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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 8, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    Oh no. Not again.

    John Grenham

    About three weeks ago, the biggest Irish record website, the Irish Family History Foundation’s rootsireland.ie, changed its payment system. Previously, users could perform an unlimited number of index searches to try to identify relevant records, before then paying €5 per record to see full transcripts. The setup could be painfully expensive, especially for common surnames, but the trade-off between what was free and what was paying made the pain just about bearable. Apparently a little too bearable for the IFHF. The new arrangement demands payment for the index searches as well as the transcripts.

    When I first saw the changes, I had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while. Better to wait a little before writing about it, to let the blood pressure drop, to be sure that it was a hallucination. Sorry, that it wasn’t a hallucination.

    It isn’t. The balance of limited free access with payment, familiar from almost every other commercial research site, really has gone. The online response from users has been extraordinary, a unanimous howl of outrage. The gist of most of these comments is that the site already forced researchers to work hobbled and blinkered, and to pay for the hobbles and blinkers. Now they want to handcuff us as well. And have us pay for the handcuffs.

    The sane response is of course to look for a way to outwit the restrictions. And sure enough, with a little care it is still possible to do free index searches. I would encourage experimentation. The arms race between the site and its users continues.

    The IFHF frequently complain that nobody loves them. When their customer service appears to come straight from the Kim Jong Un handbook of public relations, they really shouldn’t be surprised.

    • Claire Bradley says:

      “Kim Jong Un handbook of public relations” – I love it!

    • Pauleen says:

      The sad thing is that this will probably lead to increased requests from church staff who are already busy. Some inclusivity could have avoided that. Yet more attempts by some Irish research organisations to bleed us dry then expect us to hide the info we’ve paid for under lock and key. I like your hobbles, blinkers, handcuff analogy.

    • john becton says:

      ifhf are disgraceful using their index i found thst many of their records were duplicated so you were paying for the same information ie baptism and birth record and at 5 e that was expensive no more ifvh for me john becton in sunny australia born in dublin

    • john becton says:

      Your comment…

    • Stuart McGee says:

      Glad your’e feeling better John – trust the hallucinations are now under control!

      Would you be kind enough to let us know how we may outwit the Exchequer at IFHF?
      Why on earth to they persist on p****** their customers off like this?
      Why won’t they offer a subscription service?
      What is the name of the ‘Dear Leader’ in charge of this fiasco – perhaps having his/her name up in lights might shame said person into reviewing wehat can be done to improve the public perception of the offering from IFHF?
      Methinks it is now time to have the whole kit & caboodle transfered to Irish Genealogy or the NAI?

      There, I’ve got it off my chest!

    • Nuala says:

      Well done John! About time we brought the disgraceful practices of this organization out into the open. They have twice cut me off without warning for “doing too many searches without buying credits”. But, as you say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
      Anyone that is serious about Irish research and has a common name in an area, knows it is imperative to do ‘whole family’ research to weed out those of similiar name that do NOT belong to one’s tree.
      Will be interesting to see where this all leads. Speedy recovery from your high blood pressure!

    • Not only that, but the e-mail they sent around “explaining” the changes was so obscure as to be unintelligible. Here is the response I sent to them:

    • This was one of the most confusing explanations I have ever read. I am a professional genealogist and am used to reading and understanding rather dense material. Someone should have thought this through a bit more before attempting to explain it.

      It is pretty near impossible to figure out if the new pricing system is a better deal than the old one, or not. Because the explanation is so obscure, I will not be partaking of the new contract.

    • Margaret Kristich says:

      Thank you John, I really enjoyed your comments. Humor is certainly needed at a time like this! I have used the index previously but since the parish is not listed I never found any useful records for my immediate family; this was of course after paying for the record. Hopefully people will avoid IFHF until they rescind their obnoxious pricing change.At a time when they should attempt to attract new customers they should not be driving people away.

    • Barb says:

      I sent them an e-mail telling them, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. You only save if you buy in bulk. I don’t think any thought went into this new process, and I for one, will only use it when I have to. Just rather petty on their part.

    • Mary says:

      Sock it to them John! . What are they trying to do? As we say in our house…”.they must be 4 bricks short of a load”. Common sense will tell them that most researchers will move at the speed of light to another more friendly and should I say less greedy site to find their Ancestors. Banned from my computer!!

    • James McNamara says:

      With a name like McNAMARA the only county I need to work in is…


      … COUNTY CLARE. Why would anyone like me ever go to the IFHF site?

