Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Microfilm

When I first started researching over ten years ago, I searched a lot of microfilm rolls for information.  The film was broken a little bit every time someone loaded it through the machine.  Machines broke; light bulbs went out and were sometimes too expensive for libraries to replace.  In the meantime, multiple newspapers have been put online, some free, others not, reducing the need to seek out microfilm.

I recently made a microfilm trip to the Montclair Public Library in Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey with success.  A potential match for the wife of a cousin showed up in the Social Security Death Index, which is available through various websites, some offering more detailed search criteria for an additional fee.  The information was:

     Name: Elsie Uhl
     SSN: 124-20-9815
     Last Residence: 07043 Montclair, Essex, New Jersey, United States of America
     Born: 29 Jan 1903
     Died: Dec 1978
     State (Year) SSN issued: New York (Before 1951)

I did not know that this particular branch lived in Montclair, so I could not be sure that I had the right person without additional checking.  I am close enough to Montclair to make the trip.  In the past, I would have ordered a copy of the application for the number, which was cheap enough- under $10.  A few years ago, the fee jumped to $27.  Ancestry.com used to generate the letter of request for you; now the link to order the record does not seem to offer this option, but rather directs you to VitalCheck to order a birth, marriage, or death certificate.  (If you are going to be researching your family history to any great extent, I recommend learning how to obtain vital records directly from the state of interest.  For an occasional record, VitalCheck can save you hassle- for a small fee.)  The days of showing up at town hall for a copy of the death certificate are over, as the death was too recent and I cannot prove direct lineage.

So I headed over to the main Montclair Library and requested microfilm for the Montclair Times for December 1978.  The local paper is published once per week, so I did not have much to search.  Elsie may have died on the 1st through the 31st, as the index does not report day of death until more recently.  No obit.  I had to request the next reel for 1979 and there it was.  Elsie Uhl died 30 December 1978; the obit appeared in the 4 January 1979 paper.  And she was indeed the wife of my cousin.  It felt great to make the confirmation.  From here, I would usually visit the cemetery, but none was listed with this obituary.

The Montclair Times, 4 January 1979, page 4.