Thursday 13 November 2014

Family history still No 1 reason for visiting PRONI

PRONI, Titanic Boulevard, Belfast
Family history research is by far the most popular reason for visiting the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

The annual Digest of Statistics for the institution shows that 89% of all first-time visitors to the Titanic Boulevard offices in 2013/14 were seeking genealogical information (the year before it was 77%).

It's a huge proportion, up 21 percentage points since 2009/10, and the highest ever recorded by PRONI. See the pie-chart below for details of the other principal reasons for visits.

From April 2013 to March 2014, some 20,000 visitors walked through the doors into PRONI's modern and bright atrium. Just over a quarter were first-timers. Of these first-time visitors, a small majority (52%) were residents of Northern Ireland while the number of new researchers from the USA more than doubled from 7% in 2012/13 to 15%. New visitors from the rest of the UK were down a little to 12%, while visitors from Australia and New Zealand made up a healthy 7% and researchers from Ireland and Canada made up 6% each.

Three-quarters of all visitors used the Search Room/Reading Room, while the remainder was split equally between those attending an event or as part of a group.

The document production team did well with an average retrieval time of under 15 minutes. Some 96% of all documents were produced within 30 minutes (the target figures is 94%).

PRONI's excellent website, which holds several Northern Irish family history collections, was also incredibly busy. More than 623,000 visits were recorded, along with more than 13millon page views. The Will Calendars collection just pipped the Valuation Revision Books to the top position in the popularity stakes, with 3.7million and 3.6million page downloads respectively. The E-catalogue came in third place, followed by Name Search, Ulster Covenant, Freeholders and Street Directories.

New high-tech equipment allowed more digitisation (17,900 frames) to be carried out by PRONI's preservation team during 2013/14. Of these, more than 10,000 frames from church records were generated and just under 5,400 frames from Griffith's Valuation Revision Books. The remainder were mostly from photographic collections.

In addition, some 32,764 items (almost double in the previous year) were created in the PRONI catalogue and 23,573 items (up from 15,039 the previous year) made accessible to the public via the electronic catalogue (e-CATNI), which is available both at the PRONI building and via the website.

I'd say PRONI's staff (75 full-time equivalent) have good reason to be pleased with their performance.

You can see more by downloading the Digest of Statistics here.

Reasons for visits (first-timers only) to PRONI 2013/14