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4th July 2014
"Enhanced" Indexes to Ireland's Civil Registration Records Now Online

At an event on the 3rd July attended by representatives of CIGO, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, launched a database index to Ireland's civil registration records. The database covers all civil records from 1845 (when registration first began) right up to 2013 - encompassing all non-Catholic marriages from April 1845 and all births, deaths and marriages from January 1864.

Achieving this was one of CIGO's primary aims at the time it was founded in 1992 and yesterday's announcement by Mr Deenihan vindicates CIGO's long years of lobbying the Department of Health (which originally had oversight of the General Register Office) and the Department of Social Welfare (which assumed responsibility at the time of the passing of the Civil Registration Act 2004).

The index entries in the database are "enhanced" because they note more information that those currently available in the GRO's Public Search Room or those that were microfilmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints in 1959 (and which are now available through FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and Findmypast.ie). A good explanation of what information is provided can be found here at Irish Genealogy News.

However, a word of caution, on Social Media sites some queries have been raised about the new database and its accuracy. Particularly, this has been where in the original hardcopy indexes a birth, marriage or death entry noted more than one first name.  In the new online database only the first name appears and this is a big drawback where a researcher is trying to identify one possible record from among many with the same name (Mary Murphy for instance!).

On a happier note, even more exciting news is that at the launch the Minister for Social Protection (and since yesterday, the leader of the Labour Party), Joan Burton TD, announced that the publication of the long awaited Civil Registration Amendment Bill will take place soon and that among various measures will be one to allow the publication online of "historic" civil registration records. She intends that scanned images will be made available of birth records registered more than 100 years old, marriages more than 75 years ago and deaths more than 50 years. Again, more detailed information about this story can be read here at Irish Genealogy News.

All-in-all, Thursday 3rd July was a good day for CIGO: one more of the issues it has long lobbied for having been delivered and another one promised.

Here is the link to the new Civil Record database:

8th May 2014
England & Wales '1939 National Register' to be Digitised

The UK’s National Archives has announced that the ‘1939 National Register’ for England & Wales is to be digitised through collaboration with Findmypast.co.uk. This exciting news validates CIGO's campaign - begun in 2008 - to establish that the general public had a right of access to data from the Register which relates deceased persons or those born more than 100 years ago. Will Scotland and Northern Ireland now find commercial partners to work with too?

Those who followed CIGO's campaign will be aware that it was successful in using the UK's Freedom of Information Act to force the National Health Service Information Centre to back-down from its "no access" policy to the National Register and to establish a fee paying access service.

The information recorded in the UK's National Register - while sparse compared to census records - is actually superior because it records dates of birth rather than just ages. This means that identifying people can be achieved with far more accuracy than census records allow - particularly if an individual is residing outside of their family home.

Of great important to Ireland is that data in the National Register which relates to living people will be redacted, thus ensuring compliance with the UK's Data Protection Act. From the view point of Irish genealogists, the use of redaction through modern technology establishes a precedent that such a policy could also be applied to Ireland’s 1926 census. While redaction is not what genealogists really want, its use would help allay the fears of the Central Statistics office, which has made its view clear that it would not support any change in the Statistics Act 1993 which places data about living people in the public domain. 

18th January 2014
IGRS Amongst Top 100 Worldwide Genealogy Websites

Congratulations to the Irish Genealogical Research Society (one of CIGO's constituent organisations) on featuring in Genealogy In Time’s (GIT) worldwide Top 100 Genealogy Websites for 2014. Using Alexa statistics - which enable objective visitor traffic statistics (rather than votes) from across 35 million websites - GIT noted the top 100 genealogy websites worldwide and ranked the IGRS at 79 out of 100. You can read more here.

1st December 2013
Minister Confirms No Restriction in Access to General Register Office Records

The Freedom of Information Bill 2013 passed Committee Stage on the 12th & 13th November when amendments were considered by the Dáil Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform. A large number of amendments were put down for consideration by both the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, and opposition TDs. One of the main amendments from the Minister relating to fees involved in making FOI requests had to be withdrawn in the face of very vocal criticism. However, the issue will likely be raised again when the Bill is debated by the Seanad.

As regards access to civil records of birth, death & marriage held by the General Register Office, CIGO is pleased to report that during consideration of amendments put down by opposition TDs the Minister confirmed that “the legislation will not prevent access to the registers as provided for under the Civil Registration Act. Legislation governing birth, death and marriage certificates held by the General Register Office is laid out in section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004.”

Given the Minister’s comments above it seems unlikely that any diminution in access to Ireland’s civil records is being considered in the context of the Freedom of Information Bill.

However, genealogists should keep in mind that the government has indicated that it intends soon to publish a Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill. While the Bill is set to deal with the issue of sham marriages, the validity of marriages in Embassy and Consulate facilities and other administrative issues relating to civil registration, family historians should be ready to react quickly if the Bill includes any suggestion that access might be denied to civil registration records.

4th October 2013
No Restriction in Access to General Register Office Records

Concerns within the genealogical community that the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 could restrict access to Ireland's civil registration records were raised during the second stage debate on the bill in the Dáil yesterday.

The full debate can be read online. References to genealogy were made by Deputy Catherine Murphy (the "John Grennan" whom she cites is presumably CIGO's patron John Grenham) and by Minister of State Brian Hayes in wrapping up the debate.

Minister Hayes stated that the points raised about genealogy will be debated in greater detail at the next Stage. The Minister with overall responsibility for the passage of the FOI Bill is Brendan Howlin TD and during the coming committee stage he will put on record that concerns about access to civil records of birth, death and marriage are unfounded.

