How good are the new Ancestry/FindMyPast Catholic transcripts?

That hybrid “Ancestry/FindMyPast” might be unfamiliar to some. After all, these are the Coke and Pepsi of online commercial genealogy, fierce capitalists supposedly competing for every advantage. But the 10 million or so transcripts separately released on March 1st last  on ancestry.com and FindMyPast.ie are indeed two copies of the same recordset.

ancestrylaunchmar01
The Irish Times, March 2nd. I think Ancestry won.

Some time last July, after the National Library of Ireland made its Catholic parish register microfilms freely available (at registers.nli.ie), Ancestry looked into FindMyPast’s eyes and FindMyPast looked back at Ancestry and they each said, “You’re going to transcribe these, aren’t you?” Very sensibly, they agreed a joint project and split the cost. And then, as the release date approached, did their best to get the jump on each other, with FMP announcing the release well in advance and ancestry hogging the TV and newsprint publicity on the day itself.

I think ancestry won, even though they had RTE and The Irish Times announce the records on the non-existent “ancestry.ie”.

At the time I was looking for a family called “Lonergan” in Mitchelstown baptismal records between 1825 and 1845. There are good transcripts for Mitchelstown on rootsireland.ie, courtesy of the Mallow Heritage Centre, so I extracted all their Lonergans (and variants) over those years, 46 records in total.

mitchelstownbap1833
MItchelstown baptisms 1833, from the microfilm. Maybe one reason the new transcripts are flawed?

I have subscriptions to both ancestry and FindMyPast and couldn’t resist the chance to compare what they would find. The results were hair-raising. Using the broadest surname variant options on each, the same search produced 24 records on FindMyPast and just 16 on ancestry. (You can download an Excel file with the results here).

The difference can’t all be down to transcription errors and omissions. Much of the gap between the 46, 24 and 16 appears to be caused by the three sites’ differing surname variants systems: apparently ancestry doesn’t consider “Londergan” a variant of Lonergan.

But there is no doubt that Mallow picked up many entries that the new transcription missed. Those old non-image-linked transcripts were made from the original registers, not the sometimes-dodgy microfilms. Rootsireland, all is forgiven.

Of course, no definitive verdict is possible on the basis of such a tiny sample. But the moral is clear: if you’re using any transcript, continue to sup with a long spoon. And maybe you should add a few inches to the handle for the new transcripts.

17 thoughts on “How good are the new Ancestry/FindMyPast Catholic transcripts?”

  1. Thanks for posting this. Seeing the Ancestry and Findmypast search results for Catholic records of my Donoghue relatives in Bantry, West Cork, makes me wonder how much of an effort was made on these indexes. Irishgenealogy.ie site mistranscribed my great-great grandparents’ names in a marriage record as “Samuel Donohue” and “Jeremia Rorke” (unlikely that two men were married in the Catholic parish in 1850). The actual entry reads “Jeremiah Donohue to Joanna Rorke.” These relatives are not found at all by searching either Ancestry or Findmypast, nor are most of my Donoghue Bantry kin, yet the Bantry records are available at NLI.

  2. I tried a test for myself to compare the two. I had already found both birth and records for my Butler family from Cork and marriage and birth records for my Cleary family from Limerick. Neither service found them. I’m not sure why not, but for whatever reason their search engines failed to find records they shoul be able to find. As for your comparison using Lonergan/Londergan, I’m not surprised. Ancestry.com has a particularly bad name variant search function.

  3. Interesting comparison. Thank you. I shall now redo some of my searches. I get lazy on using FMP, because finding records I have picked up and saved don’t give me enough details to relook whereas Ancestry Shoebox means I dont need to open each one. IFHF is just too expensive and I preferred the system they used similar to Scotlands People. The 6 mth cost for 12 month sub means I will have to make sure I trawl through everything in depth in 12 mths.

  4. Very useful to know that the rootsireland site is using the original registers, via the relevant heritage centre. Now we just need to wait for all the registers to be indexed and uploaded as there are so man gaps in what’s available.

    I’ve been surprised by the effectiveness of the FMP and Ancestry transcriptions as they matched what I’d taken from the microfilmed registers.

    1. So true. It is very difficult to find the County Mayo, “unknown” siblings, of my grandfather. One needs, one source of reference…..that’s true automation!

  5. This is great information to have. And I’ve found times when the heritage centers have missed names too, so people should use all indexes judiciously.

  6. Fascinating blog. I’m glad to receive some validation for my experiences with these different transcriptions.

  7. I have found ancestry records to be fairly inaccurate compared to Roots Ireland. Ancestry does not look at families and compare names. It appears they transcribed quickly , putting any letters they guess are correct, instead of reasoning out and comparing the other names and families in the town/village. The records are good to have, but you have to keep in mind, there are a lot of errors!

  8. Hi I have been trying to find info on my father but do not know enough about him all I know is is name is William Robert holland or Robert William holland he was born in Ireland and met my mum in some sort of hospital he was last seen crossing the boarder to Northern Ireland in 1979 at the time my mum was 19 years old and he was older does anyone know how I can find the info I am looking for thank you

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      You could try using the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service, they specialise in tracking down family members who have gone missing, they will only charge you £40 but you will need to fill out some forms and provide proof that you are related.

      See their website at [ http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/reuniting-families ].

      Best of luck in your search,

      Stephen.

    2. Hi Lorraine,

      There are two William Robert’s in the 2002 Electoral Rolls for N.I.

      There are 40 Robert William’s

      WILLIAM R HOLLAND
      ENGLISH STREET
      DOWNPATRICK
      BT30 6AB
      DOWN

      WILLIAM R HOLLAND
      BALLYBRACKEN ROAD
      DOAGH
      BALLYCLARE
      BT39 0TE
      NEWTOWNABBEY

  9. My ancestors mostly came from Killorglin, where the NLI had no microfilms of the records. Rumour has it that they were burnt, but the rumours don’t say when they were burnt.
    Irishgenealogy.ie has gaps mostly in the mid 19th century, but quite good records from about 1884 on. Interestingly, the records begin again at a time coinciding with the death of one elderly parish priest and his replacement by a more energetic younger man.

  10. RootsIreland.ie transcribed Ned Roche and Betty Buckley as Edmund Roche and Elizabeth Buckley – I only noticed when I chose to have look at the register myself to see if there was any extra information. I would have thought they would transcribe them exactly as recorded

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