Irish Roots


July 9th 2012

The neighbours are better at this than us

John Grenham

Some good news. The General Register Office of Northern Ireland has begun the process of making its historic records searchable online, with a launch date some time before the end of 2013. (You can see the full tender document at tinyurl.ie/a16).

It's worth spelling out what exactly GRONI intends, if only to embarrass our own General Register Office. The site will have fully searchable transcripts linked to images of:

  • all birth records older than 100 years, covering 1864-1913;
  • all marriage records older than 75 years, covering 1845 to 1937;
  • and all deaths older than 50 years, covering 1864 to 1962.

Not coincidentally, these are the precise cut-off points already used by the Scottish General Register Office's online service at scotlandspeople.gov.uk. It means that, like the Scots, GRONI is committed to adding an additional year's records to the online service every year. More recent records will be searchable just as transparently, but only onsite at GRONI's search room in Belfast.

The website will be pay-per-view, almost certainly also on the model of scotlandspeople, and there has to be some trepidation about potential prices, given the stiff fees currently charged for research and certificates at GRONI. But if the searches are as precise as the prototype currently on offer in the search room, they will have many, many customers. The biggest loser is likely to be the most profitable Irish genealogy website, rootsireland.ie. Three of its four Northern Irish centres offer some pay-per-view transcripts of registration records, albeit without images.

Before 1922, registration districts simply ignored county boundaries. So GRONI's pre-1922 records cover parts of what later became the Republic . If your ancestors lived in the right part of Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan or Louth, the new site will remove the Victorian shackles our own GRO imposes on researchers.

Put to shame by the neighbours, yet again.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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