Irish Roots


January 14th 2013

The Industry Standard

John Grenham

During the first dot-com bubble, about 14 years ago, an American magazine called The Industry Standard ("The Internet bible") did a feature on online genealogy. They decided to cover The Irish Times 'Irish Ancestors' website, because it was one of the first commercial family history sites. The article involved flying over an American journalist and photographer and deploying a large expense account. I remember little apart from having to drape myself seductively over monumental sculptures in Mount Jerome cemetery for the photographs.

From the interview I can only recall a single question and answer: "Surely when all the records are online, a site like yours that offers detailed guides, but no original records, will be completely redundant?" My response, invented on the spot, was that Irish records were special: the fragmentation of sources would mean there was always a role for a broker to direct people to relevant records and help interpret results. What I actually thought was "You're probably right." But in the dot-com crash a few months later, the journalist and photographer (and, sadly, the expense account) were the ones made redundant. The magazine closed. Fourteen years on, the Irish Ancestors site is still going.

The reason for telling the story is not schadenfreude. It turns out I was right, by accident. Week after week, constant piecemeal digitisation of Irish records is taking place. In just the last ten days, I've heard of the arrival of a single year, 1855, of the Dublin Evening Mail, a collection of Church of Ireland parish records for parts of Carlow, Wexford and Wicklow and a large compilation of gravestone transcriptions for the Arklow area. It is just not possible to keep track of what's becoming available without the systematic pigeon-holes that the Irish Ancestors site provides.

Unless, of course, your ancestors were Delgany Anglicans (tinyurl.com/bxsspup) who published their entire family history in the Dublin Evening Mail of 1855 (tinyurl.com/bjhumc4) and then went off to be buried in Barraniskey (tinyurl.com/aq2f9j2).


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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