    • M.C. Moran says:

      An “arms race between the site and its users” is unfortunately all too apt a description.

      I am truly baffled by the IFHF’s new pricing system, and by their refusal to get with the programme and set up a subscription service. At a time when more and more amateur genealogists are getting serious about their Irish family history (no more faux family crests: let’s see some actual records…), the IFHF seems more firmly committed than ever to the ‘your Irish surname on a tea towel’ school of genealogical research. Which is to say, no real research at all, but just a hit-and-miss groping about in the mists of time, where any few Michael Ryans from Co. Tipperary, say, will have to do, because it’s not possible to dig down deep into the parish records when it’s pay-per-view, unless you have unlimited funds at your disposal and are willing to place those funds at the disposal of the IFHF.

      And, you know, if I already knew which record of which Michael Ryan of which parish of Tipperary to pay to view, I wouldn’t have to do a search, basically. But the IFHF doesn’t want me to *search,* apparently, they want to sell me a [there were some; actually, many; in fact, quite an overwhelming number of] Ryans in Tipperary tea towel.

      Pay-per-view is for HBO boxing matches, not for genealogical research. It is an utterly ridiculous system; and for the moment, at least, I refuse to pay for it.

    • Cliona Ni Mhurchu says:

      I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one fuming about this ridiculous pricing structure from IFHF. I have, over the years spent a few hundred euro on buying records from them for my own private research – as you say the pain was just about bearable. I think that if people just stopped using the site altogether for, lets say, a month they might get the idea that we are not all soft touches!

    • As a genealogist who has spent 30 years building up and supervising the database of Derry Genealogy Centre that is now available online at http://www.rootsireland.ie I feel compelled to respond to negative feedback about the new credit system and the Irish Family History Foundation. I must emphasise from the start that the views that follow are my own and not those of the Irish Family History Foundation.

      Before I argue for the defence of RootsIreland I think it is only right that I comment on a viewpoint of some that because tax payer’s money has contributed to the work of Irish Family History Foundation then its database belongs to the people. I am speaking here from my experience in Northern Ireland we, in Derry Genealogy Centre, received government funding to provide community employment and training and its genealogy project was deemed worthy enough to receive such funding to meet these aims. The fact that we built up a genealogy database was irrelevant to the government agency that funded us; we were monitored and evaluated on our ability to offer good work experience and training to the unemployed in the local community.

      RootsIreland (www.rootsireland.ie), in my view, is the Number One family records database in Ireland as it holds the largest collection of Irish civil and church register transcripts. Birth, marriage and death records continue to be genealogical gold dust, of which RootsIreland holds 15 million; all other sources are a bonus but of secondary importance.

      The value of this database is further enhanced by its powerful index. As the search facility on RootsIreland is very flexible it means that researchers should be able to determine, at little or no cost, if any entries of interest to their family history are held on the database. For example, if you are searching for the baptism/birth of a child you can narrow the search down by year, range of years, names of parents and by parish of baptism/district of birth. Marriage searches can be filtered by year, range of years, name of spouse, names of parents and parish/district of marriage.

      It must be stated, however, that a failure to find any relevant entries in RootsIreland doesn’t mean that the events you are looking for didn’t happen. It simply means that they are not recorded in its database; for example, they may be recorded in a record source which doesn’t survive for the time period of interest or in a source that has not been computerised or, perhaps, in other databases. For example, a database of church registers for Dublin city, south and west Cork and Counties Carlow and Kerry can be searched, for free, at http://www.irishgenealogy.ie.

      As each County Genealogy Centre, by selecting ‘sources list for each Individual County Genealogy Centre,’ specifies on the RootsIreland website what records it has computerised it means that researchers can determine if a parish of interest has been computerised or, indeed, if the registers go far enough back to record an event.

      Finally, RootsIreland is the only Irish family history service provider that gives access to a network of county-based genealogists who will answer, at no charge, family history queries about place names, surname origins, sources to search and record offices to visit etc. There is a charge, of course, if you require the genealogist to conduct research on your behalf. The contact details (address, phone number and email) of all County Genealogy Centre are clearly visible on the RootsIreland website.

      Brian Mitchell
      M.A.P.G.I., F.G.S.I., Genealogist with Derry Genealogy Centre

    • Bernadette Holt says:

      Correct me if I an wrong but is the IFHF a non profit organization ? Are the county centres under the local Co Councils ? And how much do the centres make a year? Have the accounts ever been published if yes where ? As suggested an annual subscription would be the way to go for those of us that need to use the service.
      Ber Holt

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