Sunday, 5 June 2016

RootsIreland review

Regular readers of this blog over the last few years will know that I have had a fairly up and down relationship with the RootsIreland ( records platform from the Irish Family History Foundation. Every time that it seemed to reinvent itself and do something positive for its users, it would then seemingly backtrack and do something equally appalling and unhelpful. As a user, this meant enjoying periods of the site being incredibly useful and others where it was maddeningly frustrating, with bizarre subscription packages, appalling search field flexibility and more. At one point I got to the position where I eventually thought "sod it, life is too short, there are other means to locate such information these days". And by and large, since then I have indeed been able to make some extraordinary progress on both my lines in the north and on those for my wife in the south through other facilities, mostly through visits to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (, and in using the National Library of Ireland Roman Catholic records platform ( and the new GRONI Geni platform (

Last month I reported that RootsIreland was now offering a new daily subscription rate of £8 for 24 hours access (see, and as such, a few days ago I decided to try the site out once again, not least because of the GRONI's recent decision to increase its rate for acess to its digitised records to £2.50 each, up from £2. So how was the experience?

Well first, there was a major thumbs up from me about an aspect of using the site that I used to hate, for which RootsIreland was not in fact responsible. On previous visits, when paying for a subscription, I would always have to pay more than the subscription rate because the Visa Debit card I used would also incur an additional charge, often a pound or two extra at a time. On this occasion, when I paid £8, it was £8 that was debited from my account. No hidden extras.

Secondly, RootsIreland has obviously had the decorators in, because the site has certainly been spruced up, and looks considerably more professional. But thirdly, the real bonus was in the permissions that are now allowed within searches. You can now search for events with a range of 10 years either way, and you can search for children of couples by typing the parents' names in. You can even search for family members using a surname and the townland where they resided - that old adage in Irish research, you need to know where your ancestors' townlands of residence were, has finally been embraced. It made for a stunningly productive session, and importantly, an enjoyable one, a session where instead of shouting at RootsIreland through my monitor in fury, I was instead yelling at my ancestors to show themselves. In short, a very traditional Irish research session!

Records also continue to be added, and on that front I made an amazing find, an elusive marriage record for my four times great grandparents on the Graham and Taylor lines that I have spent  long time trying to locate. I had long thought that they may have married in County Tyrone somewhere in the 1840s, but they were in fact found to have married just over the modern border in County Monaghan, and with the Graham branch in fact resident in County Armagh near Caledon - and confirming a family story told to me just prior to 2007 by the 91 year half-brother of my two times great grandfather, before he passed away.

So are there still any downsides to the site? Well the site still only offers transcripts of records, without any referencing as to the source - for example, the archive or call number for the original book or microfilm from where the information was derived - but it does provide a useful overview for each county of which parishes and which denominations it holds material for. There are also still typos - it is a transcription based site - and of course it is not complete, but does have the largest collection of Irish transcribed records online from any site.

But as a finding aid, if the site had existed in this format a few years back, it would probably have secured more money from me as a user, and certainly more loyalty. RootsIreland's loss from me has been the gain of many, including Stena Sealink's brilliant £10 day return fare from Cairnryan to Belfast! But the site now works - it is responsive, and it is fun to use. My plea to RootsIreland is for the love of God, stick with what is now a winning formula. As it stands now, I am happy to reinstate it to my Irish toolkit for the effective site that it has finally become, and to recommend it on that basis.

And one other thought that does come to mind - another possibly useful search field might be for witnesses to events? But I don't want to jinx things...!

(With thanks to whoever fixed the site!)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit


  1. Your Rootsireland review was on 5 June 2016. Any update??

  2. I only do reviews when there have been major changes David, so although I haven't used it in a few months now, I believe it remains as previously noted.

  3. Hi Chris, I am relatively new to the RootsIreland site. I already know what records I am looking for and in fact was intending to send away to the Office of the Registrar General for copies of the records I wanted. However, in looking at this website it seems it might even be cheaper for me to sign up - although it doesn't look like I'll get the actual records, just a transcript. It seems to be cheaper and quicker than ordering the actual record. I was just looking for your thoughts

  4. Hi Gina, in any research, it is always preferable to see a copy of the original record, in case there any omissions or errors in transcriptions. If the records you are interested in are after the start of civil registration, I'd suggest trying the free offerings on first, or the Northern Irish GRO's pay to use site at, as both contain digitised offerings of original records. If not yet available on thos esites, RootsIreland transcripts will certainly help, particularly if you have a lot of records to find. If the records you seek are parish records, RootsIreland is very good, there are also free offerings - e.g. for Roman Catholic records before 1880, you can get free access at - there is no searchable index here, but these can be found for free at or, which then link back to the site. But as a rule of thumb, original images are alway better to see than transcripts, though transcripts can help if there is illegible handwriting etc. I hope that helps, Chris

  5. Hi Chris,

    I'd like to thank you for this post! I found your NIPRONI link very helpful. To my surprise, my family name had made a deposit to the "Significant privately deposited archives" - Deeny, Miss M. (depositor) documents T3690. What!?!


    Trish Deeney
    Boston, MA

  6. Hi Trish, happy to help! I'll be heading to PRONI in a few weeks, if you would like a look up - my rates etc are at! (Note that PRONI now allows docs to be photographed or scanned onto a thumb drive)