I've written numerous times about the issues surrounding the General Register Office in Dublin and obtaining copies of birth, death and marriage certificates. Here's my latest rant from my trip last month. What surfaced in my email yesterday from CIGO (Council of Irish Genealogical Organizations was a link to a report repared by Office of the Ombudsman titled "Hidden History? - The Law, the Archives and the General Register Office." The report was the result of a complaint made by an individual who had requested access to death registers from 1864-1900 for a local history project and was denied.
There are a lot of complicated issues around this, but it seems to come down to whether the GRO records are public records which under the National Archives Act of 1986 should have public right of inspection, or whether, as the GRO claims they fall under the more restriction Civil Registration Act of 2004 with no legal provision of inspection.
The fact is that you can get a birth, death or marriage record from the GRO, it's just expensive and frustrating. Expensive, because they charge you a fee to look at the indexes and then they charge an additional fee for a photo copy of the register record…frustrating because you can only get five certificates each day, even if they aren't busy. Since the indexes provide limited information (and because of the nature of common surnames with multiple spellings in Ireland) you frequently need to purchase multiple copies of register records to find the correct one. If you followed my blog this summer you know that my first stop each morning was at the GRO to get my five daily certificates and that I have multiple certificates for an Isabelle Mackey/Mackay/McKee, at €4 each, none of which appear to be the correct one!
The index portion of the equation has improved greatly since FamilySearch completed the Index to Civil Registrations in Ireland, but alas, even that isn't perfect. There is no listing for Mary Moughty, my husband's great grandmother in the index, nor in the indexes at the GRO. One of my best finds this summer was an obituary in the digital newspapers at the National Library that gave me her date of death. My next step is to write to the local register office in Westmeath to see if her death certificate is there.
So, the question is, will this report improve anything? We can always hope! The GRO claims they cannot transfer the registers because they use them. I can understand that, but why don't they just make microfilms of the records available at the National Library or National Archives? Some of the records are already available through the Family History Library. Some of my friends in Ireland say we have better access in Salt Lake City to those records then they do in Ireland.
The report concludes that records older than 30 years should be available for public inspection and a committee has been formed which includes among others, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (irishgenealogy.ie) to explore options with reports due every six months. We'll have to see what happens, but the focus on tourism, especially with "The Gathering" scheduled for 2013, may finally be the impetus to get something done!
This is the last call for those interested in researching in Dublin this October. I have to provide the final room list to the hotel next week. I still have a few spaces left.