Wednesday 3 July 2019

Ireland's Registry of Deeds: a step closer to digitisation

Henrietta Street approach to the Registry of Deeds,
where the Digitisation Strategy Steering Group
held its first meeting last week.
Maybe I haven't had my nose close enough to the grindstone of late, but this ENORMOUS news landed in front of me last night without a whisper of prior warning: the Property Registration Authority (PRA) hosted the first meeting of the Registry of Deeds Digitisation Strategy Steering Group (RDDSS) last week.

Yep. Online accessibility to this huge and unique collection of more than five million memorial records – property transactions, marriage settlements, wills and the like – dating from 1708 may now be rather less of a genealogists' pipe dream than we thought. Those of us grown old on 'it won't happen in my lifetime' negativity had better revisit their future plans, as the PRA has set out a vision to make the Registry of Deeds' records 'available and discoverable online for research and the enjoyment of all'.

The RDDSS Group brought together a good number of PRA staff, representatives of government departments, archival and educational institutions, professional bodies and key user groups from across the island. Among them was John Grenham MAGI, who knows a thing or two about genealogists' needs and database realities!

Realism is, of course, going to be required in equal measure to patience by family historians, because is won't be a quick and easy digitisation project, up and running in a matter of months. There are preservation issues, there are several different categories of records, there are physical challenges with the 17,000 large and cumbersome bound volumes, and inevitably, the ugly necessity of identifying funding and collaborative partners. The RDDSS Group is exploring strategy, and the project has a long way to go before it moves on from the talking phase, but the digitisation of this important archive of material does seem to have come one giant step closer.

For more info and pix of the RDDSS Group members, see the PRA news story.

* In the meantime, Irish genealogists shouldn't forget the Registry of Deeds Index Project, a volunteer-led project now holding more than 317,000 entries in its free online database. It's updated on a monthly basis. You might be lucky and find a memorial of Deeds relating to your ancestor long before the digitised deeds collection makes its way to our screens.