Sunday, 1 April 2012

Horrendous RootsIreland changes - more to come?

So here's a turn up for the books - a response from RootsIreland, over a week after I emailed my displeasure about the appalling new changes to its website. The following was the message I sent on Friday March 23rd:

Dear IFHF,

I have had a look at the new payment system and indeed the new search system, and am fairly appalled at some of the developments.

From what I can see, the site advertises that searches will be cheaper if credits are bought in bulk - but for the casual user who may wish to do one search only, or just a handful, it is in fact going to be more expensive. To quote one example, in the old set up, by doing a parent search for children, the cost of 15 children's records if returned would cost just 30 Euros thanks to the welcome addition of the discount scheme over a year ago. Now they will cost 42 Euros by the time I have purchased enough credits - I will need 377 credits for the search and the records purchases at 25 credits each. The basic way to do that if approaching the site for the first time now is to buy a block of credits at 10 Euros, ie 73 credits, and then a block at 32 Euros, another 320 credits. This then gives me a total of 393 credits, enough to do that search and buy those images - but at a cost of 42 Euros, not 30.

I can certainly bulk buy credits and get a discount - but by doing so I am gambling that I will need more credits in the future. But what if I don't? The maths involved here as well in trying to work out how many credits I will need is mind boggling. I've done an analysis of some cases, which I have blogged about at

I am also dismayed to see that the parent search facility has regressed to being enabled now on an all county basis only, and not by civil district/parish and denomination, which was previously the case. That is an unbelievably regressive step, and I would be grateful if you could explain why this has been implemented.

In the last year or two the RootsIreland website has been a joy to work with - only last weekend I spent about 80 Euros searching for family in Raphoe in Donegal. Thank God I did it then, as I would not know where to begin now with what appear to be some appalling and somewhat regressive changes.


Chris Paton

Chris Paton BA (Hons), HND, PgDip (Genealogical Studies)
Scotland's Greatest Story family history research
British GENES (GEnealogy News and EventS)

And here's the response - please don't blink as I would not wish for you to miss it!

Dear Mr. Paton

Thank you for your detailed feedback. The new credit/searching system is in its first phase of development and testing. We have noted your opinions and analysis of the changes to the site this week.

Yours sincerely
Customer Support Team

Note that they have not answered my question about why they have withdrawn some of the search capabilities that used to be on the site, or tried in any way to justify why they have now made it more expensive for the casual user. Also note that whatever changes have been implemented, these apparently comprise "the first phase of development and testing". God only knows what other pleasurable joys they have lined up for us.

They have noted my opinions and analysis, and now I hope they further note the following - I will no longer be supporting or using their site. I can equally stick two fingers up, and quite frankly, I'd rather save my pennies and go back to Ireland to look the materials up myself now.

For the Irish Genealogical Research Society's take on what it refers to as RootsIreland's "backward step", visit Claire Santry's blog at


British GENES on Facebook at and Twitter @chrismpaton
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  1. This is indeed a sadly regressive step..what are they thinking! I have used this site a lot since it started, with mixed success but it has been one of my "go to" sites. The T&C are equally appaling and it seems couldn't use any info even in a published family history.

  2. Wow. A reply that was shorter than your e-mail signature. Maybe the reference to the first phase of development is to give them an escape root so that they can go back to something like the original set-up? Surely they can't have failed to notice the completely negative response from users? I can't believe that this change is not going to hit their wallets pretty quickly, so hopefully then they'll sing a different tune soon.

  3. Good for you Chris - I still don't understand why they can't offer a subscription service instead of (or as well as) this cumbersome, overly complicated pay-per-view basis. It would be far, far simpler and would probably generate more income. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principal comes to mind.

    My thoughts also apply to other PPV sites that don't offer a subscription alternative as well.

    Stuart M

  4. Apologies to reader Celia for inadvertently deleting instead of publishing a comment she has also made - I tried to do it on iPad and text so small I accidentally hit the wrong one! Here's her comment:

    "Oh Chris - that wasn't even a true response - it was just a standard no-human-being-involved reply to any feedback! What a shame, and how disrespectful of them. I have no idea why they think they need to reinvent the wheel here about pay as you go/credits systems for online searches. I agree with you - it's an appalling system."

  5. Here's the reply I got: Note they offered to close my account!
    I tried the new system. I got one of the free search pages. Problem is it doesn't give you enough information to take the gamble to pay for the record. At least put the age for the death records and put the parish/district for all records.

    (They did not answer my question about a subscription system)

    "Thank you for your feedback. The new credit system is in its first phase and we take your opinions on board.

    We have reduced the price of paying to view a record on our site. Therefore a user who purchases the smallest amount of credit at 5.00 EURO will pay 3.57 to view a single record. A user that avails of the 750 credits bulk buy option at 60.00 EURO can view any single record for 2.00 EURO per record.

    Users can search the index at no charge; when results are found for their search criteria they can pay 10 cent per page of 10 results or choose to search again. So 10 page results views would cost 1.00 EURO for example.

    Do you wish us to close your account at this time?"

    Yours sincerely
    Customer Support Team

  6. Thanks for this.

    "Therefore a user who purchases the smallest amount of credit at 5.00 EURO will pay 3.57 to view a single record"

    Errr - unless it is the only record they wish to see! In which case it costs a fiver - no matter what bells and whistles are added to the sales pitch.

    One has to wonder why someone would pay 5 Euros if they had more records to view?!

    Tragically odd, imo.

  7. I was going to use the site for the first time today, but after looking at how you pay and reading the comments here, I have decided its not worth it. a simple monthly or annual fee would be much easier to deal with. Obviously this credit system is designed to extract as much money from you as possible.


  9. Yes - at some point before February this year I discovered that RootsIreland had changed its credit system again. It's an improvement, though still not perfect. I blogged about it at where you will find all the details

  10. Oh my goodness, I was about to join rootsireland..I am from Caboolture Queensland Australia...I'm so glad I read your letter Mr Paton..

  11. There have been some improvements, but it is still an expensive site. If ancestors are from Northern Ireland post 1864 (and 1845 for non RC marriage), keep an eye out soon for a new online digitised record system similar to ScotlandsPeople. Photocopies for all Republic of Ireland statutory records also only cost 4 Euros by way of a photocopy from the GRO in Roscommon - NI also available from 1845-1921 from same source.