Irish Roots

September 19th, 2011

John Grenham


The week before last, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, convened a meeting of a range of bodies connected in some way with Irish genealogy: researchers, tourism organisations, companies specialising in digitisation, record-holding institutions, commercial service providers... . With the minister himself in attendance for the entire day, and Judge Bryan McMahon in the chair, speakers from 32 of these groups each had 10 minutes to outline their role and their view of the future of Irish genealogy. Beforehand, I heard doubts expressed about the usefulness of the exercise. With the inevitable turf- and committee-wars, there was a chance that the event would be not so much a seminar, more a genealogical version of Xtreme Fighting: put them all in a cage and see who survives.

Despite a few omissions - the "Ireland Reaching Out" project in East Galway and Fexco, suppliers of the soon-to-be-launched "Certificate of Irish Heritage" were the most obvious - the event was extremely interesting. Some common themes emerged early on. Most positive was strong emphasis on the mutual benefits of collaboration, as well as recognition of the unique moral and economic relationship between Ireland and the descendants of those who have had to emigrate. Less positive was the gulf that emerged between the five Irish Family History Foundation speakers and everyone else. The IFHF, the body behind the biggest Irish family history website, rootsireland.ie, seemed to take the attitude that it had a God-given (or perhaps bishop-given) right to a monopoly of access to church records. They certainly made themselves no new friends.

As a crash course in the possibilities (and the politics) of Irish genealogy, the day was excellent and I'm sure a great preparation for the next meeting of the Global Irish Network on 6 and 7 October.. A fuller account is online at cigo.ie/news.html.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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