Tuesday 2 February 2016

What to expect in 2016: A belated preview

In terms of numbers of blogposts, January 2016 was the busiest month on Irish Genealogy News since it started back in March 2010. To some extent this can be attributed to the 1916 Rising centenary and all the events, launches and goings-ons connected with the anniversary.

Keeping up with all the announcements meant that I didn't get round to writing a preview for 2016, so here it is, a little late but carrying enough good news for you to forgive my tardiness. I'll start with the most important news.

Record collections

Griffiths Valuation Field, House and Quarto Books: Those with a long memory will know that I've flagged up this release as 'imminent' a couple of times in the last two years but the books have still not found their way online. Well, I'm told again by the National Archives of Ireland that its collection of these books has been digitised and is ready to take up residence on genealogy.nationalarchives.ie. It should be expected 'shortly'. Spring has been mentioned but whether that'll be 'daffodil spring' or 'tulip spring', remains to be seen. They will join FindMyPast Ireland, where they'll be free to access, at the same time.

More material from the Revolutionary period: For the year that's in it, both Ancestry and FindMyPast have said they'll be adding big collections of records related to the 1916 Easter Rising and its aftermath. These will be army/police records that cover the entire Ireland and are not limited to people who were members of rebel organisations. I imagine most of these records will originate from The National Archives in Kew, London, but I haven't been able to get clarification of which collections are involved.

Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers (CSORP): The project to conserve, catalogue and upload the CSORP collection has been beset with delays since it launched in 2008. Most of the delays have been due to staff cuts at the National Archives of Ireland. The listing and images for documents dating from 1818 to 1822 have been online at csorp.nationalarchives.ie for a few years and will soon be joined by records from 1822 to 1829. This may be a staggered upload, with the catalogue listings appearing before the images.

Church records: You remember the release of the National Library of Ireland's Roman Catholic registers in July last year? (Of course you do.) Shortly after, I blogged about a rumour that FindMyPast and Ancestry were working together to index the registers. You'll have noticed that nothing has resulted! So was it just an unfounded rumour? Since I can't get an official denial or confirmation, we'll have to wait and see. But what I can tell you is that in WDYTYA?'s current magazine, FindMyPast said they planned to release Irish parish records this year, as well as Quaker births, marriages and deaths. Of course, 'parish records' doesn't necessarily mean baptism, marriage or burial records; they could be vestry records or confirmation records, or accounts.... And they may not be Roman Catholic.

Historical mapping system: The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) will be launching a GIS Historic Maps application. This will allow the user to zoom into modern maps, or search modern maps using townland names, and then use a slider to overlay the modern view with historical maps of the area. I'm told this system is receiving its last tweeks. It will go live, along with most of the existing PRONI website content, on the new NIDirect platform some time over the next two months. (The consolidation and redevelopment of the NIDirect site is taking a little longer than planned.)

Civil registration of births: Sit down for this one! I am told by a reliable but unofficial source that all the historical birth certificates (ie minumum 100-years-old) are going to join IrishGenealogy.ie in the not-too-distant future. Yes: full-on images of birth certificates. They're going to be available free of charge. That's a surprise, eh? Timing wise, I haven't the faintest, but the certificates have been prepared and scanned. It appears there's only the upload to deal with before this unexpected bonanza arrives. Will the same happen with the marriage and death certificates? I haven't been told this is the case, but it would be odd to upload the births in isolation, so I'm expecting the full trio, subject to the 75-year and 50-year cut-offs. It may be that they'll all appear at the same time, which could make not-too-distant not-too-imminent.

Upgrades to Dublin repositories

More generally, 2016 will bring the start of major building works at the National Archives of Ireland (from September) to create modern and much needed additional storage space at Bishop Street, and the completion at the end of April of a new Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks, complete with a bright and spacious new Reading Room (bear in mind that the existing Reading Room will close at the beginning of March). Towards the end of the year, or even trickling into 2017, refurbishment work will also begin at the National Library of Ireland's Kildare Street building which dates from the 1890s; among the priorities will be the upgrading of storage areas and improvements, especially to modern health and safety standards, to visitor facilities.

