Sunday, 31 May 2015

National Archives of Ireland needs to step up a gear with its online catalogue

I've just had a look at the additions to the National Archives of Ireland's online catalogue ( There's some fairly tedious government material from 2014 and 2015, but some resources that may be of interest to family historians include the following:
  • Galway District Probate Registry 1988 (2013/103)
  • Galway District Probate Registry 1989 (2013/104)
  • Galway District Probate Registry 1990 (2013/105)
  • County Carlow Finance Compensation Files (FIN/COMP/2/1) (197 files)
  • County Donegal Finance Compensation Files (FIN/COMP/2/5) (840 files)

The latter two entries on compensation files relate to the post Irish Civil War Compensation Act of 1923.

Unfortunately that is about as detailed as the catalogued entries get, on what is one of the world's least friendly online archive catalogues. If you compare the online catalogue from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland at with that from the National Archives of Ireland at you are looking at the difference between the light provided in daytime and the lack of it at night.

When I look at the PRONI catalogue from my home here in Scotland I can ascertain a great deal of information that allows me to judge whether it is worth a visit over to Belfast. For example, on one occasion last year I discovered a PRONI catalogue entry mentioning that the archive held a copy of a school log book once kept by my four times great grandfather John Montgomery from Islandmagee. I hopped straight onto a ferry the following day to see it, and was stunned to find a lot of genealogical information scribbled within it, concerning John, a sister I never knew about, and John's land holdings in Islandmagee - that, plus of course details of many pupils who he taught, including several of my relatives. I was able to do so because I was able to get the heads up from the PRONI catalogue.

Some Irish records have been helpfully catalogued on platforms such as RASCAL ( and the Irish Archive Resource ( But the National Archives of Ireland, whilst having some success in recent years on the digitised collections on its genealogy site at, really needs to up its game on its online catalogue provision. I have no doubt that the archive has a tonne of material waiting to be plundered concerning both my family from the north and in Dublin, as well as for my wife's family in Kilkenny and Tipperary - but I am not going to just fly to Dublin and hope that I can find it whilst there. Time is money for such trips, and I need to be able to plan what I want to see in advance, something I can adequately do in advance of visits to Belfast, Edinburgh, London, but sadly, as yet, not Dublin.

How many other people would similarly consider consulting the NAI's collections if they could only see what it actually holds? Personally, I would be much happier if NAI held back on the digitisation efforts now for a bit, and started to put some more effort into its cataloguing programme.


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  1. The records you note above are listed to file level in the NAI's online catalogue, giving the name of every person for whom there is a file. This includes both the probate records and the finance compensation files. For an example of the latter file series see You could also just do a search for a name in the NAI's online catalogue There really is quite a lot there. Always good to search before you blog...

  2. Many thanks for your most informative, and simultaneously patronising, comment, written in response to a post written well over a year ago, when the finance records were not catalogued at that level online. On the probate records, you will of course have also read the Irish probate section at the top of this page which equally notes the good job NAI has done on that front, albeit eventually. But I'm sure you'll agree that it is still a very substandard online catalogue in comparison to many others, despite the fact a few records have been added over the last year. Always good to check when a blog post was written, and what else is available on the blog, before you comment...