1st December 2013
Minister Confirms No Restriction in Access to General Register Office
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 One of the main amendments from the Minister relating to fees involved in making FOI requests had to be withdrawn in the face of very vocal criticism.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
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.
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
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
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
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.”
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
“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
“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
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
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.