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New EU law restrictions could make searching your family history more tricky says Genealogical Society of Ireland Photo by: Google Images

European law could halt Irish genealogists’ access to birth, death and marriage certs

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New EU law restrictions could make searching your family history more tricky says Genealogical Society of Ireland Photo by: Google Images

The Genealogical Society of Ireland said that a proposed European Union regulation could make access to birth, death and marriage certificates restricted if it passes.

Genealogical Society Secretary Michael Merrigan said that under the EU proposed personal data protection regulation, public records held by the States, including public records held at the General Register Office, such as birth certificates, would be considered personal information. The regulation aims to protect individual’s rights. If passed, the regulation would not need to be transposed into Irish law and would have direct effect.

If passed, the regulation could pose serious impediments and curtail some genealogical research by scholars and those interested in their family history. The Irish Times quoted Merrigan, “For data protection purposes, we could end up in a situation where genealogical, biographical, historical or even journalistic research will be in some way curtailed.” He also said, “There is a danger that if this regulation came in that genealogical research and the publication thereof would be restricted.”

Merrigan argued that anything introduced as part of the proposed regulation should be put forth under the principle of public ownership and right of access to genealogical heritage. He went on that this principle should be used in any measures regarding access to records of genealogical potential.

The EU proposed regulation will be decided in July at a meeting of the EU Council of Justice and Home Affairs in Lithuania. The Genealogical Society of Finland has called on the Irish society to lobby Minister for Justice Alan Shatter before the meeting. The Finnish society has contacted the Irish society about similar concerns regarding the regulation. The Finnish society wants genealogy to be included as an exception to the rules of data protection proposed in the regulation.

Merrigan has said that the current issue raises the need to establishing the EU federation of genealogical studies to handle concerns that transcend borders.

The reform of personal data legislation was proposed in 2012 to strengthen personal rights and tackle the challenges of new technologies, which often receive personal information from its users. The regulation seeks to prevent the information falling into the wrong hands.

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