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2012 News Archive

21st December 2012
GRONI receives Excellence in Genealogy Award Certificate

The formal presentation of the certificate commemorating GRONI as the sixth (2012) recipient of CIGO’s annual Award for Excellence in Genealogy took place on Thursday, 20th December 2012. On behalf of CIGO, the Award was presented by Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to Northern Ireland’s Registrar General, Dr Norman Caven. The event was attended by GRONI staff, a number of representatives of CIGO and other guests representing genealogy from across Northern Ireland.

In making the Award, CIGO recognised that GRONI had completed the digitisation of all Birth, Marriage and Death (BMD) records for the six counties of Northern Ireland in 2011. This allowed for new and more informative indexes to be created which can be searched on computer within the Belfast-based Public Search Room. A new Public Search Room was then set up with 22 PC positions for researchers. CIGO recognised that this new computerised system is extremely user-friendly and allows for many varieties of searches of the indexes including ‘wildcard’ searches.

Currently, GRONI is working towards creating a new online access service to its historical records to start in 2014, the tendering for which is under consideration. When complete, it will allow access to historical BMD records from anywhere around the globe. This will include births which were registered 100 or more years ago, deaths 50 or more years and marriages 75 or more years ago.



At the event the Minister said how pleased he was: “to be able to present the award to Dr Caven and his staff in recognition for the hard work undertaken in bringing the organisation through a modernisation programme of reform. The benefits of this modernisation will provide a first class service to the people of Northern Ireland when undertaking family history and genealogy research.

“As we all move forward in this digital era it is important that government services keep up to date and meet the demand and expectations from our customers. Through this modernisation programme there has been significant improvement in the research facilities available with a new and modern Public Search Room facilitating up to 22 researchers at any one time.

“The digitisation of eight million paper records has allowed for new and more informative indexes to be created. Together with the improved facilities those researching their family history or those researching genealogy will no longer have to endure a lengthy wait – the new computerised records will enable faster, more accurate information enabling the identification of the correct registration.”

21st December 2012
News From Belfast’s General Register Office

On foot of CIGO’s long years of lobbying and its successful submission delivered before the Northern Ireland Executive’s Finance & Personnel Scrutiny Committee in February 2009, GRONI has now implemented new regulations which allow for all future death registrations to note each deceased person’s parents’ names. Up to now, only the deceased’s date and place of birth was recorded, and even this practice only dated from the end of 1973. The new regulations came into force last Monday, on 17 December 2012.

For CIGO, this represents the successful completion of its long campaign to improve the data recorded in death registrations across the island of Ireland. Death registrations in the Republic have noted each deceased person’s date and place of birth and parents’ names since December 2005. But, for too long in Ireland it was often near impossible to match a death record with a birth record and know for sure that the two were a match. With much wit, it became known amongst some professional genealogists as having to play a game of ‘genealogical snap’. This inability to match records had obvious unfortunate implications for establishing identity, inheritance rights and civil status. Although the new regulations will not have retrospective effect, at least such problems will now rarely arise in future.

Steven Smyrl, one of CIGO’s two Executive Liaison Officers, said that: “These new regulations bring Northern Ireland into line with the Republic, which has noted such data since 2005. There can be no doubt that genealogists of the future will greatly benefit from this change.”

In a statement GRONI acknowledged that CIGO had: “lobbied the Northern Ireland Assembly to have the legislation amended to allow for this addition to the records. We hope this extra information will prove to be a useful resource for our genealogical customers.”

Interestingly, in the context of the United Kingdom and Ireland, only England & Wales now lag behind in not recording parents’ names in death registrations.

15th November 2012
GRONI earns CIGO’s 2012 Award for Excellence

At its AGM held yesterday evening in the seminar room of the National Library of Ireland the CIGO announced that the 2012 recipient of its annual Award for Excellence in Genealogy is to be presented to the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI).

