IGRS Chairman Steven Smyrl has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious Society of Genealogists (SoG) in recognition of his long years of distinguished service to the field of Irish genealogy.
Steven’s most significant contribution to the wider genealogical community, and to society at large, relates to civil registration. He was the driving force behind a successful campaign which achieved fundamental change on both sides of the Irish border.
He argued that to bring integrity to Ireland’s civil registration system there was an overriding need to improve the calibre of death registrations through broadening the data recorded. While there had been some helpful changes in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s, the system had remained completely unchanged in the Republic since registration first began in 1864.
Steven’s tireless advocacy ensured that since 2005 the Republic’s death registrations began recording, for the first time, each deceased person’s date and place of birth and their parents’ names. He followed this by securing the Northern Ireland Assembly’s backing in 2009 to begin recording parents’ names in all Northern Ireland death registrations. Subsequently, his achievement was described in The Irish Times as “spectacular”.
As well as being a highly respected professional genealogist, specialising in legal and probate research, Steven is an authority on sources for Irish Dissenting Protestants. His most significant published work is the Dictionary of Dublin Dissent – Dublin’s Protestant Dissenting Meetinghouses: 1660-1920, published in 2009.
Television viewers will know Steven from the IFTA nominated RTE TV series Dead Money, which was based exclusively on probate research undertaken by his firm, Massey & King.
Readers of Ireland’s only family history magazine, Irish Roots, will also be familiar with his regular column ‘And another thing …’ through which his knowledge, expertise and indeed his wit are given a regular public airing.
Steven is also well-known for his contributions to the world of Irish genealogy in a voluntary capacity. Beyond serving as both Hon. Secretary and later President of Accredited Genealogists Ireland, he was twice Chairman of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations and since 2010 he has been Chairman of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.
In addition, Steven has compiled comprehensive manuscript catalogues to surviving records in the Republic for both the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. In many cases his work uncovered records long thought to be lost.
The Fellowship of SoG is the second such honour granted to Steven. Twelve years ago in 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.