Genealogy sector must unwind its historically twisted roots
A somewhat opaque organisation, it is described on its website as “a company limited by guarantee with no share capital and no distribution of profits. As such it is a voluntary organisation made up of local genealogy centres, the majority of which are legally established on the same basis. It is governed by its articles and memorandum of association, which set out how it operates and limits its membership to 35 local centres with specified catchment areas.”
The beneficiaries of its activities would appear then to be the promoters of the various local genealogy centres, many of which are subvented by county councils and other State bodies. They are certainly a powerful bunch as they appear to have been able to stymy any efforts by the Government to control the exploitation of this State asset.
The Government’s main investment in this area is IrishGenealogy.ie, run by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. However, it gets only equal billing with RootsIreland.ieon The Gathering website. The reason being presumably because it only offers access to the Catholic parish records of Cork and Ross, Dublin and Kerry. (It also has the Church of Ireland records for Dublin, Carlow and Kerry.) RootsIreland seems to have the rest.
The National Library’s decision to get into the “roots” game raises the prospect of real competition for the Irish Family History Foundation. It also creates a situation where one arm of the State ( IrishGenealogy.ie) will be competing (albeit half-heartedly) with another (the National Library), while both compete with the peculiar beast that is the Irish Family History Foundation.
It is a mess and needs to be sorted out for a number of reasons, the first being that if the Government thinks it is good idea to commercialise the National Library collection in order to preserve it digitally, then it had better ensure that any potential partner is encouraged.
The second reason is that if the Government is serious about using genealogy to drive tourism, then it had better get serious about genealogy.