Irish Roots

John Grenham

The weekly "Irish Roots" column in The Irish Times began publication on Monday February 23rd. The current column is below. Previous weeks are archived at the bottom.


April 6th

The four surviving sets of records relevant to almost everyone doing Irish genealogical research are the civil records of births, marriages and deaths, the 1901 and 1911 census returns, Griffith’s Valuation, and church records. The first three are well on their way to online availability. What about the church records?

To answer, I have to resist the temptations of diplomacy. One website, www.brsgenealogy.com, has access of a kind to (at a rough guess) 75% of pre-1900 Roman Catholic registers, 50% of surviving Church of Ireland records and 30% of Presbyterian records. Despite the peculiar web address, the site consists of databases created by some of the member centres of the Irish Family History Foundation. A very basic index search is free, and then viewing the detailed entry costs €5 per entry. There is no subscription available.

This pay-per-view system is designed to cope with the internal needs of the IFHF and to make the distribution of payments simpler, not to facilitate the researcher. The original databases behind the site have as much flexibility as it’s possible to imagine – searches can be restricted by place name, or mother’s maiden name, or godparents, or by using wild cards. None of this is possible on the site. At €5 per record, the system is impossibly expensive for precisely those users to whom it should be most useful. It is impossible not to feel that it exists to serve the producers, not the consumers.

And this is before bringing up the other controversies that have dogged the site. The databases were created with large doses of public money, infused through FÁS training schemes. Is there any return to the public purse from the money now being made from them? The rationale for the use of public money was to encourage tourism. But the present website conveys a very simple message: “Give us your money and go away.”

Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

Current column

2014

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
3
3
7
5
2
7
4
1
6
3
13
10
10
14
12
9
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11
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20
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16
21
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20
17
27
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25
22
27
 
 
31
 
 
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29


2013

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
7
4
4
1
6
3
1
5
2
7
4
2
14
11
11
8
13
10
8
12
9
14
11
9
21
18
18
15
20
17
15
19
16
21
18
16
28
25
25
22
27
 
22
26
23
28
25
23
 
 
 
29
 
 
29
 
30

 
30


2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2
6
5
2
7
4
2
6
3
1
5
3
9
13
12
9
14
11
9
13
10
8
12
10
16
20
19
16
21
18
16
20
17
15
19
17
23
27
26
23
28
25
23
27
24
22
26
24
30
 
 
30
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31


2011

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
3
7
7
4
2
6
4
1
5
3
7
5
10
14
14
11
9
13
11
8
12
10
14
12
17
21
21
18
16
20
18
15
19
17
21
19
24
28
28
25
23
27
25
22
26
24
28
26
31
 
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31
 
 


2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
4
1
1
5
3
7
5
2
6
4
1
6
11
8
8
12
10
14
12
9
13
11
8
13
18
15
15
19
17
21
19
16
20
18
15
20
25
22
22
26
25
28
26
23
27
25
22
27
 
 
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29
 


2009

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
2
2
6
4
1
6
3
7
5
2
7
13
9
9
13
11
8
13
10
14
12
9
14
20
16
16
20
18
15
20
17
21
19
16
21
27
23
23
27
25
22
27
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
 
 
 
29
 
31
 
 
30