FamilySearch digital microfilms

+5 votes
I hope this topic is acceptable for the G2G: What do people think of the fact that some digital microfilms and online images on FamilySearch are accessible only be signed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)? These images cannot be accessed at all by non-members of the LDS church, no matter whether you're at a FHC or Affiliate Library.

See also my discussion on this at FamilySearch's feedback site GetSatisfaction
in The Tree House by Abm van Helsdingen G2G6 Mach 5 (52.2k points)
edited by Abm van Helsdingen

4 Answers

+17 votes
It can be frustrating, but since they make the investment of money and time in agreeing access with record keepers and doing the digitisation it is their prerogative to decide what they make available to whom and how. I am just thankful that they offer as much as they do the general public for free.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (685k points)
Dale, Thanks for the best answer star.
+10 votes
Do you have an example? Some church related records are not available to the general  public. Some films have not been digitized yet. Some are  only available at an LDS facility. The LDS Church does this at no cost to the world but they have contracts with the organization whose data the filmed that sometimes puts restrictions on access. They are under no obligation to let us access anything. The amount of time and money that goes int this program is tremendous. Complaining about it won’t change anything and we should all be thankful to them. They have given a wonderful gift to the world. That should be appreciated and not complained about.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (556k points)
edited by Doug McCallum
Some Portuguese church records have access restrictions, for example.
Lots of digital films have restrictions but I haven't seen any that require you to be a member of the LDS church. You just have to go to a Family History Center or the Family History Library or one of the many public institutions that have an affiliate member access. The Portuguese church records fall into that category. Still would like to see a reference to one that requires being an LDS member.
Many German Protestant Church records have this LDS restriction. LDS members can view the images free at home, non-LDS cannot andhave to subscribe to Archion to see these images online. Going to a FHC or Affiliate Library makes no difference for non-LDS.

I think I found on that meets your description. Note that this is likely a contractual obligation. The one I found was a relatively recent file that would have some restrictions due to German privacy rules. It may not be that but who can view is determined by the individual contracts negotiated when the films were first made. Some may get changed over time, but there are thousands of contracts that need reviewing. 

If you don't like the restrictions, you have a couple of choices:

  • go to Salt Lake City and view the films there
  • go to Germany and try to see the records there
  • join the LDS church
  • hire a researcher to do some of the lookups
  • subscribe to Archion

All these things are either expensive or would be a drastic lifestyle change. It would cost thousands of dollars to visit Germany or SLC, or hire a professional. Archion's costs are quite steep. Changing religion for a few records is quite an unusual thing to do.

Changing religions isn't really an option but it gets past the contract that probably states a restriction to members unless in SLC.

Before FamilySearch and Ancestry, the rest of the list was how you did genealogy. I still end up in SLC every couple of years since there is still a lot not digitized and with films no longer being shipped to FHCs you have to go to SLC to view them. Then there are all the records that were never filmed. Going in person is the only way to do it. Many of us still travel to where records are kept. You plan and save and maximize your research time. A professional researcher isn't all that expensive compared to travel. Archion is expensive but if you plan well you might get away with a month subscription.

Complaining about the LDS restrictions is counter productive. They aren't going to change any time soon.
+5 votes
LDS pay 10% of their income to the church as a tithe. Since that money helps keep FamilySearch free, I think it's fair they get extra benefits.
by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (658k points)
I agree. That they make anything available online should be considered a gift and not complained about. I might find it frustrating that a lot of films I want have not been digitized yet and I will have to go to Salt Lake to view them, but that is life. While not all Family History Centers have good hours (they are 100% volunteer time) a lot of public libraries are affiliates and have access.

Anyone remember the days before digital? Before the Internet? We have it is so lucky today.
Of course I acknowledge the costs of running FamilySearch. My formal suggestion to FamilySearch on GetSatisfaction proposes that non-LDS could pay a subscription to be able to view records accessible by LDS only. My suggestion also points to the many non-LDS volunteers on FamilySearch, which includes myself.

I don't agree that the tithe justifies it. The tithe is just a voluntary payment that most LDS members make due to religious teachings. The LDS members who don't pay tithes still get to access the restricted images.
+4 votes
The LDS Church/FamilySearch has a contractural relationship with the owners of the original records. That contract determines availability. Records are usually freely available, but sometimes there are restrictions.

If you are in a FHC you can ask a church member volunteer to help you, but note that not all FHC volunteers are church members.

I am grateful for what is available.
by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (682k points)

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