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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 31, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

    Rootsireland must evolve

    John Grenham

    Like it or not, Rootsireland.ie is the single most important Irish records website. Almost everyone researching their ancestors in nineteenth-century Ireland will have to use the site’s database of record transcripts –parish and local civil registration transcripts in particular. It can be expensive, certainly (I have personally paid at least two kings’ ransoms), but there is no doubt that the site has opened up Irish research to many for whom it used to be a closed book.

    But it is also cumbersome, customer-unfriendly to the point of brutality and embarrassingly old-fashioned.

    All these problems stem from the peculiar nature of the organisation behind it, the Irish Family History Foundation. The IFHF was set up to provide an umbrella body for the centres carrying out the transcriptions. These centres are extremely diverse, their only common feature a fierce independence. So the IFHF has become a very, very loose federation.

    As a result, the website design revolves around the centres’ need for independence, in particular the need to pay each centre for every view of a transcript from that centre. The needs of researchers come a very, very distant second.

    There are no fore-name variants – if you search for a “Patrick” and the record was transcribed as “Patt”, tough luck. Details of the records transcribed, vital in understanding search results, are sometimes pure gibberish: the listing for Co. Down marriages includes ” Belfast (hm) 1906-1900″. What?

    Above all, though, the entire site still consists entirely of transcripts. Being content with a transcript alone really means accepting someone else’s word on trust: “Honest Gov., this is what I saw in the register. Give us a fiver”.

    Rootsireland can survive the coming onslaught of competition from the likes of Ancestry, and I hope it does. But it has to modernise, to add record images – why not the National Library’s ready-made microfilm images? –and above all it has to stop being a gatekeeper, and become an access-provider.


    • John Nangle says:

      Agree with all these comments but should further highlight the fact that they give the impression that they have more information posted than they actually have e.g. Wexford has only 6 RC and 2 Cof I parishes listed but the county is coloured green.

    • Lisa says:

      I completely agree. I am a regular user of the site, and I also present workshops for amateur genealogists on how to use it as effectively as possible. People are confused by the search engine, and they have come to expect images attached to transcribed records from years of using sites like Ancestry and Family Search. I usually advise them if they find a record they are interested in to see if the LDS has filmed the parish records and then view it through their local Family History Library, the only source we have for them in the states.

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