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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 27, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    The Weird and Wacky World of Civil Registration

    John Grenham

    More news from the weird and wacky world of civil registration. In a move rumoured to be masterminded by anti-Gathering supremo Gabriel Byrne, the HSE website certificates.ie has just increased the cost of purchasing a birth, death or marriage certificate by 125%, to a whopping €20 (plus postage). A source close to Mr Byrne said, “Just feck off and leave us alone”.

    Meanwhile, bizarrely, public availability of the General Register Office birth, marriage and death indexes continues to grow. These indexes are the paper volumes which it is still necessary to pay to search as part of the GRO’s only official research access, the Search Room in the Irish Life Centre in Dublin. Forty years ago, the Mormon Church microfilmed all of them up to 1958. Six years ago they digitised the full set and made it free to search on their site familysearch.org. They licensed this digital transcript to ancestry.com two years ago and have now also licensed it to FindMyPast.ie. The two commercial sites charge for subscriptions, but have seriously improved access, in particular allowing reverse marriage index searches. And FindMyPast has also provided a great set of research supports and finding aids.

    But the GRO continues to insist officially that the only legal route of access to its records is via the Irish Life Centre facility. So what has been its response to such outrageous, flagrant illegality? As ever, complete silence. This is the approach familiar from the Ostrich School of Public Administration: if you don’t admit it exists, it can’t be a problem, can it?

    Step through the looking-glass into Northern Ireland, and an uncanny normality prevails. Their GRO (groni.gov.uk) has just received the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations‘ 2012 award of excellence for the completion of the digitisation of all records for the six counties. The plan to make them all searchable online by 2014 is on schedule and under budget. How strangely sane.

    ['Irish Roots archive from 2009 at www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/magazine/column]

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