A new archive launched today lists the 49,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland who died during the First World War or as a result of wounds sustained during battle.
The archive "Ireland’s Memorial Records” has been developed in a cooperative venture involving Google, the In Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The archive was launched today at Google's Dublin headquarters by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore together with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, MLA.
Relatives of those who died in the war were also present to see the archive launched.
Mr Gilmore said he was delighted to launch such an important archive in the company of Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness
“While the digitisation and online access to this record will be a rich resource for genealogy, most significant is its value in facilitating the simple and important act of remembering the individuals, Irish men and women, who lost their lives in the First World War.”
Mr Robinson said he very much welcome the opportunity to be involved in the launch of such an important historical project.
“Google and the In Flanders Fields Museum are to be highly commended for this valuable piece of work. As we enter an important decade of commemorations in both our countries, it is my hope that what has been established here today will keep alive the history and the stories of those who did not return from war.
“This work will allow the stories of the fallen to be recorded for the benefit of future generations and will allow us to express our thanks and acknowledge the sacrifice of men who died helping to preserve our freedom.”
Mr McGuinness said the fact that over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war and over 49,000 were killed showed the human impact of the war on the island of Ireland.
“It is important all their personal stories are told and this innovative project ensures the memory of those Irish soldiers killed will continue,” he said.
“This partnership between Google and the In Flanders Fields Museum has resulted in an incredible source of information for family, students and researchers. I commend Google for their efforts in helping collate this information but more importantly making it accessible. I encourage people to use it and share their stories so future generations can better understand the lives of their predecessors.”
Mr McGuinness said his presence at the event representing a particular strand of Irish republicanism showed an increasing maturity on the island of Ireland.
The records made available on line today were first published in 1923 listing the soldiers from Ireland who died in the First World War. They have now been corrected, updated and made available online as part of the project. The records can be searched by name, place of birth, rank, regiment, service number, date of death and place of burial / commemoration where that information is known.
Ireland's Ambassador to Belgium, Eamonn MacAodha, has worked closely with Google and In Flanders Fields Museum to realise the project. The Irish genealogical history and heritage company Eneclann worked to digitize available information on the casualties.
John Herlihy, head of Google in Ireland said that Google was delighted to have worked with In Flanders Fields Museum on this significant project.
“This is a great example of technology as a force for good, making information accessible and easily available,” he said
Piet Chielens, Co-ordinator, In Flanders Fields Museum said commemoration was about sharing human experiences and fates, and reflecting on them. “This online commemoration allows people from all over the world to connect with a shared past”.
Ireland's memorial records can be found at: imr.inflandersfields.be/search.html