Monday, July 19, 2010

Govt to offer diaspora ‘certificate of Irishness’


Posted on 30 June 2010

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin has revealed plans to introduce a certificate of Irishness for the diaspora.

The Irish Government has unveiled plans to launch a certificate of Irishness for those of Irish heritage who do not qualify for full citizenship.

But the move has been derided as kitsch, mawkish and embarrassing by some genealogists and commentators who see it as a cynical move to boost tourist numbers.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin, speaking at the Global Ireland Funds annual gathering in Dublin, said that the certificates would help those with Irish ancestry connect with the country.

The certificates will be issued by a third party agency acting under licence from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is considering charging a fee for each document.

Dublin’s Irish Times quoted a department source saying that the scheme was intended to be self-financing. But he said it was not designed with the intention of raising significant amounts of revenue.

The exact size of the market for a heritage certificate is not known. But the department anticipates that many descendants of Irish emigrants would wish to buy one to display in their homes or as gifts.

But genealogists are suspicious of the scheme which they believe will devalue the process of unearthing the family tree.

“What are to be the criteria for awarding such a certificate?” genealogist Paul Gorry told the Irish Times.

“Are we going to hand them out to people who ‘believe’ they are of Irish origin? These documents will be meaningless without proof of a person’s origins.”

“Heritage and business aren’t incompatible,” added another genealogist Steven Smyrl.
“But too often we end up with leprechauns and shamrock. This will end up as a gimmick if the only intention is to get people to visit Ireland.”

Commentator Martina Devlin, writing in the Irish Independent, slammed the idea as a “demeaning device to hoodwink descendants”.

“Diplomas of Irishness – even Walt Disney couldn’t have dreamed that one up. What’s next?
Lessons in how to speak with an Irish accent, cheques made payable to the Central Bank?”

But Minister Martin said the certificate, first suggested at last year’s Global Irish Economic Forum (GIEC), would go ahead. He said the GIEC recalibrated Ireland’s view of its diaspora.
“Perhaps we in Ireland, across all sectors, tended at times to take the relationship for granted or were slow to appreciate its full potential. The energy, commitment and sense of innovation generated at last year’s Forum fundamentally changed perceptions here – a change that I believe is irreversible,” Mr Martin said.

“The Irish diaspora is not limited to Irish citizens living abroad or to those who have activated citizenship. Instead, it encompasses all those who believe they are of Irish descent and feel a sense of affinity with this country.”

by Billy Cantwell

Saturday, July 17, 2010 Inc. Completes Acquisition of Sweden's

4:01 PM ET 7/15/10 | GlobeNewswire Inc. (Nasdaq:ACOM) today announced the closing of its acquisition of, the leading Swedish family history Web site.

Genline currently has more than 17,000 paying members with access to 26 million pages of digitized Swedish church records spanning more than 400 years from the 17th to the 20th century.

On July 15, 2010, the offer from was approved by Genline Holding AB's public shareholders. Following the approval, acquired all shares of Genline AB for approximately 53 million Swedish kronor in cash with an adjustment for net working capital. Based on a July 15, 2010 exchange rate of SEK 7.39 to US $1.00, the net purchase amount approximates US $7.2 million.

Brett Bouchard, Managing Director Europe for Inc., comments: "The combination of the family of websites and will benefit users of all Ancestry sites by offering access to a greater amount of important historical content and broadening the active member community vital to researching family history. We are excited to welcome the employees and members of Genline into the family."

About Inc. (Nasdaq:ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with more than one million paying subscribers. More than 5 billion records have been added to the site in the past 13 years. Ancestry users have created more than 17 million family trees containing over 1.7 billion profiles. has local Web sites directed at nine countries, including its flagship Web site at


Genline AB is the Swedish market leader in genealogy and local heritage research. Its collection of Swedish church records contains more than 26 million digitalized pages of records dating from the 1600's to the 1900s.

Genline also operates, a web-based genealogy software and community for people interested in family, genealogy and local heritage, and Bygdeband, a social networking archive that enables local heritage societies to digitize their archives.

Forward-looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements relate to future events or to future financial performance and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as "appears," "may," "designed," "expect," "intend," "focus," "seek," "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "should," "continue" or "work" or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These statements include statements describing our subscriber base, our activities to enhance subscribers' experience, our business outlook and our opportunities and prospects for growth. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are, in some cases, beyond our control and that could materially affect actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements.

Factors that could materially affect actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements, and our ability to execute on our business strategy include those listed under the caption "Risk Factors" of the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009.

We assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements for any reason, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire,


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bowing to etiquette will help avoid a royal spat

Sunday July 11 2010
Source: Sunday Independent

TO bow, or not to bow, is the great question that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will have to face up to, should he still be around at the top table if and when Queen Elizabeth II visits our shores.

The prospect of a state visit by Queen Elizabeth may have been universally welcomed by the major political parties. But before her Majesty has even set foot on Irish soil, the azure skies of reconciliation have been darkened by a disputation between Irish and British experts on etiquette over the most appropriate way to greet the reigning British monarch.

The etiquette war was sparked by a recent appearance by Charles Kidd the editor of Debrett's, the top British magazine on matters of etiquette taste and culture, on Morning Ireland.

Kidd noted that whilst when it came to greeting the queen "the sweeping bows of history are gone", there is still an appropriate code of behaviour when one is meeting the monarch.
Mr Kidd said that for gentlemen the most appropriate behaviour is "a bow from the neck" and that ladies should "bob or curtsey".

It is believed that excessively firm handshakes are not encouraged either whilst there was also quite the hullabaloo when the Australian PM Paul Keating put his arm around the queen.

However, those experts on heraldic and etiquette issues within Ireland's Genealogical Gazette (incorporating the Genie Gazette) were not impressed.
In an attack titled 'Clash of the Harps', they noted that whilst Mr Kidd obviously believes that "royal etiquette -- no matter how anachronistic -- travels with the monarch'', they very much doubted whether during the respective visits of the King of Thailand and the Emperor of Japan that British officials "greeted the latter with a bow from the waist and approached the former on their knees''.

"Surely, Mr Kidd is aware neither bowing nor curtseying is appropriate for citizens of a Republic like Ireland or the United States,'' thundered the magazine.

The staunch Republicans of The Gazette also tartly noted that "not content with having the citizens of our Republic bowing and curtseying, Mr Kidd advised against firm handshakes with the queen''.

Whilst The Gazette said the queen would receive "a warm Cead Mile Failte" they also expressed concern that in spite of Ireland's Declaration of the Republic in 1949 the British Royal Arms still retain the blue shield with the golden harp symbolising Ireland as part of the realm and asked if it was too much to expect the new age of friendship and mutual respect would be "reflected heraldically''.

The appropriate way of greeting royalty has already been the source of a number of controversies involving Irish figures.

It is believed that the decision of the builder Michael Bailey to kiss the Queen Mother on the cheek after his horse won at Cheltenham was seen to be excessively exuberant.

Though this was the source of some fuss in the British tabloids the Queen Mother, who had lived through the Blitz, did not appear to be too upset.

John Bruton was also roundly mocked when he claimed that a meeting with Prince Charles on Irish soil was the happiest day of his life.

It is not, alas, known if Prince Charles felt the same way.

A nervous senior source in the Department of Foreign Affairs refused to comment on whether the department was drawing up an etiquette hand-book in order to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Sunday Independent

Friday, July 9, 2010

Genealogical Society of Ireland Video on YouTube - "Meet the Directors"

Video "Meet the Directors" Genealogical Society of Ireland.
The video currently resides on YouTube:

This video displays the new location of the Genealogical Society of Ireland overlooking Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co. Dublin and presents the GSI board of directors.

Come visit the Genealogical Society of Ireland during the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures where we will be meeting and greeting the public on Saturday afternoon, 24th July and Sunday afternoon, 25th July. This will be a good opportunity to get advice from experienced genealogists on how to trace your ancestors. We, the directors of the genealogical Society of Ireland, will be distributing valuable information at these sessions.

More information on the Festival of World Cultures - held from July 23rd - 25th 2010 can be found on the link,

We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scots breakthrough in helping families go back to their roots

Scots breakthrough in helping families go back to their roots

Jasper Hamill
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6 Jul 2010

Scottish scientists have found a way to identify a person’s family roots to within a few miles, raising the possibility that city dwellers could soon trace their descendants back to their ancestral village.

Edinburgh University experts used volunteers from small communities in the north of Scotland, Italy and Croatia to quickly scan half a million DNA letters – the chemical combinations that make up our genes – and pinpointed in some cases 100% accurately where their distant relatives lived.

Within five years they believe the technique could be developed sufficiently so that a person who lives in a city could trace their ancestors from other towns or countries.

Dr Jim Wilson, a Royal Society research fellow who led the university’s study, said: “This holds out the hope that, with more information, we might one day be able to determine the ancestry of city dwellers.

