The world’s leading genealogy website is threatening to dominate the Irish heritage industry, according to new claims.
The Irish Times consultant genealogist John Grenham writes that Ancestry.com has changed the face of Irish heritage forever.
The website has added 750,000 transcripts from 71 Irish parishes in a move that has taken experts by surprise.
The Utah-based Ancestry.com was sold in 2012 for $1.6 billion to a European private equity firm Permira Funds and had over $500 million in sales last year. The CEO is Irish American Tim Sullivan.
Ancestry.com already dominates the American genealogy market and may now do the same in Ireland, according to the respected writer.
Grenham reports that Ancestry.com first made waves three years ago when the site added transcripts of almost half-a-million pre-1880
47 parishes, mainly in the diocese of Meath, and were made from copies of National Library of Ireland microfilms.
The report says that neither the diocese nor the National Library was consulted. Grenham writes, “So eyebrows and blood pressure were raised.”
He continues, “But the transcripts weren’t great and there were no record images, so we all just went back to our cosy little squabble about making the Library’s images of parish register microfilms available online.”
However a game-changer two weeks ago has brought Ancestry.com back into the public eye.
Grenham reveals that Ancestry has now added 750,000 transcripts from 71 parishes. These are accompanied by high-quality, fully browsable images of every page.
He writes, “These are new, full-color scans, at mouth-watering levels of detail. In most cases they go well past 1900, and the registers covered come from all over the country.
“Included are the records of four parishes from the long-embargoed diocese of Cashel and Emly, from most of Killala, from Galway, Wicklow, Dublin, Carlow – available nowhere else online – Donegal, Tyrone.”
But all is not as it seems according to the writer.
He adds, “The transcriptions are flawed and some of the listing detail is deeply peculiar: ‘Aughrim’ is actually Aughrim Street in Dublin; ‘Golden and Kilpack’ is a misreading of Golden and Kilfeacle; two unnamed registers are actually from Bantry. But the sheer, glorious quality of the images makes up for everything.
“Where did Ancestry get them? The source given is ‘Digitized images, Dublin, Ireland: E-Celtic, Limited’.
This part-Irish, part-Indian company produces parish record management software and presumably obtained rights to the images as part of their work with local parishes. Good on them.”
Grenham now predicts that the website may dominate Irish genealogy.
He concludes, “Ancestry is the unchallenged colossus of online genealogy. They already have a de facto monopoly of North American records.
“And if they continue what they’ve just done with Irish Catholic registers, there is no doubt they will reach the same position here."