Irish Roots

March 15th, 2010

John Grenham

I said last week that a website making it as easy as possible for the descendants of emigrants to find their way back to their ancestors' places of origin in Ireland neednít be complicated or cost a fortune. So what would such a site look like? Scotland's People (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) gives a good indication.

Started in 1998, the site based itself initially on digitised images and transcripts of the Scottish General Register Office records, making searchable all births, death and marriages in Scotland since 1855. Since then it has expanded incrementally, cooperating with the Scottish National Archives, the Scottish Churches and other public bodies to add parish records, eight (eight!) decennial censuses from 1841 to 1901, wills and associated testamentary records, coats of arms and other heraldic documents. In all cases, a database transcript was created, linked to high-quality images of the original record. From the outset, the site has been a profitable combination of subscription and pay-per-view units, allowing users maximum flexibility, while keeping a clear connection between the amount paid, the number of searches carried out and the number of records viewed.

Scotland's People is by no means perfect: the interface is clunky and a little tired by now, the payment system can feel needlessly encrusted with complications, and the connection with tourism is sketchy and underexploited. But every single basic record needed to identify a Scottish ancestor is here.

The Scots did have an advantage, in that the majority of the sources were already in their GRO, so no turf wars were needed. But most of our own GRO records are already digitised and available internally in the Office. What are the chances of anything even remotely similar to Scotlandís People happening here?

All Irish researchers can do is look across the North Channel and gnash our teeth.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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