Contrary to the concerns about restriction of access, after many years of lobbying by CIGO recent legislative changes will actually allow greater access to civil registration records online. The Civil Registration Act 2004 has been amended to allow the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht (currently Jimmy Deenihan TD) to make the indexes to Ireland's birth, death & marriage records - which date back to 1845 - available on its website www.irishgenealogy.ie. These indexes are more complete than those currently available online (1845-1958) at FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com or Findmypast.ie.

On another note, genealogists should keep a keen eye out for the coming Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2013, recently announced by the Irish government. Amongst other things the Bill will provide for the compulsory registration of fathers' names in birth registrations and stopping sham marriages. For genealogists, it is hoped that at long last provision will be made for next-of-kin to be involved in the registration of deaths by coroners. Currently, deaths where the coroner becomes involved must be registered by the coroner, but this generally means that vital biographical information about the deceased (such as date and place of birth and parents' names) is omitted. CIGO has long called for coroners to be allowed (as doctors are) to issue a 'cause of death certificate' to the next-of-kin thus allowing them to attend the registrar's office to make the registration and provide family data.

17th July 2013
General Register Office’s Dublin Research Room to Move To Rundown Former Dole Office

The General Register Office’s Research Facility is set to move from its convenient and well-appointed premises at the Irish Life Centre, Talbot Street, to a dilapidated former Dole Office on Werburgh Street.

The lease on the GRO’s current facility - where the public can trace their ancestors through access to birth, death and marriage records - will expire at the end of August. Located on Talbot Street, the current facility is close to Connolly Station, LUAS, DART and many bus stops. For genealogists, it’s also next to the Valuation Office, where information about ancestors’ land holdings can be traced back to the 1850s.

By comparison, the proposed new home for the facility is on a side street in a run down and dilapidated former dole office, protected by high security fencing topped with barbed wire. Given that this is the year of The Gathering, it’s about as unwelcoming as it could possibly be. All the outward signs suggest an area riddled by crime and antisocial behaviour.

When asked about the move Steven Smyrl, President of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) and executive liaison officer for the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) said that “it is an appalling proposal, one which cannot have been given any real consideration otherwise it would never have got this far.

“If the government wants to demonstrate its belief that genealogy has a role to play in our economic recovery and if new premises must be found soon, then the underused Dublin Tourism Centre in St Andrew’s Street would be one ideal location. The city is full of unused office space without the need to dump Ireland’s ‘Mecca’ for roots tourism in an unsavoury side street.

“I call on Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection and who has responsibility for the GRO, to immediately step in and provide family historians, from both home and abroad, with a new facility equal to if not better than the current one at the Irish Life Centre.”

The new home for the GRO's Research Facilty!

Thousands visit the facility each year and generally find the location of the current premises far better than their previous one in Joyce House, Lombard Street East. However, rather than having to fight for the facility to stay at its current location, family historians would like to hear that the GRO is listening to their needs and will finally allow public access its computerised database of birth, death and marriage records dating back to 1845. Currently, researchers must wade through individual annual hardcopy indexes and searches over many years can be very time consuming.

By contrast, the GRO in Belfast has full public access to its computerised records with enhanced index data and by the end of year will also allow access to historical records through the Internet. Its research room is based in a well-appointed facility in the centre of Belfast.

23rd May 2013
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 www.irishgenealogy.ie. 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!

15th April 2013
irishgenealogy.ie website rearranged

The irishgenealogy.ie website has recently been rearranged, to act as a portal to various online genealogical records for Ireland.

Some parts of the previous version of the site have been deleted, but can still be found via the Wayback Machine.

These include the still very useful List of current records and dates covered. This page is dated 5th April 2012, but the old home page says it was updated on 8th June 2012. Also still available is the Site Map for the previous version of the site.

24th January 2013
GRO Doubles Price of Certs but Local Registration Offices Stop Charging Search Fees

Civil registration certificates were yesterday doubled in price by the Republic's Civil Registration Service (CRS), from ten euro to 20 euro. Genealogists were stunned by this 100% increase. In the current fiscal crisis, the Republic's government is actively looking for any way it can to increase revenue and the production and supply of certificates was obviously seen as a soft target. The increase was sprung out of the blue, with absolutely no warning at all!

However, there is some good news. Through successful lobbying by CIGO, local registration offices have been informed by the CRS not to charge the public a two euro search fee in addition to the charge of four euro when supplying uncertified copies of register entries. The cost of these uncertified copies of register entries remains unchanged. CIGO had brought the overcharging issue to the attention of the Dublin local registration office and to the CRS on a number of occasions previously and is now thankful to see that this unwarranted charge has now been dispensed with. The waiving of this 'charge' has effectively reduced the price of uncertified (plain) copies by one third.

8th January 2013
January's edition of Irish Lives Remembered is out

See here for your copy.

6th January 2013
Latest news from the Anglican Record Project

Claire Santry at the website 'Irish Genealogy News' has reported that transcripts of the registers of four Co. Wexford Church of Ireland parishes have been recently added to the Anglican Record Project's website.They are Newtownbarry, Barragh, Clonegal and Kilrush, with the earliest records dating from 1792. You can read the full story here.

   

Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations
31a All Saints Road, Raheny, Dublin 5
Telephone: +353 (0)1 4063542
Fax: +353 (0)1 4928645
Email: info@cigo.ie