In making the Award, CIGO recognised that GRONI completed its digitisation of all Birth, Marriage and Death records for the six counties of Northern Ireland last year. This allowed for new and more informative indexes to be created which can be searched on computer within the Public Search Room (PSR) in Belfast. A new PSR was then set up with 22 positions for researchers. This new computerised system is extremely user-friendly and allows for many varieties of searches of the indexes including ‘wildcard’ searches.

Currently, GRONI is working towards creating a new online access service to its records to start in 2014, the tendering for which is under consideration.

The presentation of the Award to GRONI will be made by Sammy Wilson, M.P., Minister of Finance and Personnel, to Dr Norman Caven, Registrar General for Northern Ireland, in the Public Search room at GRONI in Belfast on 20th December.

At the AGM, outgoing chairman Paddy Waldron delivered the chairman’s annual report which highlighted CIGO’s campaigns and successes during the past year. Colm Cochrane of the Certificate Genealogists’ Alumni Group (CGAG) was elected chairman for the coming year.

15th November 2012
Update on Early Release of the Irish 1926 Census

Progress on the early release of the Irish 1926 census has slowed down in recent months. However, there is no substance to recent rumours that the delay has been caused by the issue of redaction of sensitive data relating to people (alive or not) who have as yet not reached their 100th birthday.

During the visit of Uachtarán na hÉireann (President of Ireland) Michael D. Higgins to the National Archives of Ireland on Thursday, 1st November, representatives of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) spoke with Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD. Minister Deenihan confirmed that redaction is not an obstacle to the release of the 1926 census and that he would still like to see the project on course for release in 2016.

Mr Deenihan did, however, indicate that one of the unresolved issues – of itself not directly related to the 1926 census – relates to an ongoing court case involving the Central Statistics Office and access to census data. In the meantime the Minister said that he would be keen to find ways of funding the preservation, cataloguing and digitisation of the original records. CIGO believes that might well include funding other than from the public purse.

Redaction of sensitive data in order to allow publication appears to have recently been given credence by the Irish Military Archives for the work it has undertaken on the Free State’s 1922 Military Census. The column noting each soldier’s next-of-kin initially had to be redacted given qualms that some next-of-kin may have been young relatives who might yet be still living. However, the issue looks set to be resolved and redaction not required after all.

In his recent conversation with CIGO representatives Minister Deenihan indicated that it is still his intention to bring a memo to Cabinet about the 1926 census in the near future.CIGO wishes him well with this project and looks forward to the census being made available – whether redaction is eventually required or not – as soon as possible.

20th September 2012
Research at the General Register Office

CIGO has campaigned long and hard for improvements at the ‘coal face’ of Irish genealogy: Dublin’s General Register Office. Finally, there appears to be a glimmer of hope that pleas for change are finally being listening to! In the past couple of weeks the GRO has quietly introduced a change in policy for ‘General Searches’. Hitherto, when a party of people came in to the GRO’s Dublin-based Public Search Room each of the party was required to pay a General Search fee of €20. Now, up to three persons can work on foot of one General Search fee and can collectively take up to five years of indexes from the shelves at any one time. Further, each person on a General Search is now entitled to up to eight uncertified copies (photocopies) of register entries, rather than five, as had been the case until now.

Whether these changes were made on foot of the criticism levelled at the GRO by the Irish Ombudsman in her recent report (Hidden History? The Law, the Archives and the General Register Office) is not clear (see below). CIGO was one of the two main genealogy organisations which were asked to give evidence to the Ombudsman for inclusion in the report. However, it seems too much of a coincidence not to have played some part in this change. It is still too early to say if these changes will have any marked effect on how researchers manage their time at the GRO. While welcoming these changes Steven Smyrl, one CIGO’s two Executive Liaison Officers, said that “On a daily basis some researchers require more than eight photocopies while others require only one or two. A more efficient method of supplying photocopies of register entries would be to allow researchers to apply for up to three at a time and then, once they have been supplied, to be allowed to submit another three photocopy request slips and so on.

search-form-2012In the meantime, genealogists should keep in mind that they can also apply for uncertified copies (photocopies) from the local Dublin registration office on Lombard Street East, about 8 minutes walk from the GRO. Provision of uncertified copies (photocopies) at Lombard Street East was secured four years ago through successful lobbying by CIGO; see ‘Good News onGRO’s ‘Five Photocopy’ Rule, 27th February 2008.

