion sickness?

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    1. Using a manually cranked reader, rather than the motorized version minimizes the motion sickness. Don't try to read as the film is moving -- even at a very slow speed!

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  3. I am married to my microfilm reader at my FHL that is built 1940's, maybe 1950's ? It has broken down many times and we just get a tool box out and fix it ! That's how old and precious it is to me . No doubt , having a lot of records digital speeds up my research but I think both options should be standard.

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  4. Have never used a microfilm. The pictures scares me even more because I have techno fear! Maybe I will have to hire someone! Sigh..

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  5. I used to get headaches when I would sit in front of the one at the Tampa Library. After a couple of hours of hand cranking census records my head would be spinning like the film!

    I will say the hand cranked ones make your head spin a lot less than those push button things. It is sort of like when you are at a planetarium, you want to close your eyes if you are moving the film from section to section.

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  6. I have to say that I cheat these days. I don't look at near as much microfilm because I have a lady that pulls records for me at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My local Family History Center has ancient microfilm readers that I just can't good pictures off of (there is no copying microfilm reader there, you have to take digital photos of the screen). I would rather pay someone to get me clear images on a good machine. It is actually very cost effective for me because I pay her by the hour and I give her very exact look up info. She can pull several records in an hour and I end up paying less than if I ordered the microfilm myself. Also, I get my images in a week or less instead of having to wait 6 weeks for the film to come in.

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  7. The Ft. Vancouver Regional Library opened its new main library almost 2 years ago, and has 3 computerized microfilm readers with the capability of copying to flash drive as well as printing. I do a lot of obituary look-ups from microfilmed newspapers, and printing to flash drive saves me a lot of time and headaches. I've yet to get that dizzy feeling from these new readers. And wonder of wonders--the new chairs are higher than the old ones so I'm reading at eye level and not looking up. No more stiff and sore neck, either.

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  8. Sometimes I wish I lived closer to large repositories that have these cool things :)

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  9. Michele, during my most recent stint of temp work I had one steady client who paid extra to get someone who knew how to use a microfiche reader. At 52, much of my early work experience was pre-PC so everyone used microfilm and microfiche readers. Now I pull records for people at NARA 1 and at the Library of Virginia, so those skills still come in handy. Like Wonderland Girl, I love that both of those repositories have readers that scan from the microfilm. It makes it so much easier to use the documents and to send them to clients.

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  10. I wondered how the lady that pulls documents for me at the FHL was able to send me really clear pictures. Now I know :) When I used the reader at the GA Archives, that was the first time I had ever seen such a fancy machine. I was almost sad when it was time for me to pack up and go home.

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  11. I use both internet and microfilms (microfiches) and, frankly, microfilms and microfiches are far more faster than internet to search through. And with the proper camera, the pictures from microfilms are as clear as are those from the internet. The only down part is, of course, headache and the dim light. But you can get used to it ;)

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  12. I have been looking at Mississippi early territorial and tax records. The images are on FamilySearch but they are not indexed. It would be A LOT faster for me to look at these using microfilm because I have to load each image one at a time and it takes a while. It is a trade off. I take the slower image load so that I can do it at my house instead of having to order multiple rolls of microfilm (at $7.50 a roll) and then use substandard microfilm readers at the Augusta Family History Center (not their fault).

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