Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Free access to all FindMypast collections, 6–9 March
Findmypast has announced that all its historical records collections will be available free this coming weekend, from Noon GMT (7am EST) on Friday 6 March to Noon GMT (7am EST) on Monday 9 March.

The records opened up will include:
  • Over 900 million census records from across the UK, USA and Ireland
  • Passenger lists for ships sailing to and from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA
  • Birth, marriage and death records dating back to the 18th century, and the largest online collection of UK parish records
  • The most comprehensive collection of British military records anywhere online
  • The largest collection of Irish family history records available online
  • Historical newspapers from across the world, including more than 10 million British and Irish newspaper pages dating back to the 18th century.
If you already have a 'local' subscription ie Ireland, Britain, Australia/NZ or USA package, you'll be granted World Access for the weekend. If you're already a World Access member, you'll have an extra three days automatically added to your subscription.

A Getting Started video will be available and, to mark International Women's Day, a Finding Women in the Records webinar will also be on offer at 3pm (GMT) on Sunday, free. As, historically, women’s names changed or were not recorded, finding female ancestors can be tricky. This webinar will help users trace maternal lines and get further with their family tree.

You can find out more at Findmypast’s dedicated Free Weekend page, and it looks as though you can register (free) in advance.

I'll remind you again on Friday!

Family Tree (Y)DNA test results seriously backlogged

Along with many, many others, I swabbed my mouth beneath the FamilyTreeDNA banner at the Back To Our Past (BTOP) fair in Dublin in mid-October. I took the FamilyFinder test and received my results within about six weeks, as scheduled.

I know someone else whose FamilyFinder results didn't arrive so quickly and who had to metaphorically stamp her feet before they finally turned up around Christmas time, about four weeks after the advertised turn-around.

Lucky were we that couldn't take the Y-dna test! Richard Tulloch, a regular reader of Irish Genealogy News, also tested at the fair and was still awaiting his results when he contacted me last week. After waiting for more than three months, he had complained to FamilyTreeDNA by email in late January and received the following response:

"In the last few months a supplier of an important component of our Y-DNA tests ceased production of that component, somewhat unexpectedly. In order to complete our Y-DNA tests we had to upgrade to the next generation of sequencers to most efficiently process the test. In effect this caused an unexpected R and D project within the lab.

“Our lab has been very meticulous in the development of this new procedure because the reliability of your results is paramount, however Research & Development takes time. The Lab has completed and successfully tested each step of the process to reach the level of confidence necessary to begin reporting results, however we do have a respectable backlog that will take several weeks of overtime to clear up. We will be much faster in the future with this test.

For the next six weeks, Richard has regularly checked the company's online customer service system to find the 'expected delivery date' has been pushed forward by two weeks, and another two weeks, and another two weeks. Not once has the company 'reached out' (to use a ghastly phrase much loved by marketeers and the like) to their customer. Put another way, the company has shown him no courtesy.

To add to the growing ill-feeling, FamilyTreeDNA ran big discounted promotions in December, undoubtedly resulting in more submitted tests that simply added to the backlog. Richard should have been exploring his results by then, based on the company's own 'average' processing times (see screengrab below).

Understandably, he wasn't happy to see these promotions when his own results were overdue. A delay is one thing but while it's irritating, most people understand that 'things' can happen. Poor customer service, however, is inexcusable. Customers should not have to poke and prod to find out what is going on. And if a supplier cannot provide a customer with the service s/he has paid for, the supplier should at least present the option of a full refund.

Having taken a look at FamilyTreeDNA's own Grumbles and Gripes forum, a place where their customers can let off steam, I'm sorry to say that Richard's experience is not unique. Far from it. Likely to be the tip of the iceberg, there are many complaining customers venting their frustration on that forum not only about the delay but also the company's diabolical standard of 'customer service'. Dissatisfaction is spreading beyond the forum, too.

On Tuesday 24 February I sent a Press Enquiry, by email, asking for comment about the delays. Eight days later, I've heard nothing. In view of what I'd read on the forum, this didn't surprise me.

As I was preparing to write this blogpost yesterday, Richard emailed me to advise that his results had finally arrived. After more than 19 weeks (19 October to 3 March), an apology from the company would have been a nice touch, would have cost nothing and must surely be easy enough to generate as part of an automated system.

He didn't get one.


(Just for transparency... I recently returned a complementary dna test from AncestryDNA (see blogpost), results expected in 3-5 weeks time. About three years ago, I took up a complementary y-dna test offer from FamilyTreeDNA and at BTOP last year I paid the going rate to FamilyTreeDNA for a FamilyFinder test; both tests were processed without delays.)

Ireland’s first Diaspora Policy launched's first official diaspora policy was published yesterday in a 57-page document called Global Irish: Ireland's Diaspora Policy. It recognises the unique and important relationship between Ireland and its diaspora and sets out actions to nurture and develop this relationship, and to engage the diaspora.

