Friday, August 26, 2011

It's Not All Online: Ordering Family History Library Microfilm

The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City literally has a mountain of genealogical records. Some are available online at FamilySearch. But, most are only available to order and view at your local Family History Center (FHC). Family History Centers are located in the Latter Day Saints’ churches throughout the country.

You don’t have to be a member to use a FHC. In fact, most of the people researching at FHCs are not members. Finding an FHC near you is easy at FamilySearch Centers. Simply type the city and state where you live and click 'Search.' If there is more than one, select a FHC that has hours that are convenient for you.

Now comes the fun part - finding the records of your ancestors! I am looking for the Griffith's Valuation Revision Lists that I learned about in Mary Ann Faloon’s presentation. To find out what microfilms the FHL has, I’ll check their online catalog. It is generally best to search by the place-name for the country and county where your ancestor lived. There may be additional records for smaller administrative divisions that you will want to explore as well.

The format for searching place names is to start with the country or county and then work down to the smaller divisions. For the U.S., it is not necessary to include the country. So, if searching for Cincinnati, you would enter Ohio, Hamilton, Cincinnati. To search for Ballymartle, Ireland, you would type in Ireland, Cork, Ballymartle. Entering only a state and county will list county-wide resources.

Searching for Ireland, Cork, produced a long list of microfilms. “General Valuation Revision Lists, Kinsale Union (Cork), 1855-1956” was found in “Ireland, Cork – Land and Property.” Clicking on the record brings up additional information. There are often multiple microfilms in a collection. A detailed list of what is on each film is in the description. I’m looking for the Ballymartle Electoral Division which is on FHL BRITISH Film 829111 Item 2. Many microfilms have multiple items. So, when I get this film, I’ll advance the film to Item 2.

Great – I found the records I was looking for! Before I leave the catalog, I’ll review the list for any other interesting titles and also check under Ireland, Cork, Ballymartle to see what local records are available. I  found, The Land and the People of Nineteenth-Century Cork: the Rural Economy and the Land in Question. Books are not available on interlibrary-loan through the FHL. A quick check on WorldCat, indicates the book is at the University of Cincinnati.

To order a microfilm you will need to know the title: “General Valuation Revision Lists, Kinsale Union (Cork), 1855-1956” and the microfilm number: “BRITISH Film 829111 Item 2”. Take this information and the film rental fee of about $5.50 to the local FHC (fees vary by location).

Before you fill out a microfilm request form, confirm the film is not already on-loan at the local FHC. The helpful FHC staff will answer any questions. Your request will be sent to the FHL and in 4-6 weeks, you will get a call letting you know that your film has arrived.  Film can be viewed at the FHC but cannot be taken home. 

The initial rental fee allows you to view the film for a short time. If you haven’t finished with the film before it is due, you can renew it or place it on indefinite hold. Not all Family History Centers keep ‘indefinite hold’ microfilms permanently. If you place a film on ‘indefinite hold,’ be sure to let the staff know that you are still using the film actively. Once you have finished, you can request that the FHC keep the microfilm permanently or tell them that you no longer need the film.

Online ordering of microfilms is available for some, but not all areas. See FHL Film Online Ordering Now Available in Cincinnati for information about ordering online.

Happy Hunting!

This is the first in a series of posts that will feature repositories and resources that are not available online. If have any suggestions or would like to feature a repository, please contact Liz Stratton. It is not necessary for you to become a blog contributor. I am happy to post the blog for you with your by-line. Thanks!

Submitted by Liz Stratton; Updated 27 November 2012.


  1. Liz,
    Thanks for posting this information. When I'm back in town, I'm definitely going to have to do this for my Co. Limerick ancestors.

  2. On September 29, there will be a webinar on using the FamilySearch catalog which is the catalog of the Family History Library:

    Using the FamilySearch Catalog
    Presenter: Barbara Renick: Professional Genealogist, Lecturer & Author

    For the time being, there are two versions of what used to be called the Family History Library Catalog. The new version is called the FamilySearch Catalog and is being enlarged to include holdings in Family History Centers around the world plus links to digital resources online (books, images of records, and explanatory articles in the FamilySearch Wiki about catalogued resources). The FamilySearch Catalog also has new advanced search features (including wildcard searches in almost every category).

    Search statistics clearly show users are not taking advantage of the full strength of the FamilySearch catalog and this Webinar is designed to help genealogists find new ways to search and find more.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM MDT

    To register go to
    or directly to

  3. The webinar gave an excellent overview of effective search strategies in both the old and new Family History Library Catalogs. The webinar will be available online for one month at

    Clearly new capabilities are being added to the new FHL catalog. But, in the meantime ....

  4. Great! I'm glad to see that I can still listen to this webinar.


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