Many people are having trouble accessing digital records from their home computer via FamilySearch. They are getting a message instructing them to a Family History Center to be able to view the record. What’s the problem and how is the LDS community helping to solve it? Read more to find out!
FamilySearch.org is going through a major change and adjustment. The genealogy community is in quite a buzz about it. The biggest change is the upcoming discontinuation of microfilm lending from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City as of 1 September 2017. In the meantime, there’s another little problem happening now. Several digital collections that look accessible from online, aren’t. And the only way to view them is to make a trip to your local Family History Center.
FamilySearch of the Past
In the past, when we couldn’t access a record we needed digitally on FamilySearch, we could order a roll of microfilm and have it sent to a local Family History Center for our viewing. By September 1st, that will no longer be an option.
Another option in the past was to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. From what I have read, viewing microfilm in this manner will be discontinued as well…sorta. There will be some films still available, but you won’t necessarily have access to every roll of microfilm in the vault as we used to.
FamilySearch and the Immediate Future
The immediate future of FamilySearch and access to their records is based on contracts and agreements between FamilySearch and record-set “owners”. In layman’s terms, FamilySearch asks a record-set “owner” for permission to share those records to the world digitally via FamilySearch.org. The record-set “owner” might say, “Sure!” Or they might say one of the following:
- No thanks.
- Okay, but only for a limited time.
- You can if you only share it to a very limited audience…like, only members of your church.
- Yes, but…you can only make it accessible from specific computers at designated locations.
Because of these and other stipulations, we now have six types of records on FamilySearch. And it’s confusing and aggravating. Here is a break-down and brief description of each type to help lessen the confusion:
- Those records that have been digitized and indexed and are searchable by name, place, and date from your home computer by anyone and you don’t have to be signed in to FamilySearch.
- Those records that have been digitized and indexed and are searchable by name, place, and date from your home computer by anyone, but you have to be signed in to FamilySearch. If you are not signed in, you may get an index or abstract version of the record. However, by signing in to your free FamilySearch account, you can see the digitized image of the record.
- Those records that have been digitized, but not indexed and are not searchable by name, place, and date. These records can be viewed by anyone from their home using the “browse-only” option via the card catalog. [See short how-to video to access browse-only collections on FamilySearch here.]
- Those records that have been digitized and may or may not be indexed, but only members who sign-in with a membership account will have access. In other words, these records are only accessible to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are signed in to an account attached to their membership number.
- Records that no-one can view via their home computer. These digitized records can only be accessed through the Family History Center Portal at designated Family History Centers around the world. Member or not, these records are only available at a Family History Center…not to be confused with a Family History Center Affiliate. Read more about that distinction here.
- Lastly, there will be some records that are not digitized at all and are only in their original or microfilm state. If the records are on microfilm and held at the FHL vault, it may take up to three years before there is any access to them at all. You can see the titles of these items at the FamilySearch online catalog, but will not be able to order the microfilm as you have in the past.
Is Anyone Doing Anything About This ‘Problem’?
Some of my genealogy friends have had some great suggestions! Judy Russell and Drew Smith like the idea of having a different icon to indicate which digitized records can be seen at home and those that require access through the portal.
Janet Horvorka suggests we all volunteer for a few hours at a local family history center which would allow us to see the records we want AND help out in the process!
Whatever the solution, we haven’t heard anything from FamilySearch officially. And of course, I can’t speak for FamilySearch or the Church as a whole. But, I can tell you what I have understood and what my local church area is trying to do to alleviate this problem.
Here in my area and in many other near-by areas, the local wards (much like a parish) understand we need to provide our communities with access to a Family History Center Portal. Sometimes, a Family History Center is within close proximity and in other areas, it can be quite a distance away.
My local Family History Center is about a 45 minute drive. We feel that is a bit far and have decided to look into the option of creating a Family History Center in our local building. To do this, we must apply to the Church. To run an effective Family History Center, we need several trained volunteers who are members, a building with great wifi access, computers, and time.
We don’t have a lot of either, but there is an option that might work…a computer-only Family History Center. What’s that?
Computer-Only Family History Center. Includes furnishings and a computer with Internet capability. Requires a small classroom, which may be used for other purposes on Sundays. May be sufficient for Church units whose members are beginning to organize family information but may not need access to the Church’s microfilm collection. [Taken from lds.org FHC request form]
An application for this type of center must be filled out and sent to Salt Lake City. Many things are reviewed and then the application is accepted or denied. If accepted, it would take several days or weeks to set up a volunteer schedule, provide training, and up-date the room and system. Once the computer-only Family History Center is up and running, it would be open to the public and offer the Family History Center Portal.
Is this the answer…just make a whole bunch of computer-only Family History Center’s? No, probably not, but it is a solution we are hoping works for our little neck of the woods!