A subscription service is something that many have been calling for over a very long time, the site's previous pricing policy having been ridiculously over the top for the transcripts that were available - particularly as new services such as the General Register Office of Northern Ireland's Geni service at https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk/ had threatened to seriously undercut the costs at £2 per record.
The move to a subscription service is a welcome development on the one hand for those only starting out, though it does cause an issue for those who may have already carried out a great deal of research and who may only wish to look up the occasional record. The following are the new subscription tiers:
- 1 month subscription at £20 (up to 1000 record views in 1 month)
- 6 month subscription at £98 (up to 7000 record views in 6 months)
- 12 month subscription at £177 (up to 15000 record views in 12 months)
If you already have credits on the site, you will now no longer be able to use them to look up records - instead, you will be asked to buy a subscription and to have a discount applied to that based on the credits you hold. I have 15 credits on my account at present, for example, which I am told will allow me a discount of £1.85 from a subscription package.
The very odd free search credits facility that used to be on the site remains in place until you make your first subscription purchase. This has actually placed me in a bit of a dilemma, as the free search facility is something that does occasionally come in handy, without the need to purchase full records. If I upgrade, I will lose this (I have almost 3000 free search credits available), so I may need to consider setting up a separate account should I wish to see transcriptions - it may be academic anyway, as the site states that its pay-per-view facility will soon be closed down, though no time scale is offered on that. A facility to purchase a single record at a time would still be desirable, but I suspect not forthcoming.
There are several other minor changes on the site, which I still need to explore further, and a slight revamp to the home page. Records will remain available on the site for 2 years after purchase. On the down side, searches now need to be performed in more restricted search year ranges. This now makes searches almost as frustrating as those on the GRONI site, which does the same needless thing. Another frustration appears to be that you need to use first names in searches now, where before you could leave that blank. If moving to a subscription model, why should that suddenly have become an issue, it will only make searching harder?
The draconian terms and conditions previously outlined on the site in terms of usage have been updated, but still remain draconian for professional or corporate use. The site's FAQ section states "If you work for an organisation or company that carries out research for third parties using our records, you must not use a personal subscription. You can contact us to find out fees for corporate or professional access to the service."
Overall, however, the subscription model is something that should have happened a long time ago, and is a very welcome development. Whilst the subscription tiers are perhaps a little expensive, there is certainly much more value for money here. But as is so often the case with RootsIreland, what the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away, and the new restrictions on searching are likely to prove unpopular.
Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via www.caledonia2014.com - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks