Current Campaigns – General Register Office
From the Irish Examiner , 28 March 2002
Tracing Roots ‘Made Harder by Act’
by Neil Murray
Tracing family roots could become much harder as a result of new legislation laws passed through the final stages the Dail yesterday.
The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) said the Social Welfare Act, 2002, removes the public’s right to view original registers of births, deaths and marriages.
The registers dating back to 1864 can be examined in superintendent registrars’ offices around the country. After special software has been made available later this year, all records will be kept on a centralised computer system.
The Department of Health & Children said last night that computerisation of records would improve access, rather than restrict it, at a national level.
But CIGO claims its fears were not taken on board by the Government in the preparation of the legislation, likely to be signed into law by President McAleese in the coming days.
Steven Smyrl of CIGO said there was widespread concern among genealogists internationally about the constantly deteriorating level of access to Ireland’s civil records.
“This will have a major impact on those involved in legal and probate work, property conveyance, and genealogists working and living outside Dublin,” he said.
Mr Smyrl said that there could be serious legal implications for public access to the microfilm copies of these records which are held by the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. The church has an international network of family history libraries, which allows members around the world trace their ancestors.
“It doesn’t bode well for genealogical heritage centres, many of which have obtained copies of their county’s civil registers for the 19th century and a good deal of the last century,” said Mr Smyrl.
As part of a consultation process on proposed changes, CIGO made a submission to the Departments of Health, and Social, Community & Family Affairs.
However, the council says the legislation which went through the Dail yesterday was introduced as one of various miscellaneous provisions discreetly hidden in a Social Welfare bill.
“This suggests that the month of consultation last May merely a cynical ploy to give the public the illusion of having an input into the decision-making,” Mr. Smyrl said.