13th August 2012
Ombudsman publishes Report on General Register Office

The Irish Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has published a report entitled Hidden History? The Law, the Archives and the General Register Office. Taking two years to complete, the report arose out of a complaint by a member of the public, a person well known to some members of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI).

As was highlighted by CIGO during the Bill stages of the Civil Registration Act 2004, the complainant found that research in the actual original civil registers (dating back to 1845) was denied to him after the passing of the new Act. In giving the background to the case, and the issues which it highlighted, the Ombudsman’s office sifted through all the available material, quoting only that which it saw as relevant. The Ombudsman’s findings confirmed that the public has a right of access to all GRO records under the Civil Registration Act 2004 through searching the centralised indexes held at the GRO’s Dublin-based research facility. However, in addition the Ombudsman found that under theNational Archives Act 1986 the public also has a right of access to the original registers held at local registration offices around the country. The only caveat was that to fall under the provisions of the National Archives Act the registers must have been compiled thirty or more years ago.

As Ireland’s leading representative genealogy organisations, both the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) and CIGO were heavily consulted in the compiling of the report, providing both written and oral submissions. Most of the quotes in section 6 are attributable to Helen Kelly, President of APGI, or Steven Smyrl, one CIGO’s two executive liaison officers. In particular Ms Kelly is quoted as saying “It is imperative that not only should APGI members have access to the actual registers (or copies of them) but that all genealogists and historians should have the same access. Microfilm copies of ‘historic’ national registers could easily be made available through such institutions as the National Archives and/or the National Library”.

In welcoming the report on behalf of APGI Ms Kelly said: “The Ombudsman’s findings are a victory for common sense. Until 2004, under the former Victorian legislation, the public’s right of access to locally held civil registers was enshrined in law. Arbitrarily, this right was stripped away under the 2004 Act and all locally held register books placed beyond reach.” You can read more on APGI’s response to the report here. The story was also covered on the Internet Blog Irish Genealogy News.

CIGO joins with APGI in calling “upon the GRO to make available to the Department of Arts, Culture & the Gaeltacht a copy of its database of scanned images of the civil registers so that those records can swiftly be added to the Department’s website www.irishgenealogy.ie, where many other genealogy sources are already made publicly available for free“. In addition, CIGO again reminds the GRO and the government department under which it operates (Department of Social Protection) of the calls made by it a decade ago in the report which issued from the massively attended public meeting organised by CIGO in Dublin on Saturday, 7th August 1999.

The report noted that the meeting has passed a unanimous resolution “to request the Minister for Health & Children to deposit microfilm copies of the important national archive that are the civil registers of birth, death and marriage, with the accompanying indexes, at National Library of Ireland. During 2000 the National Library will open its new ‘genealogy wing’ in which will be housed microfilm copies of many of Ireland’s genealogical records. Presenting a copy of the registers up to at least 1900 would not only reward the National Library’s initiative, but would have far reaching effects upon relieving the congestion in the GRO’s Public Search Room.” Details about the public meeting and the resolutions passed at it were subsequently published in The Irish Independent on the 19th January 2000.

23rd July 2012
IFHF Adds Quarter of a Million Waterford Marriages to its Online Database

The Irish Family History Foundation has added 242,000 marriages from Waterford city and county to its pay-per-view website, rootsireland.ie. The marriages are taken from parish registers of both Roman Catholic and the surviving Church of Ireland parishes from across the county. The Foundation’s database now comprises approximately 19.5 million records and covers every county in Ireland but Carlow, Clare, Kerry, south/west Cork and Dublin. See the interactive map here.

