Saturday 22 June 2013

PRONI User Forum - news highlights from meeting

Yesterday (Friday) I visited PRONI in Belfast ( to attend the user forum meeting there, with LOTS happening on the Northern Irish genie scene just now. With so much happening I'll just note quick bullet points:

PRONI's visitor numbers for the last year are slightly down, due to a combination of the flags protests deterring, mad weather (I was snowed off attending the last meeting three months back), and a drop in tourism over all. Interestingly whilst numbers visiting from Britain have gone down, those from the States have actually gone up, and a huge boost is expected later in the year with the World Police and Fire Games.

When the Who Do You Think You Are series returns, keep an eye out for the episode with The Apprentice's Nick Hewer, partly filmed inside PRONI - its first appearance in the series. For confidentiality reasons we were told no more, other than the staff comment think it's definitely one to watch.

PRONI's director Aileen McLintock is stepping down in August. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, which PRONI falls under, is also getting a new permanent secretary.

Lots of discussion on a major new acquisition, the Londonderry Papers (D654, D3099, and other entries). This was previously on a long term loan to PRONI, but now purchased at a cost of £665,000, and currently undergoing major cataloguing effort this year and next. It's been described as in the top six collections held by the facility, a major resource - lots of material for Derry, Down, Donegal, plenty of material about British India from the 1720s onward, fascism in 1930s Britain, and more. Previously some material was closed to access, for privacy reasons with the family, but as this is now a public collection it will all be open, save anything that needs to be restricted for data protection issues (very little though). There will possibly be a conference soon on the importance of the collection, possibly mooted for much later in the year.

The Irish State Papers Online collection, sourced from the National Archives in Kew, is now accessible via terminals in PRONI - covering English administration in Ireland from 1509-1714.

Royal British Legion papers for Northern Ireland from 1921-2012 have been acquired by PRONI.

From early July, PRONI's online catalogue will be getting a substantial update and facelift. It's worth pointing out that the catalogue used on terminals in PRONI is vastly superior to that currently online (as I discovered to my cost when doing research on Thursday!) - the online catalogue will converge more towards this.

The online Wills Calendars database will see the currently missing gap from 1918-1921 plugged early next year in March, and the collection itself extended to 1965. That's as far as it is proposed to take the collection for now.

The Name Search database will also be added to, with more wills indexes, including for Derry & Raphoe.

Coroners Inquests are also being catalogued - at present available up to1920 on Name Search, but the rest up to 1999 will be heading for the main catalogue, not Name Search.

A big change on access to the 1939 National Identity Register - I've previously blogged in the past that to access entries from this emergency wartime census you needed to supply an address and a date/proof of death (via an FOI request), and that requests needed to be for one individual at a time. This is now altered - you only need to supply an address, and no longer proof of death. PRONI will instead add a 100 year closure, so anyone younger than that is presumed still alive and details will not be released. To balance that though, PRONI will provide ALL names in a household in a request that comply with this age rule. (UPDATE: See Claire Santry's post on this also at

There will be a Family History Fair in PRONI's buildings on Sat August 3rd (10-5) and Sun August 4th (10-4), including a talks programme. Also a major Plantation Families conference at PRONI and Derry's Tower Museum on 27th-28th September.

For news on the latest developments with the GRO in Belfast concerning the new online records platform due out in a few months, see


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. My Scottish land and church records ebooks are available at, whilst my next Pharos Scottish course, Scottish Research Online, starts Sep 4th - see Time to smash a few brick walls...!

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