'Irish Roots' archive



Irish Roots


October 12 2015

Rootsireland improving dramatically

Over the past few months, I've spent more and more time using what is still the only absolutely essential website for Irish genealogy, the Irish Family History Foundation's transcription site, rootsireland.ie. Complaining about the IFHF and rootsireland has become second nature for most people involved in Irish family history (mea culpa), to the point where it can be hard to admit when they get things right. The challenge of recent online expansions by the National Library (registers.nli.ie) and Irish Genealogy (civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie) seems to be producing results.

First, the pace of addition of new transcripts is accelerating: Monaghan, very poorly served in the past, has recently seen an explosion in the numbers of Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and civil records on the site. And the cut-off year for new transcriptions is edging later and later, past 1920 in some cases, bringing to light almost an entire new generation.

The IFHF centres' ground-up approach can sometimes work very well indeed. In Donegal, local knowledge and local contacts have allowed the Ramelton centre to winkle out not only all the surviving church records of every denomination up to 1900, but every single local registrar's record of births, marriages and deaths up to 1920, making it finally possible to disentangle the mind-bogglingly intertangled Gallaghers and Boyles and O'Donnells and Sweenys. Simply zero in on a registrar's district, and search on the fathers' names of bride and groom. Wonderful, if quasi-legal.

There is still plenty to complain about: the Stalinist pretence that rootsireland is the only Irish genealogy website on the planet ("There is no genealogy service in operation in Co. Kerry"); the need to manoeuvre around the unsignposted gaping holes in some county's records (Wexford, I'm looking at you); the complete absence of record images and the resultant difficulty trusting many of the transcriptions.

But they're getting better. They're not going away, you know.

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