Some of what the Foundation doesn’t cover is included on the Irish Department for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht’s website irishgenealogy.ie. Here you can find (for free) Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic (and even one Dublin Prersbyterian congregation’s) records from counties Carlow, Cork, Dubln and Kerry.

Researchers should always keep in mind that Church of Ireland records can never be considered comprehensive given that the records from two thirds of parishes were destroyed in the great conflagration which consumed the Irish public records during the Irish civil war in 1922.

29th June 2012
GRONI goes to Tender for Pay-Per-View Service

The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) has announced a public tender for the provision of a service providing access to older GRO records over the Internet on a pay-per-view basis, something similar to that provided in Edinburgh by Scotland’s People. GRONI had indicated to CIGO last year that it expected to go to tender during 2012 and in fact in January it indicated that it was likely to happen in early summer. This is something that CIGO lobbied for in its submission to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2009.

In her Blog Claire Santry indicates that the new online service will cover births: 1864-1913; marriages: 1845-1938; deaths: 1864-1963. This is in line with the lobbying made by CIGO to GRONI over the past decade when it was considering new legislation. Initially, there was to be a longer embargo on data in deaths and marriages but CIGO and others successfully argued against this. Under the new legislation full access will still be facilitated to all civil registration records held by GRONI at their offices in Belfast.

However, CIGO hopes that the pay-per-view fee will not prove exorbitant. GRONI already charges £14 per certificate! You can read more on Clare’s Blog here.

Finally, the General Register Office of Ireland (based in Dublin) seems to be lagging further and further behind in the provision of digital data over the Internet! One would be forgiven for assuming that it might never happen!

11th June 2012
Obituary for Randal Gill Appears in The Irish Times

An obituary piece penned by Steven Smyrl appeared in the Appreciation column of today’s edition of The Irish Times recalling Randal Gill’s extraordinary commitment and contribution to genealogy in Ireland. The piece makes particular reference to the North of Ireland Family History Society, of which Randal was a founding member. Read the full piece here: Randal Gill – An Appreciation

23rd May 2012
Death of John Heueston

For the second time in just a few weeks, CIGO regrets to announce the death, on 19 May 2012 following a long illness, of a council member and past chairman, John Heueston, one of whose last public appearances was at the burial of his successor as Chairman, Randal Gill, just two weeks before his own death.

CIGO would like to express its sympathy on John’s death to the Heueston family and to the members of the Irish Family History Society, of which he was current treasurer and former chairman (1998-2003).

Although he was born and raised in Dublin, John spent many of his working years in Scotland. It was after his return to Ireland that he eventually joined the IFHS, having long had an interest in genealogy. Later, he was awarded a Diploma in Local History by N.U.I., Maynooth. He was the first point of contact with the IFHS, dealing with all correspondence through email and by post. He was also the familiar face at the table welcoming members to IFHS meetings at Dublin City Library & Archive, Pearse St., Dublin. He served as Chairman of CIGO during the year 2006/2007. John’s main area of interest and research was Co. Sligo and he published on aspects of the county. Despite his poor health, John continued to carry out his work for the IFHS and CIGO to the end. He will be laid to rest on Friday 25th May in Shanganagh Cemetery in Co. Dublin, following a Funeral Service in Kill-o-the-Grange Parish Church (C of I) at 11.00 o’clock.

5th May 2012
Death of Randal Gill

CIGO would like to express its sympathy to the Gill family and the members of the North of Ireland Family History Society on the sudden death of the NIFHS’s President and CIGO council member and past chairman Randal Gill, which took place on 29th April. Randal was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s churchyard in Curtlestown, Co. Wicklow today. Full obituaries can be found in Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter (written by Randal’s fellow CIGO council member from the NIFHS, Robert C. Davison) and on the NIFHS‘s own website.

16th April 2012
Update from Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives – from Irish Genealogy News

On her blog – Irish Genealogy News – Claire Santry updates family historians on new items transcribed and added to the webpages of the Ireland Genealogy Project. Read morehere.

