A few weeks ago I ordered my first microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had put off using this enormous resource, because my nearest Family History Centers were 45 minutes to an hour away from my home and I didn’t want to “waste” two hours of my limited research time driving to and fro. However, when I set my research goals for the year, one of the items was to attempt to attain the marriage record for my 3rd great-grandparents, Benjamin Burgin Hemphill and Martha E. Lytle. They were married in McDowell County, North Carolina and I visited the courthouse there last summer, with the intention of getting a copy of said record, only to learn that they only had an index and that the original records had been sent to the state archives. So, the line item on my 2010 goals was to order this record from North Carolina State Archives.
Then, earlier this year, I discovered an entry for Ben and Martha in the “North Carolina Marriage Collection, 1741-2004,” database at Ancestry.com. This entry cited an FHL microfilm, so I made note of the film number and planned to order it in the fall. Fall came and I checked the film number at the Family History Library catalog, only to discover that it was a film of the index – yes the same index that I had seen in person. In looking at the other films available for marriage records from McDowell County, I found one called “Marriage Bonds A-Y 1842-1868.” I had no idea if Ben and Martha had obtained a marriage bond, since I had never seen any reference to one, but I decided to give this film a shot. I ordered it from the LaFayette-Walker Public Library in LaFayette, Georgia; their genealogy librarian was new to the role, so it was her first time ordering film as well. We got to learn the process together and she was just excited about it as I was. I got the call that the film was in last week, while I was at the Atlanta Family History Expo, so I had to wait until this weekend to check it out.
I got to the library about 9:30 this morning and spent a few minutes getting acquainted with the microfilm machine. It took several tries to get the hang of the advance knob, which was very sensitive. But I got settled in, with the film, my netbook, my digital camera, etc. at the ready. My people lived in McDowell County for a long time, so I expected to find numerous records, but I didn’t get my hopes up for Ben and Martha. The film was organized by alphabetical letter of the groom’s surname, although not in specific alphabetical order. Almost immediately, I started finding records for my surnames of interest; some I scanned to my flash drive and some I snapped pictures of with my digital camera, depending on which format resulted in the best quality.
I had been working a little over an hour, when I reached the H’s. I have a lot of Hemphill’s from McDowell County, so I expected to find quite a few records. I was zipping along, when all of a sudden, there it was. Benjamin Hemphill. I had to look at it twice to realize what I was seeing. Yes, it was my Benjamin Hemphill and Martha Lytle. I teared up looking at it, and was quite grateful that I was in a room to myself. Whatever else I had found or not found, whatever time was spent, it was all worth it to get this record.
For those of you who don’t get the whole Twitter thing, I’ll offer this up. You know when you come home, all excited, talking about your great genealogy find, only to receive glazed eyes from your family members? When I found this record, I immediately tweeted it from my phone, and within minutes, had congratulatory responses from my Twitter genea-friends, people that understood what I was talking about and why I was so excited. This is why I love Twitter.
So, my first FHL film yielded 26 records – some are questionable at this point – and I’m only halfway through the roll. I want to thank the awesome Jill Trubey, at the LaFayette-Walker Public Library for being my partner-in-crime in this first foray into FHL records. And thanks to the Family History Library itself – their contribution to the genealogy world cannot be quantified.
I see many more films in my future, but for now, I’ll just say “Score!”