Irish Roots

September 27th, 2010

John Grenham

Of all the websites providing access to major Irish record sources, www.rootsireland.ie (formerly www.brsgenealogy.com) has had the worst press. Although they have the biggest collection by far of transcribed records, in particular of church records, the initial decisions to charge per record, to set the price per record at €10 and to use a very restrictive search interface did not make any friends for the network of heritage centres behind the site, the Irish Family History Foundation.

The Foundation is a very disparate group of local groups, fiercely jealous of their independence and intensely protective of the record databases assembled so painstakingly over decades. When those records began to appear on-line in 2007, the site reminded some of Samuel Johnson's comment on a dog walking on its hind legs: 'It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all'. But then, slowly, the volume of records available grew as it became clear to centres that the system was secure. At the same time, little by little, the free index search became more powerful, first allowing searches restricted to individual parishes, then allowing users to specify fathers' names in baptismal records. Then the charge per record was halved. And now, with the relaunch, an advanced search has been added for most records, allowing the pinpointing of marriages using parties’ names, and baptisms searches using the mother's maiden name. With transcripts of about 80% of the surviving Catholic records, and this much more powerful free index, the site is becoming seriously useful.

The trick in any commercial genealogy site is to strike a balance between what's free and what has to be paid for. Users will punish ruthlessly (and complain loud and long about) anything that smacks of unfairness. Roostireland finally seems to be approaching the right mix. The long, continuing effort to get there deserves full credit.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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