With works of this type going on, it's probably a good idea over the next year or two to check with the repository for possible unscheduled last-minute closures before you set out or organise a research trip.

Major genealogy events

Just in case you thought 2016 was all about the 1916 centenary, let me tell you that the Irish Genealogical Research Society will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. No weapons will be discharged, but maybe a few bottles of fizz will get popped by the Society at Ireland's first major genealogy event of the year: the Finding Your Ancestors conference in Cork, which will be jointly hosted by the IGRS and Cork Genealogy Society. Taking place on Saturday 19 March, the day promises three lectures, a workshop, a book launch, the IGRS Ireland Branch AGM, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and lunch!

The first major genealogy event of the year in Northern Ireland will be a Local & Family History day in Belfast on Saturday 4 June. It'll be hosted jointly by the Ulster Historical Foundation and PRONI. Details will be available in due course. Until then, you might like to get the date in your diary.

As last year, the Ulster Historical Foundation will be hosting two Tracing your Irish Ancestors conferences in 2016. The first is in mid-June, the second in September, and both offer assisted genealogical research and tours of historical and heritage sites in Belfast, Dublin, Derry and Donegal.

University College Cork's Ancestral Connections summer school has a 1916 theme this year: Roots to the Rising. This week-long event (26 June–2 July) offers a complete course in the latest Irish genealogy research methods and resources, and will include a number of presentations about the turbulent early-C20th decades our ancestors lived through, as well as day and evening field trips.

The Genealogy Event will be back for a third consecutive year in County Limerick, this time on the first weekend of September, a little later than in previous years, and includes two full days of genealogy and DNA lectures and workshops, one-to-one consultations, plus a range of optional social events, excursions and historical tours. See the full programme.

Clare Roots Society will be presenting an international family history conference, Diaspora of the Wild Atlantic Way, in Ennis, Co Clare, on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 September. The main theme of the conference is the movement and migration of people from the west coast counties of Ireland to Scotland, Britain and beyond, and the event plans to bring together experts and family historians from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise. The line-up of speakers already confirmed is impressive.

With summer over and the days getting shorter, Back To Our Past will return to the RDS in Dublin from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 October. It'll be held in the Serpentine Hall, as last year, so I can only hope that the sound quality in the genealogy lecture area is much improved. Details.

This blog

It was rather ironic that January was the busiest ever month for Irish Genealogy News because it followed a year when the number of blogposts published here dropped for the first time. I wrote 122 fewer posts in 2015 than in 2014, and 55 posts fewer than in 2013. There were two reasons.

Firstly, the rate of record collection releases – the staple of the blog – has quite noticeably dropped. In fact, the last three months of 2015 were pretty slow in that respect, and may have set a pace we'll have to learn to get used to, going forward.

But a second, and probably more significant reason for the blogpost drop, was a decision I took last spring to take a tighter editorial line to ensure the blog continues to focus on resources, new record releases and updates, and other developments that directly affect researchers. I now spike 'requests for a mention' from organisations that would never think to reciprocate with goodwill towards my blog, or who produce press releases that are really just adverts dressed up as news stories. I don't chase news of lectures and conference-type events any more, either. It was so time consuming. Now, I rely on details to be sent to me, or I come across event notices serendipitously, and I add them to the list. The lists aren't getting shorter as a result, but they're easier for me to collate!

Judging by the blog's visitor numbers last year, sharpening up my focus on the real stories has done no harm at all. It's made the blog more manageable for me, in terms of time spent, too. So I'll be continuing to spike the peripheral stuff and the marketing puff in the year ahead.

I also have a number of big projects, some genealogy, some not, to work through this year, so you might notice some 'quiet' spells. I'll still make sure to report in a timely fashion on the most important stuff, however.

All in all, it looks like we have another busy year of learning and discovery ahead.