Friday 13 December 2013

Joint Committee hears Irish Genealogy presentations

This week, the Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht has been meeting to discuss the topic: Developing a Plan to Capture the Full Value of our Genealogical Heritage.

Before the meetings got underway on Tuesday, Michael McCarthy, Cathaoirleach of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, issued a press release outlining the full purpose:

"Genealogy has, in recent years, become a fascination for Irish people, as indeed for people worldwide. People want to know more about their forebears and their origins; where they come from and what was happening back then. While many people engage in genealogical research as a personal hobby there is a very important role for the professional genealogist in conducting research for others and in providing information in both hard copy form and also online.

As well as having a very important social dimension in allowing people at home and abroad to trace their roots and establish their family history, genealogy research could provide an economic opportunity. Given Ireland’s world-wide diaspora, genealogy can make an important contribution to enhancing our tourism sector and, as an industry with major potential growth, can contribute to creating employment in Ireland both in genealogical research and in encouraging people to visit Ireland.

By providing co-ordinated genealogical services to people seeking information on their families, relatives and the localities they came from, employment opportunities could be created in many local communities for librarians, archivists and local history tourism initiatives, as well as boosting jobs in the hotel, retail and leisure sectors around the country from increased tourism numbers."

The Committee heard presentations from all the leading players in the Irish genealogy field, including the National Archives of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, the Irish Family History Federation, the Genealogical Society of Ireland, John Grenham, Ancestry, DC Thompson/FindMyPast/Eneclann, the Railway Records Society, the Guinness Archive, and the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations representing all of its members.

Each of the invited organisations was able to make a detailed presentation to the Committee during the two sessions, which concluded yesterday afternoon.

Among the subjects discussed was the need for more records to be made available (a matter requiring more financial and staff resources to be allocated to the main repositories), the imperative of releasing the Roman Catholic parish records held by the National Library, the suitability (or not!) of the General Register Office's Research Room in Werburgh Street (which came in for a lot of criticism) and the need to overcome the Central Statistics Office's objections to the early release of the 1926 census.

The latter subject was raised so many times that the committee is considering calling the Central Statistics Office before it to explain itself!

All the presentations and proceedings of these hearings were videoed and can be viewed online. (The location was Committee Room 4 and the presentations were held in the afternoon).