Thursday 10 July 2014

Irish birth, marriage and death registers: the future

Those that read to the end of my Making Sense of the GRO Indexes blogpost last week will already know that early plans were announced at the launch reception for the indexes to be joined online by the 'historical' GRO's birth, marriage and death registers.

The announcement has, inevitably, prompted loads of speculation on social media and in forums about how and when these records will become available to genealogists. Rather worryingly, received wisdom already seems to be that the registers are going to join the line up and will, therefore, be free. Apparently, this is likely to happen within the year, too.

Now, while I'm not party to the proposed contents of the Amendment Bill or to the work schedules of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which runs, I think there's a need to put the brakes on some of this thinking.

Here's what we know so far:
  1. The Civil Registration Act Amendment Bill 2014 will define historical as including all birth entries up to 100 years ago, all marriages up to 75 years ago, and all deaths up to 50 years ago.
  2. The Civil Registration Act Amendment Bill 2014 will allow for these historical records to be made available online direct to the public.
  3. Er... that's it.
Which website will host these records? We don't know. Will these records be free? We don't know. How long before they're online? We don't know, but I'd bet all my worldly possessions it won't be within a year!*

My own view (and, yes, I 'm aware of the irony) is that the records won't be free. They never have been and I really can't imagine any state-run facility in broke Ireland voluntarily throwing away a chunk of income.

More important is the issue of considerate behaviour to our neighbours. Let's remember that GRO Ireland's bmd collection incorporates registrations in counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. I really can't see GRO Ireland introducing a service that undercuts its counterpart in Northern Ireland, where GRONI's online family history site has proved hugely popular since it launched at the end of March despite its small charge to view copies of bmd certificates.

Time will tell, of course, but I'm sure the GRO will opt for an identical or very similar arrangement to that created in Belfast. Even Dublin's definitiion of 'historical records' perfectly mirrors that adopted in the North.

As to the host website... the site currently has no mechanism for taking payment. Doesn't mean a merchant cart couldn't be added, but it seems more probable that the GRO would opt to extend its existing online certificates facility at

My speculation can join the pile.

* Consider: With its vision already well developed, GRONI published an invitation to tender for their digitisation project in June 2012; the site went live a little short of two years later.