One of the most common questions people ask me is “What Irish genealogical records are online?” Years ago, on the old Irish Times version of the site, I did a single page giving a quick-and-dirty overview to answer the question.
I’ve just finished an updated version for this site and the changes are extraordinary.
The curse of 1922 still looms. The destruction of the Public Record Office in that year certainly simplified Irish research, but in the way Cromwell simplified Ireland. On the bright side, (repeat after me: “the glass is half-full, the glass is half-full”) virtually everything of universal relevance to Irish genealogy is easily visible: Census/GRO/Griffiths/Church/Tithes.
Which in turn makes it relatively easy to get a grasp of what bits are searchable online and what’s still only offline.
From that Olympian perspective, a few things are clear.
First, offline territory is shrinking rapidly, mainly due to advances by global genealogy giants Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.
Second, many records are being transcribed multiple times on different sites. What a waste, cries the naive researcher. Not at all. Every transcription adds a fresh layer of mistakes, but different transcriptions have different mistakes: using them together provides a level of accuracy they can’t have on their own.
Third, digitisation is stretching that simplified set of universally relevant records. When you can search a century of newspapers, or an entire set of burial registers, or decades of city directories at the click of a mouse, their relative importance changes completely.
And last, but not least, Irish genealogy online remains a lot more fun than in most other places. You have to rummage right down to the bottom of the Irish drawer to get at the good bits.