Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Photoduplication Goes Digital!

Who said 'nothing in life is free?' One of the great services offered by the Family History Library is their "photoduplication" service. Simply fill out the request for photocopies, enclose a check and 4-6 weeks later the copies return in the mail. Imagine my surprise and joy when I received an email in early November from the Photoduplication Unit of FamilySearch. Now, instead of returning the copies by mail, the Family History Library (FHL) is emailing scanned versions of the documents for FREE! Yes, you read that right, free.

Request for Photoduplication

So what are good candidates for the photoduplication unit? First, the copies must meet copyright restrictions as noted on the request form. You must also be able to specify a particular record. The FHL is not able to conduct research for you. There are many ways to obtain the specific item reference including online indexes, prior research in deed index book microfilms, etc. You may request up to eight records on a single form or three book copy requests. Requests can be submitted as frequently as every two weeks.

General Micro/fiche and Census Copies

Censuses and many microfilm and microfiche records are now available on the FamilySearch website. Check for online availability either by browsing their collection or searching for the specific microfilm in the FamilySearch Catalog. Once you have found the item description, scroll down to 'Notes' section to see if the microfilm is available online. Examples of the screens you will see on the website are shown below.

Select "Film Numbers" from the search options, enter in the film number and click search.
If the film is available online, it will be noted in the 'Notes' section of the film record.
If the record you are interested in is not online, complete the request for photo copies form and mail or fax it to the FHL. Below is a portion of the form I recently submitted that demonstrates how different types of records might be requested. Generally records such as a deed or naturalization petition work well for photo duplication since you rarely need multiple records from any one film. Since many related families might be included in a church record microfilm, it would likely be best to order the microfilm so you can review it for all familial connections (see FHL Film Online Ordering Now Available in Cincinnati).

Photocopies of Book Pages

The FHL has a vast collection of books available for family history research. To locate a specific title, use their online catalog. You can search by Title, Author or even place name. For example, The Diaries of John M. Miller of Westwood/Cincinnati, Ohio: Excerpts from 1869-1870 and 1881-1894, was found in Ohio, Hamilton, Cincinnati - History - Sources.

The FHL cannot copy all the pages in a book. Copies are restricted to 10 pages or 10% of the book, whichever is less. You can complete a request for photocopies of a book index or even a portion of an index. After reviewing the index, submit a second request for the pages of interest. Not all books are indexed. Look for the notation "includes index" in the "Notes" section of the book description as shown below.

If the book is not indexed, don't despair, the FHL has microfilmed many books making it possible for you order the microfilm and read the book at a local Family History Center, see FHL Film Online Ordering Now Available in Cincinnati and It's Not All Online: Ordering Family History Library Microfilm for more information.

(Not so) Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

The FHL provides the photoduplication service free of charge. Consider passing along their kindness by returning the effort in kind - photocopy a local record for someone who lives afar. There are many requests for copies and help in online message boards. Alternatively, join the Worldwide Indexing project sponsored by FamilySearch and make more records searchable online for free.

This article was submitted by Liz Stratton. As always, underlined text indicates links to other websites or articles of interest. If you are receiving this message by email, you may need to go to the blog, to see images.


  1. Liz,

    A great post as usual. I'll put it with my Familysearch info folder for future use. Look forward to whatever you come up with next.


  2. YAY! Thank You Liz. I wondered what happened. I inquired about this recently and the answer appeared to be blank stares. I'm wondering if the specified source had ever even submitted a paper copy before. I figured since ordering film and fiche went digital, then photocopies would soon follow.

    Thank You again

  3. You are welcome Darlene! Requests for photocopies must still be made on paper but I suspect those will ultimately be digital as well. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


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