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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 1, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    A New Portal

    John Grenham

    For years tourism authorities in this country have been tearing their hair out over the problems of using genealogy as a marketing tool. What’s needed is blindingly obvious: make it as easy as possible for descendants of emigrants to find records of their ancestors. A significant proportion will have their holiday choices at least influenced by easy success. QED.

    The main obstacle is no longer the lack of online records (although there remain some shameful exceptions – General Register Office, I’m looking at you). The obstacle is now fragmentation. One site has some of the church records, but won’t link to that other site with the rest of them and that other site won’t link to the site with the census records and yet another site … and around and around we go.

    Some common sense has finally prevailed. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has revamped their site, irishgenealogy.ie, and turned it into a portal that creates simple-to-follow, ready-made searches for all the relevant free sites at the click of a single button. It is perfect for someone with just a casual interest in their Irish past – they get an instant uncomplicated overview of almost everything they might need to search.

    For the sake of transparency, I should add that I provided some of the text and ran some of the testing. So I have to bite the hand. The site is by no means perfect. Its usefulness as a portal for beginners and casual users depends on it being complete, but there are no ready-made searches for any commercial sites, or indeed familysearch.org, and these are essential. But I’m sure they will come.

    The best way to see the revamp is as a start: the portal provides the outline of a great reception area. So tourist bosses can begin to leave their hair in place, but they need to start herding visitors into that area.