Saturday, April 30, 2016

Third Tip for Searching: Reel Content Specifics for Some LAC Digitized Microfilm Collections

I did not get much time this past week to work on the promised post about the Process of Searching for Land Patents so in the meantime here is another tip which should work for any LAC microfilm collection that is also available through the Family History Library Catalog at FamilySearch.

Part of the problem when working with the digitized microfilm collections of the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) is that for the most part all you see is a list of reel codes with no descriptions of what is on each "film." (Remember, the digitized microfilm of the LAC is located on two websites: the Héritage website and the archived LAC website.)
Heir and Devisee at Héritage

At the Héritage website, you would think the "About" tab for a particular collection would contain a detail like that. Most of the time it does not. It simply tells you about the records not how they are organized on the microfilm. 

Every so often an "About" does mention what is on the reels for that collection but it is very generalized. That is the case of the Heir and Devisee digitized collection. There is actually a list of what volumes are on which reel but nothing to tell you what a particular volume number contains so you still do not have a clear understanding of what you are working with.
Heir and Devisee at LAC Archives Catalog

Using the MIKAN number (see my Two Tips post) listed for the collection and doing an Advanced search of the Archives Catalog over at the main LAC website, you bring up a similar description for the collection. The Archives catalog entry does list which reel numbers are associated with the collection but again not one detail for what is on which film.

Here's My Tip.
If a particular LAC microfilm collection is available through the Family History Catalog at the FamilySearch website, check the FHL catalog entry. It often has more details of regarding what is on which film. But because the FHL catalog entry does not make mention of the LAC reel number you have to compare the microfilm listings from both sites to see the whole picture.

Catalog listing for the same collection at FamilySearch.

So from the About tab for the Heir and Devisee digitized collection at the ritage website, we learn that film H-1133 contains vol. 1-6.

From the About tab of the Heir and Devisee Collection at Héritage

Microfilm listing for the same collection at FamilySearch.
Comparing that information to film listing of the entry in the Family History Catalog for that collection we learn that those volumes are "Index of location certificates issued by the Land Boards v. 1 pre-1804 Heir and Devisee Commission records Eastern District v. 2 1803-1804 v. 3 1803? v. 4 1797-1802 (partial index) v. 5 1809-1841 v. 6 1785-1804." And, of course, we learn the FHL microfilm number for that reel known at the LAC as H-1133.

Now we have an understanding of what we are looking at and can finally utilize the collection with less hassle and involving less time.

As I said at the start of this post, this tip should work for any LAC microfilm collection available through the Family History Library.

Lastly, don't get me wrong. I love that formerly hard to access historical/genealogical collections are being made more accessible but what I am pointing out is that the end-user needs to be thought of in this process.

Sitting at home (or where ever) the end-user (you/me) does not have access to long-existing paper finding aids sitting on a shelf in an archive/library. These vital pieces of the puzzle are necessary to understanding collection organization and must be put online in some form also. AND that the steps needed (look here, check this, then look there) to properly utilize a collection are clearly indicated and follow-able on the website.

I hope this tip helps. Now I'll get back to that other post.

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