Directory of Irish Genealogy
Blast from the past: 'Unfortunately, the National Library possesses no staff member whose primary function it is to oversee the provision of genealogical services, and the Office of the Chief Herald is preoccupied primarily with the sale of coats of arms, an inappropriate activity for a library department in the present writer's opinion.' (Introduction to Directory of Irish Genealogy, 2002)
The Directory of Irish Genealogy was published in conventional printed form between 1990 and 1994 and has been on the Internet since 1998, this being the 2012 Edition. The Directory is designed to assist not only genealogists in Ireland but also the 'Diaspora', those of Irish descent living abroad, and indeed all who have an interest in Irish genealogy. Here can be found the customary mix of useful information, guidance and links, accompanied by statements of opinion on areas of concern in the realm of Irish genealogy. Contact details of most of the repositories and organisations mentioned are either linked below or may be found in our Links section. As usual it should be noted that all opinions expressed are of course those of the author alone, and where factual errors can be demonstrated they will be corrected. Any endorsements on this site are based on the writer's opinions and are not paid advertising.
A review of the events of 2011 cannot fail to mention the continuing and indeed worsening economic crisis which followed the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. The Republic of Ireland has lost its economic sovereignty and must follow a programme of debt repyament and public expenditure cutbacks dictated by a Troika composed of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank. There is a growing opinion that the repayment schedule is beyond Irish means and furthermore it refers to debts not the responsibility of the Irish people, particularly the billions owed by the corrupt Anglo-Irish Bank. If the Irish economy is to recover, sooner or later there must be some sort of debt write-offs or structured default.
The effects of the crisis on Irish health, education and welfare services have been severe and are likely to get worse. The impact has been felt as well in the case of our particular pursuit, but before outlining the problems arising, we should remember that no-one will suffer serious want or die as a result of cutbacks in genealogical services.
The National Library of Ireland has had to reduce its opening hours and has ended on-demand ordering of material, which will only be issued at specified times. Showing that little has been learned from previous debacles such as the €1.17 million Finnegans Wake manuscripts 'sting', the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed this year that over €100,000 was wasted on the publication of a book on the Library's holdings in 2009, which had to be withdrawn due to serious errors. For reasons which the writer cannot fathom, individuals who are not qualified librarians continue to be appointed to the directorship of the National Library. Despite being thoroughly discredited through its staff's entanglement with the Mac Carthy Mór and allied scandals, the Library's Genealogical Office/Office of the Chief Herald is back in the inappropriate business of selling arms, detached and pretentious as ever and thoroughly deserving of being wound up. While the writer suffers from retaliatory blacking from work associated with the National Library, no disciplinary action appears to have been taken against the senior staff members who signed official documents validating bogus and questionable pedigrees, arms and titles, and most of the corrupt Library records identified in the writer's 2004 book Twilight of the Chiefs remain unamended.
The National Archives of Ireland has also had to limit services but still allows on-demand albeit more restricted ordering of material, and it has a much broader range of records available in its self-service microfilm room than the National Library. While outstanding published Director's reports have now been brought up to 2009, the National Archives was being run by an acting Director as the year 2011 drew to a close. There is no sign that steps are being taken to correct the substantial errors and omissions in the Archives's massively expensive €4 million-plus online 1901 and 1911 Censuses project. Some sort of difficulty appears to have arisen in relation to a (belated) attempt to put the provision of of the Archives's genealogical consultancy service out to tender, which service is now only available during mornings, with the room and its resources locked in the afternoons. Government is proceeding with its cost-saving plan to amalgamate the National Library and National Archives, and while many historians and genealogists oppose this, the writer has reluctantly come to accept its necessity, and hopes that any new merged body will be run in a more efficient way, hopefully with a proper department dealing with genealogy, allied perhaps with heraldry and local studies (suggested title 'Family and Place'). For years the writer has been calling for commercial and voluntary groups to be permitted to take the lead in digitising of Irish records, and in 2011 a new commercial service, Findmypast.ie, has placed online prison registers, directories and other material.
The General Register Office remains in an aloof world of its own when dealing with genealogists, still requiring them to pay fees to search manually birth, marriage and death indexes and limiting copy registration orders to five per day. There is still no explanation as to why the GRO's stalled multi-million Euro programme to digitise historic registrations has not been properly completed and there is a clear case for this task to be licenced to a commercial firm and/or FamilySearch. It should be remembered that FamilySearch now provides online access free of charge to Irish vital records indexes from 1845/64 (for some reason Ireland is now included under 'British Isles' on this site). Genealogists should ensure they have referred to the FamilySearch resource before wasting time and money in the GRO search room, which contains no computer facilities. The following charming notice, which speaks volumes about what is wrong with Ireland, has been greeting callers to the GRO in the Irish Life Centre, Dublin:
Mention should be made of the fact that new Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan made himself available to genealogists at a meeting in the National Library on 7 September 2011, listening to their concerns and suggestions for dealing with problems. Having been excluded from such meetings since his exposure of the Mac Carthy Mór hoax in June 1999, the writer was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to the gathering, duly attending and giving an illustrated and one hopes constructive presentation. For the historical record, it can be noted that the genealogists present at this important meeting came across as a still very divided lot, some denouncing Mormon and commercial involvement in computerising Irish records and stating this should be the task of local and county centres, others insisting that resources could and should be found to make records freely available online, and a new hard-headed group of entrepeneurs letting it be known that they are making considerable progress placing records online on a pay-to-view basis but at no cost to the state. The writer has made no secret of his view that the latter group, with the Mormons and any other competent voluntary workers, should undertake most digitisation work, as there must be an end to the cycle of inefficiency and waste of public resources which has marked Irish genealogy's relationship with information technology over the past few decades. The record repositories should be rationalised and their reduced staffs oriented towards the task of managing the records and maintaining the highest possible level of service to the public, which work would include smaller scale digitisation projects particularly focussed on improving online catalogues and research guides.
The writer's Adult Education classes in genealogy in University College Dublin continue to do very well, as do other genealogy courses, reflecting the perhaps paradoxical fact that for the present at least the 'roots boom' does not appear to be greatly affected by the economic recession. My classes now constitute a three-year, six-module Certificate course mapped at Level 7 of the National Framework of Qualifications. A new Introduction to Genealogy course, not involving assignments or credits, was started in the Autumn of 2011. For those who cannot attend my classes I continue to offer online the free Primer in Irish Genealogy.
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
Last amended 22 March 2012