15th April 2012
And John Grenham again…

In his Irish Times blog John Grenham has written about the new scanned images of 20th century will calendars on the website of the National Archives of Ireland (see below, 29th March). He also praises CIGO when he says “The site now also has PDF copies of all the Calendars from 1923 to 1982, though finding them is like searching for an invisible needle in an invisible haystack. The best guide is not on NAI’s own site, but comes from the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisationstinyurl.ie/8ff. Enough said. Read John’s full blog entry here.

9th April 2012
High profile genealogist John Grenham comments on IFHF’s new charges

In his weekly genealogy column in The Irish Times, well known Irish genealogist (and patron of CIGO) has commented on the new charging regime implemented by the Irish Family History Foundation for data through its website www.rootsireland.ie. With typical humour John has nevertheless brought into sharp focus the bizarre new charging structure implemented. You can read John’s comments here and those of others with concerns too! In its recent e-Bulletin (available to members) the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) noted about the tone of the Terms and Conditions for using the IFHS’ website were “hectoring and threatening — and it begs the question of who on earth advised them on their public relations policy?” Who indeed?

29th March 2012
National Archives of Ireland puts Calendars of Wills and Administrations online

The National Archives of Ireland has quietly begun to put PDF versions of its Calendars of Wills and Administrations online. This is a great new online resource for Irish genealogy, even though it is still riddled with teething problems. The original Calendars cover all 32 counties of Ireland from 1858 to independence, and the 26 counties of what is now the Republic of Ireland since then. However, at the moment, those scanned and online only run from 1923. The index on the National Archives website is completely impenetrable, but for now this index on the CIGO Links page is the best entry point at the moment. The Calendars are PDF files, where P stands for Portable, but are about as portable as the physical books from which they were made, so don’t try using them on a dial-up connection! The PDFs do not appear to be searchable, or even bookmarked, at this stage, so you will have to scroll or page down through the whole book to find the name you seek.

The calendar has been digital since 1983 and those entries for the years 1983 to 1990 can be found through general searching of the online National Archives catalogue. Within the next few months a new searchable database (compiled by FamilySearch) is to be added to the National Archives website covering the period 1858-1922.

PRONI’s online database covers the years 1858-1943, but relates only to those entries for the six counties which form Northern Ireland. The entries in the database for the years 1858-1919 were abstracted from the all-Ireland Calendars of Wills and Administrations and can be found on the PRONI website. Part of 1921 has still to be added to this database, as does all of 1920. However, the database is complete for the years 1922-1943 for all Northern Ireland grants. NB: for the pre-1922 period, the PRONI database does not note grants issued by the Principal Registry based in Dublin, only those grants issued from the District Registries of Armagh, Belfast & Londonderry, which fall within the boundaries of what became Northern Ireland. From 1922, a new Principal Registry was established in Belfast to serve Northern Ireland.

10th March 2012
CIGO’s 1926 Census Campaign Wins Irish Cabinet and Government Approval

CIGO is delighted pass on the latest news about its long-running campaign to obtain early release of the 1926 Irish census. Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD, who has a deep personal interest in genealogy and is certainly a friend to Irish genealogists, confirmed in a statement given in the Dáil (the main chamber of the Irish parliament) that the Cabinet has now approved the plan to digitise the Irish 1926 census returns. Legislation, he said, would be enacted by June or July this year. “Following its enactment, I will have to come up with the resources to implement it. I cannot start the process until the enabling legislation has been passed.”

Steven Smyrl, CIGO’s executive liaison officer – and one of the two Smyrl brothers appearing in RTE’s new peak time TV show Dead Money – described the Government’s commitment to legislation as “terrific news. It more than justifies the long campaign which CIGO had led,” he said. “It has taken many years to convince those responsible that the 1926 census returns are an invaluable source for the history and genealogy of the Irish people. Given the loss of the 19th century census records, genealogists are clammering for access to the data currently locked away.”

The returns, compiled 86 years ago, amount to a ‘family snapshot’ taken just after a succession of tumultuous events in the history of this island. First the Great War, then the 1916 Rising, quickly followed by the War of Independence, partition and the creation of the State and then the fateful civil war!

