Monday, 30 December 2013

Why helping Ireland's genealogy provision to grow is not rocket science

Two articles today in the Irish press both highlight the recent dramatic growth in the provision of Irish genealogy resources online and the fact that the penny still does not seem to have quite dropped with what the genealogy scene could be, with a little more love and input from the powers that be.

Brian Donovan, CEO of Eneclann (, has written an article in Ireland's Independent newspaper detailing the exponential growth of interest in the personal heritage sector, as recently explored at a Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht meeting in Dublin. It's an excellent piece summarising where we are at now - including the contribution of Brian's own company and others in the field over the last few years - but at its heart you can feel the frustration about the lack of a penny having yet dropped from on high at the Dáil:

"The Government needs to familiarise itself with the genealogy business and what it means for the Irish economy. Currently we have an excellent opportunity to turn this country into a European genealogy hub -- rather like the phenomenon in Utah in the USA.

But this requires the Government and senior civil servants facilitating this development and enabling innovation by freeing access to historic records, changing data protection guidelines, empowering the cultural sector to partner with publishers and other innovators.

This will allow us to better connect to the diaspora. Remember, tens of millions of people worldwide have an emotional connection to this island that other countries can only envy. But to maintain these connections with successive generations and strengthen these links, we need to connect these people to their personal heritage."

The full article is available at

Also online is a blog post from Irish genie John Grenham concerning Northern Ireland's Valuation Records (thanks to John Reid's blog for flagging this). Again there is a sense of frustration, often expressed in John's blog, at how Northern Ireland is beginning to grab the bull by the horns whilst the Republic is still trying to work out which field it is in. In this case he cites the brilliant upload of the Valuation Records on the PRONI website, and notes that "We can only hope that, as with the General Register of Northern Ireland, the example of the North might shame us into action." John's post is at

To be fair, the National Archives of Ireland is slowly beginning to get on top of things in the Republic. Whilst its online catalogue falls woefully far behind equivalents on offer in Northern Ireland or in Britain, many useful digitisation projects are soon to appear online via its platform. But it remains the case that records of births, marriages and deaths are the very bread and butter of genealogy. GRONI in Belfast will soon launch an online digitised image service (but will it price its service at the ridiculous end of the scale, as it does with its paper certificates?), whilst the GRO in the south is soon to add a new set of indexes online via - but when will it also see fit to place its digitised register records online through a similar service? And as for parish records, when will the National Library of Ireland get its Roman Catholic records digitised and placed online (long posited by it as a project), and when will someone in power finally realise that what we want to see are digitised original images from registers, not outrageously expensive transcripts from a project first conceived a generation ago?

A lot has happened in the Irish genealogy scene in the last few years - a hell of a lot has happened - but there is so much more to be done. But the biggest change of heart still has to come from the state itself. Let the penny drop lads, and reap the rewards.


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at

1 comment:

  1. "...when will someone in power finally realise that what we want to see are digitised original images from registers, not outrageously expensive transcripts from a project first conceived a generation ago?"