Irish Roots


April 9th 2012

- now also available as an Irish Times blog.

John Grenham

About three weeks ago, the biggest Irish record website, the Irish Family History Foundation's rootsireland.ie, changed its payment system. Previously, users could perform an unlimited number of index searches to try to identify relevant records, before then paying €5 per record to see full transcripts. The setup could be painfully expensive, especially for common surnames, but the trade-off between what was free and what was paying made the pain just about bearable. Apparently a little too bearable for the IFHF. The new arrangement demands payment for the index searches as well as the transcripts.

When I first saw the changes, I had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while. Better to wait a little before writing about it, to let the blood pressure drop, to be sure that it was a hallucination. Sorry, that it wasn't a hallucination.

It isn't. The balance of limited free access with payment, familiar from almost every other commercial research site, really has gone. The online response from users has been extraordinary, a unanimous howl of outrage. The gist of most of these comments is that the site already forced researchers to work hobbled and blinkered, and to pay for the hobbles and blinkers. Now they want to handcuff us as well. And have us pay for the handcuffs.

The sane response is of course to look for a way to outwit the restrictions. And sure enough, with a little care it is still possible to do free index searches. I would encourage experimentation. The arms race between the site and its users continues.

The IFHF frequently complain that nobody loves them. When their customer service appears to come straight from the Kim Jong Un handbook of public relations, they really shouldn't be surprised.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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