The last ‘Irish Roots’
The “Irish Roots” column began on February 28th, 2009, almost exactly seven years ago. This is the last one.
Looking back over that period, the blink of a gnat’s eye in genealogical terms, there is no doubt that a revolution in access to records has taken place, one that in Ireland is quite peculiar.
Back then, genealogy in other English-speaking countries – Australia, the US, the UK – was already becoming web-centric, researchers having long realised what a marriage made in heaven existed between family history data and computers. In those places, genealogy was already commercial and quickly underwent the same process of globalising merger and acquisition that the internet seems to force on all businesses. Giant global oligopolies are the result: MyHeritage, FindMyPast, Ancestry.
Here in Ireland we did things differently. The first attempt to harness genealogy for tourism was a complete organisational dog’s dinner, with heritage centres, county libraries, local community groups and many others yoked together in a project that was part-genealogy, part-community employment, part parish-pump political stroke. But it produced a result: rootsireland.ie, still the only essential Irish genealogy website.
Ad-haughery [sic] like this became the main feature of most Irish online record projects. One individual or institution would take on a project and carry it over the finish line: the National Archives census site; the Library Council’s Griffith’s site; the National Library’s parish registers site; Arts, Tourism and the Gaeltacht’s church and civil records site.
All (including rootsireland) were motivated by a straightforward desire to serve the Irish public, which in later years also came to mean all those worldwide who claimed Irish roots. The result is that Irish research is now less commercial, more open, a bit messier but, above all, much easier than in any of those places that started before us.
It’s a very unIrish thing to say, but we’ve been lucky. And we’ll meet again down the road, with a little more luck.