The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

July 11, 2013

Microfilm machine steps into the digital age

The Daily Star

---- — Technology developments advance quicker than we can imagine as you can see with computers, phones, televisions and even how we keep in touch with each other. Such is the case with the microfilm machine in our New York State Room. 

A microfilm machine is a microfilm machine, right? Remember the days of threading the film, winding the crank, or advancing it with the motorized models? When our thirteen machine started acting up last fall and we couldn’t get parts, I figured that my winter project would be to price and replace our old machine. So, when I started working on the project in January, I was informed that microfilm machines as we always knew them were discontinued and were now considered a dinosaur relic. Really?

Off to learn all about the new technology on the block. Today’s machine is digital in scope, works through computer-based software, and does everything except take your blood pressure. I might suggest to the manufacturers that they consider adding that option to relieve the stress and BP hike you get when researching these new kids on the block.

When you finally select the machine you want, you can place your order, but that is just the beginning. You also have to have a computer, and not any computer will do. It must be built to certain specifications and the screen has to be HUGE to capture the entire image of a newspaper page. 

Because our purchasing must be done on New York state contract, where many machines are already pre-constructed, it’s no picnic when the site keeps saying, “Are you SURE you want this option, because it will delay production?” YES, I’m sure! “Are you SURE...” popped up at least eight times, and YES, I was sure. Finally the orders for all the components were placed.

In June, we installed the new microfilm reader. It uses a large 27-inch computer monitor, pivoted so the screen is very long and looks like a newspaper page when you read it. You can see the whole page on the screen. 

Microfilm users at Huntington will now have a very enjoyable experience using our new machine. In addition to printing, users can now email and save their images. Interested in only one small part of the page? You can now crop and scissor cut articles as well as annotate and highlight sections of interest. For genealogy researchers there are many helpful features if you are looking at our Census records or at a microfilm roll from the Family History Center in Utah. You can capture headings, make notes, select only the information you want and then put it all on the same page for easy printing or saving. In some cases, you can even search for a name in a section of the page.

If you are computer shy, don’t be, the machine has manual buttons for those not comfortable with the use of a computer mouse. Librarian Sarah Livingston will be available to help you learn how to navigate the new machine when you use it. We hope you’ll come try out our spiffy new machine soon.


In the New York State History room, we not only have general history books, but specific family genealogies and histories as well. Through the years, researchers have donated their family history books to us to allow others to benefit from their research. Some choose to write stories and include pictures while others choose to concentrate solely on the pedigree of a family line. Sometimes you can find connections to a surname that you didn’t know existed. You never know what you are going to find in someone’s family tree. 

Recently, a patron donated an updated book on the descendants of John Peet of Stratford, Conn. Thousands of names are in this book and in the many other family histories we have. You’ll want to take the time to look at our materials for it could break down that brick wall you have been facing. In the Peet book, for example, there are some documents attached to individuals, such as a last will and testament. 

Isaac Peet of Oneonta, who died in 1871, left $1,000 each to his two daughters, as well as all household furniture “to be equally divided between them share and share alike as near as may be.” To his sons, he left all property not already listed. At the end of the will, all of his children are listed — possibly invaluable if you have yet to find that information in your research. 

Our Emmons genealogy includes not only pedigree charts of individuals, but an extensive notes section on the individuals. Eunice Prentice (1776-1839) lived in Harpersfield, and her lineage is described as coming “from the highly intellectual family of the Prentices who were in Congress, some of whom were great orators.”

Containing obituaries, to who’s who, to monument transcriptions, resources like these can point the way. Combined with our Family Files, we have almost 300 family specific resources, making the New York History Room a must on your check list of research stops.

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at