Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Have a Horrible Copy of a Chicago Vital Record from Microfilm? Try Again Online!

Back in the day, before many Chicago vital records were made available in digital format on FamilySearch),  I retrieved hundreds--maybe even thousands--of Chicago birth, marriage, and death records from microfilm.

Here's one of the records I printed long ago. I was really good at tweaking the settings and, I promise you, this is absolutely the best I could do.

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 17017 (21 March 1908), Charles B. Smith; FHL microfilm 1239777; Wilmette Family History Center, Wilmette, Illinois.

I don't remember why, but not too long ago I decided to look for the same record on FamilySearch and this is the image that I found:

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 17087 (21 March 1908), Charles B. Smith; digital image, "Chicago death certificates, 1878-1915," FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/42925 : accessed 12 March 2019) > microfilm 1239777, digital folder 4004622 > image 841.

Comparing both images, it appears that they are of the same certificate. I'm thinking three things:

1) The online certificate image was created from the original, not from the microfilm. I talked with the FamilySearch folks who were digitizing records in the Cook County Clerk's office some years back and I remember them telling me they were working with some records that had already been microfilmed.

2) Just because a film number appears in the FamilySearch index entry doesn't mean the published image came from the film.

3) This is probably something that's unique to Chicago records and very few others.

So, for what it's worth, if, by chance, you have a hard-to-read printout or digital image that was made from FamilySearch microfilm, it might be worth checking online to see if you can now get a better copy.

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