Irish Roots


March 23 2015

Godzilla next door

John Grenham

When Godzilla moves in next door, some nervousness is understandable. So the recent news that Ancestry.com is looking to employ professional genealogists in Dublin has caused some very reasonable twitchiness among Irish professionals. American big business has a long history of competing independent Mom-and-Pop outfits into the ground, assimilating them and replacing them with corporate replicants. Is that what's going to happen to Irish genealogy?

Having looked at the ads, and at the very high quality of the genealogists already employed by Ancestry, I don't think so. Dublin is Ancestry's international HQ, in charge of operations outside the US. So these Dublin-based researchers may well be in charge of German or Swedish or (how delicious) English research projects. It can only be a good thing if we have to lift our noses out of our own parish registers and see how genealogy works elsewhere. Though I can't say I know many Irish genealogists with fluent Swedish.

One other thing this news makes clear is that, like every other area of employment, professional genealogy is now undergoing dramatic change under the twin pressures of technology and the international marketplace. For years, genealogy seemed impossible to industrialise: once past the very early stages of any research project, the sheer bewildering variety of each family's history made mass production unthinkable. And, it has to be said, many of us believed a nice little cottage industry in a quiet backwater was just the ticket.

No longer. Any decent computer can now process those bewildering varieties of family history in the blink of an eye. And, as more and more amateur genealogists get their own access to digitised records, they feel (wrongly, but that's a different issue) less need for professional assistance. High-quality, paid-for research is becoming a luxury, viable only with the kind of international marketing muscle a company like Ancestry can muster.

If you're interested, the closing date is next Friday. See bit.ly/1Gv6udq.

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