“There is a vast amount of untapped information residing in our DNA. This is not going to happen tomorrow, but within the next five years, if a database of samples from villages across Scotland is built up, we may be able to achieve this.”

His team analysed the genetics of unrelated people who had four grandparents from the same village on Scottish islands, three Italian alpine villages and two in Croatia. This resulting data was fed into a computer, which then decided which town each of the people came from based on their genetics.

It predicted the correct village of origin for 100% of the Italian sample, 96% of the Scottish sample and 89% of the Croatian sample.

The method cannot yet be applied to people who live in cities, as the industrial revolution and subsequent urbanisation mixed up the gene pool.

Wilson, who conceded that more research was needed, said that during the industrial revolution population movements were much slower.

This meant that whole families lived in small villages and towns for long stretches of time, handing down property from generation to generation and marrying people from nearby.

There could be money to be made if someone invested in creating a database

Dr Jim Wilson

Wilson added that, if extensive research on rural areas was carried out, the technique could work across the Old World, from Europe to Asia. For example, Americans could trace their roots back to the countries from which their ancestors migrated, although inter-breeding may make this very difficult.

There has been a resurgence of interest in genealogy in recent years, partly thanks to the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are?, in which famous people have traced their roots.

Wilson, who believes the discovery could prove financially profitable, added: “There could be money to be made if someone invested in creating a database, although this would be a huge cost. Just doing this in Scotland would involve collecting samples from every village in Scotland, which would take a lot of time and money.”

Dr Bruce Durie, head of the genealogy department at Strathclyde University, said the discovery could be valuable to anyone wishing to trace their roots.

He said: “It is going to be incredibly useful in pinpointing people’s geographical origin, as opposed to just their ancestral origin. Like all these tests, it will be expensive until it comes down in price as more and more people will take it up.”

Durie said that such tech­nology was at an embryonic stage and would only really

work if more people become involved in tests.

He added: “At the moment, genetic testing is at a similar stage to those first brave people who installed a telephone when there was no-one else to call. Genealogical testing is at its best when there are lots of people of the same surname or from the same place ordering tests.”

However, he also warned that Edinburgh University’s method might only work in rural areas.

“This technique works best in historically isolated populations – Italian valleys and Scottish isles for instance,” said Durie.

“These broke down during the urbanisation of the industrial revolution and the mass diasporas of the 18th and 19th Centuries.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Danger of 'Irish history being lost' due to poor storage of archives

From the Sunday Tribune, July 4, 2010

by Jennifer Bray

National Archives: deteriorating storage conditions

Ireland's national archiv­es are in danger of being lost or destroyed amid
deteriorating storage conditions, according to senior management there.

David Craig, director of the National Archives in Dublin, said there was no
longer space to take in vital historical documents from government
departments and organisations.

Hundreds of boxes of nation­al documents remain sealed and stored on
palettes in the old Jacob's biscuit factory in Dublin which is unsuitable in
temperature and has begun to let in rainwater.

Government departments are now being instructed not to send their documents
in to the archives, despite a rule instructing they send them in each and
every year.

"There is actually legislation in relation to the national archives which
requires that we take in these documents every year and we are being forced
to break the legislation because there is just no suitable storage for them
anymore," said Craig.

Catriona Crowe, coordinator of the 1901-1911 Census Online, speaking in her
capacity as chairperson of the Archivists' Branch of Impact, said staffing
levels were also at a crisis point in the archives.

"This is making a terrible situation worse, as when staff leave or retire
they are not being replaced. It is a desperate state of affairs for the
country's future written history and there is a real danger now more than
ever that Irish history is being lost."

There is currently a lack of funding available to allow for expansion of the
site, a new site, or the proper facilities for storage to be installed, said
Crowe. She is now seeking to have a National Archives advisory council set
up and is looking to set up a meeting with culture minister Mary Hanafin to
attempt to resolve the funding issue.

Paul Gorry, one of Ireland's top genealogists, said al­though the genealogy
service is the most popular service in the archives, his work was being
hampered by the storage crisis.

"A lot of the stuff onsite here, various different genealogy documents, are
not accessible because of where they are all put out in the warehouse. We
don't have the staff either to do the cataloguing so it can be hard to even
source where materials may be.

"For example, the 1926 census is something which we just can't get access
to, it is just impossible. Even as a reader here the restrictions hamper
work and they are hampering research and obviously, in the long run,
effective collection of history itself."

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell who is campaigning for the improvement of the
facility, said the situation was now at crisis point.

"You've got archives piling up on palettes in the middle of the factory and
the rain coming in on top of them. It is time the government addressed this