As well as the downloadable booklet, a new online presence has been created as a sub-site of the Department of Foreign Affairs website; it holds information for the diaspora on support services, living abroad, staying in touch, and returning home to Ireland. It's at

A number of new initiatives are contained in the policy. They include a new Global Irish Media Fund to encourage and support media coverage of the diaspora and emigration experience, and an alumni challenge fund to provide seed-funding to new collaborative initiatives by Irish institutions to target their Irish and non-Irish graduates working internationally.

The Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan TD is going to establish an Interdepartmental Committee to oversee the implementation of the Policy, which will be reviewed after two years.

In the meantime, a Global Irish Forum will be held in June and a fourth Global Irish Economic Forum will be held in Dublin in November 2015.

As you'd expect, the document isn't exactly a laugh-a-minute, but it's worth a browse. I was interested to study some of the graphs on recent emigration from Ireland, for example, and quite surprised by some of the figures they revealed. I also saw that the operation of the Certificate of Irish Heritage scheme is to be reviewed.

Irish Famine Summer School & Conference: June 2015

Download the draft programme (pdf, 325kb)
Click to download programme (pdf, 325kb)
Having hosted last year's National Famine Commemoration Week, Strokestown Park House in County Roscommon is now preparing for the inaugural Irish Famine Summer School, which will run from 17 to 21 June 2015.

As 2015 marks the 170th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine, the Summer School will include an international, interdisciplinary conference to examine the Famine experience at a local and regional level.

Bringing together a network of Famine experts, local, national and international, the conference will approach the theme from the broadest possible historical perspective.

The Summer School and Conference is supported by Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University and St Michael’s College, University of Toronto.

The draft programme for both events is now available. Click the logo to download pdf.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dublin's Genealogy Services ready for Summer season

It's two weeks to St Patrick's Day, which means the capital will be gearing up for an influx of visitors. Among them will be a goodly number of family historians, most of them beginners keen to know something of their ancestors and to learn about relevant resources.

With the National Library of Ireland's Roman Catholic parish registers collection due to be made accessible online this summer, good genealogy advice and guidance are expected to be more in demand than ever, so this seems an opportune time to issue a reminder of the free Genealogy Advisory Services available in Dublin.

National Archives of Ireland

The Genealogy Service operates year-round and is accessed via the Reading Room. No appointments are necessary; consultations are offered on a first-come, first-served basis only. All visitors will need to have a Reader's Ticket. This can be obtained on the day of first visit (allow extra time) but you will need to bring certain documentation with you before the Reader's Ticket can be issued; the rules are strictly enforced.

Bishop Street, Dublin 8.

Hours of operation:
Year-round, excluding public holidays and a few media preview days in early December.
Monday to Friday, 10am–1:30pm.

National Library of Ireland

The Genealogy Service operates year-round and is available in a dedicated room on the mezzanine floor of the Library. No appointments are necessary; consultations are offered on a first-come, first-served basis only, and there is no need to have a Reader's Ticket. Microfilms of the parish registers can be studied in an adjacent room.

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Hours of operation:
Year-round, excluding public holidays.
Standard hours: Monday to Friday: 9.30am–4.45pm.
From 18 March to 31 October only: Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5pm; Saturday 9.15am–12.45pm. More.

Dublin City & Irish Folklore: April Lunchtime Lectures

Dublin City and Irish Folklore is the theme of next month's lunchtime lectures at City Hall, Dublin. Each lecture is free and is presented in the Council Chamber. There's no need to book. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Speakers and topics are:

Tuesday 7 April: Remembering 1916: The Urban Folklore Project, with Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh

Tuesday 14 April: 'One Day for recreation': Eilís Brady and Frank Harte as chroniclers of Dublin, with Bairbre Ní Fhloinn

Tuesday 21 April: Bytes of Dublin – digitising Dublin content in the National Folklore Collection UCD: samples of audio, visual and manuscript material, with Anna Bale

Tuesday 28 April: Grand dwellings and intimate settings: Stories of urban living, with Kelly Fitzgerald.

Monday, 2 March 2015

TCD to re-run successful Irish History MOOC

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) will be repeating its very successful free online course, Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Irelands History 1912-1923, from 16 March.

Run in partnership with FutureLearn, a company wholly-owned by The Open University, this course was TCD's first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) when it launched last year; some 15,000 would-be students signed up to take part.

The course looks beyond the familiar names and the famous faces and instead explores how the events that shaped the nature of modern Ireland - the Great War, the Easter Rising, the Irish war of independence and civil war - were experienced by the people who lived through them or in spite of them.

Professor Ciaran Brady, Dr Anne Dolan and Dr Ciarán Wallace from the department of History will lead the course. It is delivered through videos, assignments and discussions and is available to anyone with Internet access across multiple devices including desktops, tables and smartphones.

It's free, runs over six weeks and requires a weekly commitment of five hours study.

Learners need no prior knowledge of the subject, just a basic interest in Irish and modern European history as well as a curiosity about how conflict shapes civil society.

There's a 3-minute trailer and more details here.