In a previous post, Some Images No Longer Available on FamilySearch, I noted that the FamilySearch Wiki article on Illinois, Cook County Death Records mentioned that digital images could be obtained through FamilySearch's Photoduplication Services. In order to be able to better answer questions about the service, I decided to try it myself.
Submitting the Test Request
On January 29, I sent an email asking for a copy of a New York City church baptismal record for Sarah Catherine Trafford. She appears on my husband's family tree and it was a record that we sincerely wanted. I provided a link to the FamilySearch index entry and included the index information. I also provided my name, address, telephone number, and email address, as requested.
Reply to the Test Request
Today I received an email with the subject "You have received a file from photoduplication Shared." It included a link, good for 14 days, that I could use to download the file. Clicking on it took me to a page that let me download a zip file.
The zip file contained two files -- a jpg and a pdf, both of which were created on February 14. The jpg was large (2416 x 2966 pixels) and very readable. The pdf was a cover letter that told me the record was the "best copy available." It also gave me details on how to order additional records by email and wished me success.
Why I'll Continue to Order Films
So, in summary, I received a quality image by email for free in three weeks. Can't beat that! I'm grateful to the volunteer(s) at FamilySearch who retrieved the image and forward it to me, but I don't think I will use the service again. Why?
Well, for one thing, a new message has been added to the current Photoduplication Services FamilySearch Wiki page:
I have easy access to a Family History Center and so I can't justify asking someone else to obtain records for me. I'm pretty sure the image retrieval service wasn't meant to take the place of film ordering.
I also found myself wishing that I had a title page from whatever volume the page was from (I probably should have asked for it, but I didn't think about it when I sent in my request) and it's likely that the baptism was just a one-page entry but some registers span two pages and I'd feel more comfortable if I had seen the register myself. I guess I'm just an independent sort at heart. : )
How This Relates to Chicago Record Retrieval
So, how does this relate to the Chicago vital records that were taken offline? It's an awkward question for me to answer in an unbiased way, but I'll try.
If you're not in a hurry for a record and you don't have access to a Family History Center, then I'd say it's a great way to go!
If you do have access to a Family History Center, then it's up to you to decide whether to use the service or to order in a film.
Where does my service fit in?
If you need a record in a hurry (I can visit the Family History Center on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday) or if you've decided, for whatever reason, not to use the free service, then I'm still here, ready to help. I'm planning to offer a discount on multiple-record orders going forward and I'll be updating my Genlighten.com offerings soon.