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General Register Office Records Finally to Go Online

The Irish government has announced that indexes to birth, death & marriage records which date from 1845 are soon to be made available through its genealogy portal This is terrific news, announced in CIGO’s 21st year, the year in which it ‘comes of age’.

Founded as the GRO Users Group, but soon after renamed the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, CIGO began life as a direct response to the 1992 government announcement that the General Register Office (which holds Ireland’s civil records) was to be transferred out of Dublin to Roscommon town. CIGO’s successful lobbying quickly secured a commitment from the Department to retain a public search facility in Dublin and thus laid the foundations for its many acknowledged successes over the following 20 years. With reference to the GRO, particular note should be made to CIGO’s part in securing provision of improved family data in Irish death registrations on both sides of the border.

Included in the newly published Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 are amendments to section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. These amendments will allow the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht to make provision and legal framework for BMD indexes to be placed online. However, at this stage it isn’t clear where the cut-off year will fall. What constitutes ‘historical’ as opposed to ‘modern’ records has not yet been released. It might even be that the indexes could be published right up-to-date!

The announcement that BMD indexes will go online follows that recently made by GRONI (General Register Office for Northern Ireland) about its own records going online in the late autumn. Under provisions in the Civil Registration Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 – which CIGO was invited to give oral evidence on at bill stages – GRONI will be making ‘historic’ indexes and records available online for the first time on a pay-per-view basis.

By contrast, data on the Irish government’s genealogy portal is free. In welcoming the announcement Steven Smyrl, Executive Liaison Officer for CIGO and current President of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, said “This is terrific news. CIGO has lobbied long and hard for better access to civil records for genealogists and historians.

“It doesn’t surprise me that this has finally happened under the current government. The two ministers involved in this decision, Jimmy Deenihan TD (Heritage Minister) and Joan Burton TD (Social Protection Minister) are both keen genealogists. In particular Mr Deenihan has proved to be fully supportive of the genealogy lobby since before he came to office in 2011.

“This move will make Irish genealogical research easier and no doubt play its own part in stimulating roots tourism.”

For Irish genealogists everywhere this is most welcome news!

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