Saturday, 2 February 2013

Sanity returns to RootsIreland

It's not often that I get angry within the world of genealogy. Occasionally I get a tad exasperated, a bit frustrated, sometimes mildly bemused, and very often delighted. But rarely angry. Last year, however, I got seriously angry. The source of the anger, as has occasionally been the case in the past, was the Irish based RootsIreland website at On this occasion, the anger came from the sudden implementation of the most ludicrous payment system I had ever seen on an online records portal, and one that I assumed they had implemented for a laugh.

It used to be so easy - €5 per record, but discounts for records if more than one child was born to a couple. Dead easy - so much so, that even a muppet like me could get it. Then last March came Geneageddon. The site suddenly announced that to see records you now required to pay for credits. Records would cost 25 credits each to view, and to view a search result in the indexes one extra credit. So far, interesting - until they then announced the payment tiers. The cheapest number of credits you could buy was 35 credits at €5 - but this would only allow you to look at one record and one index search with 9 credits left over, not enough to look at another full record. The next tier was €10 for 73 credits.

It was absolutely insane, so much so that I happily pointed out the utter absurdity of it at - not only pointing out the mathematical absurdities of what they had implemented, but also outlining what they were not announcing, such as the inability to do parent searches at parish level any more, and so on.

The site was stung by many similar comments from many other commentators. A few weeks later, it announced a temporary trial of free search credits - only for you to do free searches on the site, but not to view images. I used my free searches up, and at that point, I decided to hell with it, life was too short, and since then I have not commented on the site at all, other than to be professional in telling people through articles etc that the site does exist, but citing its existence with an "unusual credit based system". Biting my lip each time I wrote that of course...

However, today I have gone back to have a look for the first times in many months, with the intention of possibly paying to see a record for a member of my family that cannot be found in the civil indexes online, but which does seem to be in its database. I was surprised to note that some common sense has now seemingly crept into the payment system. Forget purchases of 35, 73, 150, 320 or 750 credits, numbers that could not be divided easily by 26 - here's the new set up:

€5.00 - (25 credits plus 25 free pages of search results)
€10.00 - (50 credits plus 50 free pages of search results)
€25.00 - (175 credits plus 175 free pages of search results) - Bulk Saving
€45.00 - (350 credits plus 350 free pages of search results) - Bulk Saving
€50.00 - (450 credits plus 450 free pages of search results) - Bulk Saving

So €5 for one record; €10 for two; and discounts thereafter by bulk purchase the more you pay in advance. Searches no longer cost a credit, and all the credit package numbers easily divide by 25 - I no longer need a calculator or to contact someone at the Vulcan Embassy to work it out, I can now clearly see the discounts.

There is still some absurdity. If you buy 450 credits you can see eighteen fully transcribed results. Quite why you might need 450 free index searches on top is anyone's guess, but I guess they are free. But this is finally bordering at long last on a trajectory back towards common sense.

I had decided to no longer carry news on this blog about RootsIreland after last March's debacle, as I did not want to promote a site that I did not see as fit for purpose. However, this is an improvement that will make it easier for people to see what they are paying for. Whether the cost per transcript is too high is still a question for those wishing to use it, particularly with the advent of online Northern Irish civil records in the not too distant future, and copies of the original civil records at GRO Ireland at only €4 each - but at least RootsIreland now seems to work. I don't know how long this set up has been running, I haven't been able to find a news announcement anywhere about it, but this is probably something RootsIreland should shout louder about - and perhaps what they should have implemented in the first place.

UPDATE: Just to add, RootsIreland still has some issues. The record I wished to look up was for the birth of the sister of my two times great grandmother in January 1883. In trying the civil indexes on Ancestry, and Familysearch, no record for a registered birth in Raphoe, Donegal, could be found. RootsIreland did find her though, with a 'civil record' from Raphoe. The transcript for this 'civil record' however, notes both a baptism and birth date - but I'm not aware baptism dates were recorded on civil records. So this seems to be a consolidated database that the relevant IFHF centre in Donegal calls 'civil records', but which seems to contain information from more than one source. As with all of RootsIreland's transcribed records, no source information is given to show where the information has been extracted from in the record they supply. And just for good measure, I have now found a registration for what I think is probably her civil birth record - but in Strabane, just down the road from Raphoe, but not in Donegal (and where some of her siblings births' were registered). So it always pays to question what the records are that you are actually looking at.


Pre-order my new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, through Pen and Sword (30 April 2013), or purchase early at Who Do You Think You Are Live 2013 in London. For my other genealogy books, please visit; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.

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