With rising gas prices and bad financial times, we genealogists – like everyone else – try to find ways to economize. The LDS church has just taken a giant step forward in helping us save some on our gas budget.
As of last week, those of us in Florida can order the church's microfilm from our home computers! Gas savings could be significant for those who must make a long drive to an LDS Family History Center.
The church has a vast collection of microfilm records from all over the world; they're stored in massive mountain vaults in Salt Lake City. Until now we could order copies of the microfilm rolls by going to one of many Family History centers. (Find the nearest by going to https://www.familysearch.org/locations.) For years it has been a major inconvenience to drive to a center, place the order, return home and wait a few weeks to get a call that the film had arrived. On a second trip back to the history center, we finally got to see our records. For years I've quietly grumbled to myself about the aggravation, ever mindful that I should just be grateful for the access, however inconvenient.
So here's the process for ordering the film:
Step 1: Go online at www.familysearch.org. Click on the "sign in" to the upper right of the computer screen. Select "Create a new account."
Step 2: Return to the home page and select "Catalog." There is a drop-down box with a variety of search options — for example, selecting "Place-names" and then entering "Gadsden Florida" in the adjacent box. The next screen allows a selection by type of microfilmed records available for Gadsden County. Try selecting "Probate records" and the screen will open to show all probate records that have been microfilmed. Selecting "Record of Wills, 1826-1930" reveals that there are two rolls of microfilm for these records. One roll is for "Wills 1826-1831" and the film number is 915828. Copy this number.
Step 3: I couldn't find an onscreen link to place an order, so I typed the URL https://www.familysearch.org/films into the web address field. This opens the Online Film Ordering screen. Select a loan type, enter the film number from Step 2 and hit the search button.
Step 4: The film then can be placed into a shopping cart and from this point the procedure is like ordering from any other online vendor. Credit cards and PayPal accounts are the two methods of payment. Patrons can no longer pay at the history center when the film arrives.
A film order initially will be placed in a queue where it will remain for 24 hours. During that time period, you can cancel the order. After 24 hours, an order goes to a distribution stage and from there to shipping stage. When the film is shipped, you will receive an email advising you of the status. A second email will advise when the film is actually at the local history center and ready for use. A week before the film is due back in Salt Lake, you will get an email notification, and you can go back online and renew the film for an additional 60 days.
Some patrons may get notices at the distribution stage that the film is available but not in the church inventory. This means the original microfilm needs to be copied from the church vault. This could take up to six weeks.
One note of caution: Be careful what you ask for because that's what you'll get and that's what you'll pay for. So double check the film number when ordering. There are no credits or refunds for mistakes in ordering the film.
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Summer is over for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay. Its first meeting for the "fall" will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater.
Gregg Hickman of Lake Shore Camera Exchange in Palm Harbor will speak on the preservation, restoration, and storage of photographs and documents.
A photographer since 1963, Gregg ran the photo department for the FBI's Tampa field office before becoming a Clearwater Police officer, where he photographed numerous crime scenes and surveillances.
Anyone interested in Jewish genealogical research is invited to attend. Beginners as well as experienced researchers are welcome. A pre-program social with refreshments and library access will start at 1:30 p.m.; Hicks' program will begin at 2. For information on the organization or directions to the meeting, call Sally Israel at (727) 343-1652.