Published July 3, 2017

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When the announcement hit the “social media-sphere” a week ago that FamilySearch was discontinuing its longtime service of providing rentals of the microfilms from its huge collection of worldwide records, my first reaction was one of nostalgia.

Just a few years after I began researching my genealogy in the mid-1980s, I encountered a brick wall that would change the direction of my time for a goodly number of years: I couldn’t make a “proof positive” connection between two men named Peter Daub in the 1800s in Lebanon County, so I reached out to others researching the surname.

One of these folks, Jean Daub, had done considerable research on another branch of this family but was stymied getting to and beyond the immigrant generation. This became a research challenge for me, putting into practice the methodologies being taught by such Pennsylvania German genealogy masters such as Annette K. Burgert and John T. Humphrey.

Using the old Mormon International Genealogical Index (then on microfiche – now a part of an overall FamilySearch database), I found a Daub family in the Protestant records of Siegen, a city now in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, that matched up with what I had found in American records.

So, I dove right in – ordered a whole bunch of microfilms from Salt Lake to the local Family History Center and Jean and I spent a week learning German cursive script on the fly and abstracting Daub family baptisms, marriages and deaths from the Siegen records … adding four generations before immigration!

Now, three decades later, the combination of FamilySearch’s countdown to full digitization of its 2 million microfilms (estimated to be complete by the end of 2020) along with blank microfilm stock becoming unavailable has led FamilySearch to end the microfilm rental program. Aug. 31 will be the last day to order films.

This has drawn immediate sharp reaction from the remaining users of the rental program – reading some Facebook threads, you might have thought that someone had died from the mourning taking place.

Now, I occasionally have still used the program and prefer getting my hands on a microfilm rather than relying on digital searches that may be unreliable. But you can’t really argue with FamilySearch’s decision.

It only took me one visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to be convinced that you can do a year’s worth of research in a week there (which is why I’ve gone there nearly every year since 1998), since you can go so seamlessly from one microfilm to another when you find your research has veered off in a different direction (as opposed to then having to order different microfilms and wait for them!).