Tuesday, 20 July 2010

RootsIreland - welcome online developments

Long term readers of this blog and various articles I have written over the last few years will know that I have often been critical about the online pay-per-view records website of the Irish Family History Foundation.

I had two major problems with the site. The first was that each record costs 5 Euros. For the transcriptions on offer, I don't think that compares favourably with the chance to obtain actual photocopies from civil registers for 6 Euros from the GRO in Ireland. However, not all records are civil records, and so much is unique on the databases represented.

The biggest problem I had, however, was much more serious - the fact that it was virtually impossible to find the correct entry prior to making a purchase, because the search fields were so restrictive. If your ancestor was John Smith, son of John Smith, you may well have paid a small fortune trying to find the right entry. In recent times, some effort was made to address this, by introducing some extra fields such as father's first name, but with my own research, I left much of it until the free censuses came online, as that was the only other way I could narrow down the likely options before parting with my hard earned cash. Even so, I have still wasted money, and like many others, have found that that has not endeared me to the site.

It has taken some time, and it's not quite there yet, but the IFHF has now made a very significant announcement concerning its databases. Here goes:

New Website Design
The Irish Family History Foundation’s county genealogy centres provide Ireland’s largest genealogical research service, both online and via commissioned research services. We would like to welcome all our users, new and old, to our newly designed website. We hope that this updated site will be more user friendly and allow you to advance your family history searches. Among the new features is an improved help section, a pilot advanced search facility and a news section. We will also be highlighting new publications and events relating to genealogy, local history, tourism and culture.

If you have not visited the site in a while please log in and take a look. You will find new data and a new search facility. We will be adding many new records to the site in the autumn. Please stay in touch.

Advanced Search
The Advanced Search adds a number of fields to the search criteria for Birth/Baptism and Marriage records and changes the way you pay to view the full details of these records.

The new search facility is available on a pilot basis for searching the data of the following counties only: Cavan, Fermanagh, Galway West, Kildare, Kilkenny, Tipperary North, Tyrone, and Westmeath.

With Baptism/Birth searches, in addition to all the search fields in the Standard Search, you can now also search by Mother's First Name and Mother's Surname, by combining this with the Father's First Name and Surname it allows you to easily find all siblings within the same family.

With Marriage searches, in addition to all the search fields in the Standard search, you can now search by Spouse's First Name, Spouse's Surname, Father's First Name (please note that the names of parents may not been recorded in the original record).

When using the Advanced Search option you cannot purchase individual records unless only one match is located. You will be able to purchase the entire record set located at a reduced cost. By entering as much detail into the search form as possible you can narrow your search to produce as few as matches as possible. You can then decide to purchase all these records at a reduced cost.

Rome was not built in a day - and this is a pilot - but this is a VERY welcome step forward, and all credit to those responsible for responding to the long standing criticisms. I hope all the IFHF databases will be updated in due course, and make it the user friendly site that it has long needed to be, and to be frank, has long deserved to be. I fully recognise the sheer graft it has taken to create the databases, it was only the accessibility to the information online which seriously let it down. The cost is still high in my opnion, but at least if I choose to spend 5 Euros now, I'm in with a shot of being able to decide in advance whether it is worth the purchase, and that is all I ask from any site offering records for sale.

One final point - the site to access for the pilot is www.rootsireland.ie - not www.irish-roots.ie. The latter has not been updated, but is still live - I hope the IFHF can now wind down this original site and concentrate on the new site, otherwise it may confuse many who have the original site bookmarked.

A seriously HUGE thank you to the IFHF for doing what has long needed to be done.

(With thanks to Bob Forrest)

UPDATE 20 JUL: Advanced search for Derry is now available also.


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ausgen25 said...

This is a very welcome announcement!! Looking forward to trying out these advanced search options for my Kildare searches.

Chris Paton said...

It really works, but the biggest surprise was the discounts I received. On two separate occasions I performed a baptismal search for children to two sets of parents, only typing in their names. Each search returned 5 results, but in each case I was charged for 20 Euros, not 25 Euros, making the costs of each record just 4 Euros, and not 5.

Which is beginning to go some way towards my other long standing gripe with the site in the past!