Monday, 31 March 2014

GRONI launches online civil records platform

I've just spent the day in Glasgow researching a family with connections to both Scotland and Ulster. The Scottish end is just about resolved - if only there was a handy online one stop shop for Northern Irish vital records?

Et voila! At long last, the new ScotlandsPeople style records site from the General Register Office for Northern Ireland is up and running at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/family-history. I've just done a test purchase and so far so good.

You need to register with the site first, before you can begin. To do so, visit https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk/Account/Register. Once sorted, you can now start to search the records at the main platform page at https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk/

The site is inspired by ScotlandsPeople - but it is not ScotlandsPeople, the mechanics are quite a bit different. You can search for records and view records, but it appears that you cannot download those records. In fact, GRONI is quite specific about what you cannot do - if you right click on any record purchased, a message pops up stating GRONI prohibits the customer from printing images, downloading images, taking screen shots of images. For this reason, the only image I am using here is the basic search introduction page (I had hoped to show an illustrated walkthrough).

There are four search categories, including one that I was not aware was going to appear. These are:

Search for a birth registration
You can search for and view the record of any birth older than one hundred years

Search for a marriage registration
You can search for and view the record of any marriage older than seventy five years

Search for a death registration
You can search for and view the record of any death older than fifty years

Search for a WWII registration
You can search for any death from the period from 1939-1954.

And just to be entirely beautiful about the whole thing, GRONI have added a townland map facility for the whole of Northern Ireland at https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk/TownlandMaps.

I did a test purchase for a marriage record, to test out the workings. The basic search was free. When the results were returned - there were two possibilities - I could have spent a credit at 40p to see an enhanced result, but I did not need to, as both the grooms' full names and the brides' surnames were both displayed in the free search result, allowing me to select the correct event. That was good enough for me, so I simply purchased the full record required for just £2. I could use a zoom box to magnify parts of the record, though I have found this to be a little glitchy.

The record purchased was from Omagh, and was given a digital registration number of M/1880/Y1/2262/40/140 by GRONI. I'm not quite sure what the 2262/40 refers to, but the 140 is definitely the entry number. The original classification number for the centralised copy at the GRO in Dublin was Jul-Sep 1880, Vol 2 p.193, but I think I'm right in saying that GRONI's marriage records are actually sourced from local registration offices in the north, not the GRO returns - I will need to double check that!

Some down sides - the thou shalt not edict about saving a copy gets worse, in that you only have a 72 hour period to see the record once purchased - unlike ScotlandsPeople, there is no permanent digital copy saved in your account by the looks of it. Despite the instructions, I suspect that as a consequence the Print Screen button is going to find favour with the descendants of many Northern Irish ancestors. And one thing about ScotlandsPeople was its very name - how inspiring! A mission statement that became a brand! Whereas, until I find a name for the service somewhere, the NI offering appears to be the Research family history at the General Register Office (NI) GRONI Order a Cert section. I won't lie. The name's a passion killer...

Despite these wee niggles, the new GRONI website is affordable, accessible from home, and about to revolutionise family history across the water - one can only hope that both the GRO in Dublin and Southport are paying very close attention to this.

Well done Belfast!

Chris

Time to find your inner Irish...! All the best online Irish genealogy resources can be found through my book Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet - in print and ebook formats. "Very useful, makes me wish I was Irish!" - Saint Patrick, patron saint.

15 comments:

  1. Gave up! Problems entering password, eventually sorted, then tried to buy credits using iPad. No luck, incredibly frustrating! Will try again in morning!
    Been looking forward to this for ages...

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  2. It's great to be able to access these records online and I can see myself spending quite a bit of money to see copies of records that I've previously had in index/transcript form only. The marriage record I viewed appeared to have the original signatures of the witnesses so I think it must be a local copy.

    Having spent a few hours playing around with the site I don't find it very user-friendly though, and definitely no ScotlandsPeople! Only being able to search a five-year period at a time is a pain and the 'variants' searches seems quite limited. I found searching for McNeill + variants produced results for O'Neill but not McNeil, and trial and error seems to be the only way to figure out what variants are covered. Admittedly, the fact that you don't pay for the search results is a big help with this.

    The help section seems very basic and didn't answer many of my questions. It would be nice to see this expanded for a family history audience. Not being able to save or download the images also came as a big surprise!

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  3. The 5 year range is a pain, agreed. The free info on the searches though is top notch - I've already solved three long term problems with events I've not been able to find before, and also discovered my 2 x gt grandfather was a twin, which I never knew before (and his twin's name seems to be significant as found in an earlier generation also). It will take a bit of getting used to - but compared to yesterday, NI just took a major leap forward :)

    Granted, I haven't tried to use the site on an iPad though!

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  4. Try as I might, I cannot see the names of the groom and bride. All I receive is a message, telling me there are two possibilities and to purchase credits to view the names. I tried this through the Free Search and Marriage Registration links. What step am I missing to see the names for free?

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  5. You need to have at least one credit on your account (40p) to see free index returns, but thankfully you can pay for just 1 credit, so worth doing :)

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  6. I'm having no luck trying to purchase credits; I've been trying for two days. Every time I go to process the order, I get a message telling me the session has expired, even though I've been really quick. I don't find their help area to be very helpful or clear. Grrrrr.....

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  7. I'm honestly not sure why that is - I've spent a fair bit on the site in the last couple of days, about £80, and it has been taking payment readily in each case. Could it possibly be a browser issue? I've been using Chrome and Firefox with no problems, if that helps. Or perhaps a security issue?

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  8. Thanks so much for the browser suggestion - I work on Safari on an iMac. So I downloaded and installed Chrome, and that did the trick. I wonder if they've had any other feedback about the payment system being fussy with Safari.

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  9. Cannot retrieve the death cert. I input the name and year (already had this from FamilySearch and was advised there was one death record available, but not how to access it. Have 25 credits on hand. What am I missing?

    Jeanne

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. Accidentally removed previous comment, but it asked where it was possible to get a cert for £2 - not a cert for £2, it's online access to a record for £2. Formal certs still cost £15 if you need them.

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  12. Thanks Chris. I can easily delete things too. I'll have another go and see if I can see where the 2 pound option is.
    Coralie

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  13. I have spent 3 nights on this site. Found it amazing. Found loads of information which I couldnt get from other sites. Just need two pieces of information now to complete my great, great grandfather's (on my mother's side) but the dates are way before 1864. Brilliant site. Am signing in as anonymous as want this to be a surprise from all of my family. Thank you

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  14. I've just used the new GRONI site for the first time. Thank you for this blog post, which helped me find my way around the odd search and purchase system.

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