Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Great Microfilm Battle

Last week I briefly spoke of my difficulties trying to get a readable digital image from a roll of microfilm at my local Family History Center.

I returned to the scene for a second attempt this week. I avoided the good microfilm machine altogether. Instead, I put the roll on one of the manual (hand-crank) machines. The lights were off on my side of the room, which helped me see the records better. I took some photos of the records using my digital camera.

I am pleased to say that most of the pictures are good, and I now have some of the probate records for my Williamsons in Pope County.

Some of the images came out fuzzy, which just shows my need for a basic photography class. I plan on going back to the FHC and taking more pictures to replace the blurry ones.

Once again, my digital camera saves the day.


  1. I have been taking photos of microfilm for years. The problem I have is throwing a shadow over the screen and therefor on my image. One think to remember is that many "point and shoot" digital cameras continue to focus after you push the button, so hold as still as you can until you know the camera has finished. Glad you got the records you needed!

  2. That's a great idea, and I'm glad you were able to get some readable images. I have photographed documents, but not yet microfilm. I will have to try that, as I'm going to be looking at some damaged documents in Spanish on microfilm, and I think having photos I can examine at leisure at home will be just the ticket.

    Unfortunately, microfilming was not always done with the greatest of care. I looked at some early 20th century school censuses at the Florida State Archive, and not only had some of the documents themselves been physically damaged, but some of the frames had been microfilmed out of focus, and no amount of fiddling with the machine's focus ring could make any difference in that.

    Digital cameras are indeed wonderful.