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  Why the lack of interest in the LDS microfilms?

[Readers' comments to this statement can be found here.]

When I first became interested in Croatian genealogy, around 1998, one of the things I tried to accomplish was to trace my family back as far as possible. Through the Internet I learned about the LDS microfilms, so I went to the nearest Family History Center and duly ordered the necessary films (luckily I knew the church and was able to find the right microfilms to order). But I'll never forget my shock when I first viewed those films. I consider myself a rather persistent person but I was unable to make out anything on those films except perhaps what was maybe a rendering of the surname I was looking for. Nothing made any sense, I could find nowhere to go for help in deciphering this information, and I was completely disillusioned. My quest had essentially come to an abrupt end.

Then, a few months later, I found on the Internet a genealogist in the Dubrovnik area who said he could trace my family back into the 1500s for $500. What a deal!! I was self-employed and ready to retire anyway, so I did just that and told the man to go ahead with the research and that I would be in Dubrovnik in a few months to receive the information. I made some inquiries and was pretty much convinced that this guy was on the up-and-up and that his family tree would be, for the most part, accurate. So, by the time I got to Dubrovnik, I had made a decision to write a book on the history of this family. The tree would be the heart of it but I had some time on my hands (I urge everyone to retire as soon as possible) and decided to stay in Dubrovnik for a while to collect more material for the book.

I found the genealogist's cited sources in the Dubrovnik archive, copied the pages, found people to translate them, and little by little collected quite a lot on this family (much of the information was not from church records). I also slowly learned how to read most of what was in those LDS microfilms, the very ones that threw me for a loop a few years before (the original books are in the Dubrovnik archive). This was accomplished mostly by hanging out around the reading room of the Dubrovnik archive and pestering the resident experts there into helping me (I swear, those guys read that stuff like you and I read a newspaper. It's a pleasure just to witness the process.).

I stayed in Dubrovnik for 18 months that first time. I now live in Croatia for 6 months of each year and recommend to everyone that they do the same. You will never regret it and it is really the only way you can ever find the real genealogy material for a family tree or a family history. But I digress.

I decided at this point (this was around 2001) to create a website to encourage others to not give up in their genealogy quests when they come up against the "LDS microfilm barrier". The result was this website.

I started off this website with some information on how to read the old church documents (LDS microfilms) with the intention of adding lots more. And I DID add some more but mostly I followed the feedback I was getting which led to a million other things, NONE of which had anything to do with reading old church documents (for example: folk costumes, embroidery, old photos, recipes, book reviews, maps, art, postcards, social customs, visiting, etc). Please don't get me wrong -- I am happy to provide this stuff. But it seems to me that the BIG question is how to read those darned church documents and almost no one seems to be interested. And I draw this conclusion not just from feedback to my own website. I've been reading the various Croatian forums for many years now and almost NEVER is there a question about how to read the old documents.

So where are those people? Why not such an interest? Surely a family tree is the heart of any genealogy study. And most of us know that those documents are the only means of developing a family tree (at least outside of Croatia and without using a professional). And yet few people ask about them.

Is this "barrier" so great that people don't even go to their nearest Family History Center to look at these films? If so, how can we encourage them to do so?

Do people not know about these microfilms in the first place? But how can this be with all the information available on the Internet?

Are people actually able to read these documents and I'm just stupid?

Mostly I'm just trying to find better ways to help the Croatian diaspora.

Please send me your ideas, suggestions or comments. You can email me here. Please put "lack of interest" in the subject line. If you like, I will post your comments on a special page, here. You can be anonymous, if you wish (just say so in your email).

--Tom Ninkovich, editor of this website.