Monday, February 6, 2017

January 25th Program Review on "Digital Microfilm"

     The Jauary 25th General Meeting program was CVGS member Randy Seaver presenting “Using FamilySearch Digital Microfilm to Find Genealogical Records.”

     Randy said that “digital microfilm” is the record collections that have been digitized but are not indexed.  FamilySearch has indexed only about 50% of the available digital collelctions on their website (  You can use the “Filter by collection name” to find records for a specific subject – some examples are “new york,” “probate,” “land,” “church,” “Mexico,” “Italy,” etc.  

     There are many collections that have to be browsed at this time – especially vital, church, probate, land, town, tax and other record types.  Many of these are “golden” sources – original souces with primary information and direct evidence.  There are over one billion “hidden” records waiting to be found.

     FamilySearch has organized these “digital microfilm” collections into convenient groups – for example, surname letters, locality (state, county, town), volume numbers, and record topic (usually alphabetical).  These groupings are called “waypoints” and mark the pathway to specific image groups. 

     Randy then provided four case studies from his own research.  The four cases were:

1) Find James Vaux (died 1839) probate records in Erie County, New York.  From the “New York Probate Records, 1629-1971” record collection, which has over 14 million images, he selected Erie from the county Waypoint list, then found a probate index on the list of county probate volumes.  There may be hundreds of volumes, and each volume may have hundreds or thousands of images in each volume.  Using a “guess and estimate” process, he found that James Vaux's records were in Estate File 23181.  Back to the list of probate volumes, he found the correct volume and found that the Estate File 23181 had 26 images and started on image 304 of 1536.

2) Find James Vaux (died 1839) land records in Erie County, New York.  From the “New York Land Records, 1630-1975” record collection, which has over 8 million images, he reviewed the grantor and grantee deed indexes for the time period on the list of county deed records, and found that there were several deeds in the indexes.  He wrote down the deed volumes and page numbers and other information from the indexes, and then reviewed every deed volume on the list to find the deed records.  In the example, James Vaux had a deed in Liber 13, page 318 of the deed records and he used the “guess and estimate” system to find the deed on image 433 of 525.
3) Find 1823 birth record of Isaac Seaver in Westminster, Worcester County, Massachusetts town records.  For this example, Randy selected the “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1627-2001” record collection on FamilySearch, which has over 1.7 million images.  He selected “Worcester” in the list of county waypoints, and “Westminster” in the list of towns in Worcester County.  There were 15 record volumes, and he found the birth record in one of them. Many of these town records have an index within the volume, but some don't.  An index listed the family on page 312 in the original record book, but he found it on page 246 of the copied record book.

4) Find the 8 July 1896 birth record of Maria Angeli in Bagni di Lucca, Italy.  He selected the “Italy, Lucca, Lucca, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1866-1929” record collection on FamilySearch, which had over 1.3 million images, all in Italian.  The first waypoint was the town names, so he selected “Bagni di Lucca” and then found a volume that had 1896 births in it, which had 3,003 images.  Before searching, Randy used Google Translate ( to list the Italian words for years, months, days, key words, etc. so that he could review the records.  He found that there was a yearly index after the records for each year.  He narrowed the search down to 1896, and found the birth record for Maria Angeli.  A bonus was that the date of her marriage to Leone Morandi was provided in the margin of the birth record.  He found that too.

     Randy ended the presentation by providing some wisdom on the perils of trying to find original town, vital and church records, some lessons learned and some final thoughts.  Many research problems can be solved using records on digital microfilm without going to the local FamilySearch Center or Salt Lake city.  It is faster to use digital microfilm than analog microfilm, and it is easier and cheaper to capture digital images using digital microfilm than a camera at home.  Users need to practice using digital microfilm so that they can do effective research.  FamilySearch has tremendous resources in these browse-only collections, with much more to come.  

     CVGS members can download the four page handout from the CVGS website (, log in with your username and password, click on the “Members” tab, and then the “Handouts” tab and then the “Program Handouts” and the handout for January 25, 2017. 

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