Access to the returns for 1926 would supplement greatly that now so readily available through the Internet to the returns for the 1911 census. Smyrl said “In addition to the data captured in 1911, in 1926 those enumerated were also asked to state the town or townland of their birth and their age in years and months. This information will prove vital for those just starting out on their research.

CIGO applauds the vision of the Heritage Minister, Jimmy Deenihan TD,” said Smyrl. “He recognised immediately the value of the argument put forward by CIGO and which led to the project being included in the Programme for Government back in March last year. Mr Deenihan could see that the data collected in 1926 could be harnessed to help bring more overseas visitors to Ireland.

So what information will the 1926 census returns reveal to family historians?

In addition to the usual name and surname, relationship to head of household, marital status, language, religion and profession, this 1926 census collected the following for each person, where appropriate:

  • Age in years and months
  • Town or townland of birth
  • ‘Orphanhood’ ie notation if one or both parents deceased
  • Name and address of employer
  • If unemployed, normal profession/trade plus period of unemployment
  • Present marriage duration (both men and women to answer)
  • Total number of children born in present marriage (both men and women to answer)
  • Living children and step children under 16 for all marriages (both men and women to answer)
  • Size of the household’s landholding in acres.

Here’s a link to an example of how a family was to complete a household return in 1926. 1926Census

26th January 2012
Future Northern Irish Death Registrations to Note Parents’ Names

CIGO’s long-running campaign to improve data recorded in Irish death registrations across the island of Ireland looks finally to be fulfilled in 2012! With the passing of the Civil Registration Act 2004, from the 5th December 2005 informants in death registrations in the Republic of Ireland have been required to provide the names of the deceased’s parents. This change was only secured when CIGO appealed to the then Minister for Social Welfare, Mary Coughlan TD, drawing her attention to the fact that the United Nations had had long promoted the need for universal registration of “vital” events and had produced a ‘Model Civil Registration Law’ to assist developing Third World countries!

The General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) had been slow to move on this issue, but the campaign received a huge boost in 2009 when CIGO’s two executive liaison officers appeared before the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Finance & Personnel Scrutiny Committee to give evidence about civil registration practices in Northern Ireland. The executive liaison officers, Steven Smyrl and Robert Davison, made an extremely convincing case for Northern Ireland to follow the Republic’s lead and to begin noting the name of each deceased person’s mother and father.

In its subsequent report the scrutiny committee included the future noting of parents’ names in Northern Ireland death registrations as one of its “key recommendations” and which GRONI then accepted in principle. In January this year GRONI notified CIGO that new registration regulations are to be drafted for implementation later this year and which will include provision for noting parents’ names in all future deaths registered in Northern Ireland. The system is to be modelled on that in place in Scotland since 1855 and which is ‘voluntary’ and only requires informants to provide information they have knowledge of.

Across Britain and Ireland, this now only leaves England & Wales to recognise the value of, and commit to, this important provision for future generations, let alone future genealogists! In this regard, CIGO’s Steven Smyrl recently remarked with some wit “that in 1999 when trying to secure the backing of Sinn Fein for the Northern Ireland devolved assembly, former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, announced “we’ve jumped…now you follow!”. And on the important issue of noting parents’ names in death registrations, as the Irish have now finally followed the Scots and “jumped” …could the English & Welsh please follow?”

10th January 2012
Latest Newsletter available from Cape Town Family History Society

Read it here CTFHSDec2011

3rd January 2012
US newspaper Irish Echo carries a piece on CIGO’s 1926 Census Campaign

It hardly matters now whose fault it was. It happened.Two opposing sets of patriots, both believing they had right on their side, destroyed the Public Records Office at the Four Courts in June 1922. And in the process, they set alight much of Ireland’s historical memory. Other disasters, including an extraordinary act of bureaucratic bungling in the late 19th century, meant that independent Ireland began its existence with a greatly reduced set of official records. Read rest here.

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