Wouldn’t it be great if … the Irish GRO finished the release of the BMD register images?

As part of our ongoing remit to further the cause of Irish genealogical research, we will be taking a closer look at, and commenting on, some of the issues that exist within the world of genealogy. This is the first of these editorial pieces.


It’s just over a year since the Irish Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht launched a significant upgrade to its free website, www.irishgenealogy.ie, by adding images of the historic civil registers to match the indexes already published online. This was a huge leap forward for Irish genealogy, one celebrated by the worldwide Irish diaspora, especially our members at home and abroad. No longer was it necessary to pay out repeatedly for multiple register entries in the vain hope of hunting down that one specific ancestor who just happened to share his or her name with hundreds of namesakes. New generations could be swiftly added and old puzzles solved. Many of us did little else for days but feast on this marvellous gift of data and our fellow researchers in England and Wales could only gaze on enviously and lament their own promised but long stalled GRO digitisation projects.

True, the images were not complete for the relevant periods at the time of the launch, but all births right back to 1864 and the first tranches of marriages back to 1882 and deaths back to 1891 were immediately available. Additionally, only images for births registered over 100 years ago, marriages over 75 and deaths over 50 would ever be made available online. At the time, promises were made that the earlier missing images for marriages back to 1845 and deaths back to 1864 were being worked on and would be added as soon as possible. Similarly, like the pioneering ScotlandsPeople site and the more recent GRONI site, each anniversary was to bring another release of images as the embargoes rolled forward annually. This was still very much the Department’s response in February 2017 when the IGRS enquired as to progress – the earlier images were being prioritised and 1916 and 1917 images would follow, all hopefully by mid-2017.

However, it’s now autumn 2017 and all has gone very quiet, leaving us to wonder what is happening. The earlier marriage and death records, covering some 30 years of entries and several generations, are crucial to getting further back with Irish research given the sad lack of traditional census resources. They are also too often the only way to be able to link back reliably to the surviving 18th and 19th century parish registers.

We were delighted to see that the Department received an increase for 2018, announced a few days ago in the Budget; one which might be very helpful if funds are required to complete the uploading of the remaining BMD images. Completing this much anticipated project would establish www.irishgenealogy.ie as the definitive Irish BMD resource, accessible for free worldwide. Wouldn’t that just be great?

Have your say: we’ve opened a thread in our Members Forum for discussing this important issue.

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