The online databases at the Irish Family History Foundation include, according to John Grenham’s best guess, “75% of per-1900 Roman Catholic registers, 50% of surviving Church of Ireland records and 30% of Presbyterian records.” So that’s a lot of records, and they’re finally online, and easily accessible through an internet connection on a home computer. Great system, right?
Well it would be a great system, if only the IFHF had a reasonable (which is to say, reasonably affordable) fee structure. Alas, the current pay-per-view pricing scheme is anything but affordable. While the site advertises the ability to “start finding your ancestors now for FREE,” and to search its indexes “freely,” it is in fact ridiculously expensive to perform a search of its databases, for any value of the term “search” that includes the possibility of actually looking at anything. In Grenham’s words:
The original databases behind the site have as much flexibility as it’s possible to imagine — searches can be restricted by place name, or mother’s maiden name, or godparents, or by using wild cards. None of this is possible on the site. At €5 per record, the system is impossibly expensive for precisely those users to whom it should be most useful.
The thing is, for any Irish surname that is of interest to me (and likewise for just about anyone who is searching for Irish ancestors), there are going to be many, many people with the same surname in any given Irish county. And since our ancestors didn’t have access to the Baby Name Wizard
, all of those people with the same surname in the same county are going to have one of only a handful of first names. And so, without the possibility of restricting the results by the use of delimiters, a search for anyone in any county will likely turn up at least several, and possibly very many (ten, twenty, thirty or more), possibilities. And if you cannot look at those possibilities without shelling out 5 euros per record, the cost of your search can quickly add up to what I think is an unconscionable amount of money.
So, while I have found a couple of records through the IFHF databases, at a certain point I decided I had to forbid myself from paying for views, which is to say, from performing a meaningful search of its records. I had simply wasted too much money on too many Patricks and Marys who turned out to be not the Patrick and Mary I was looking for.
Now, I’m not asking for a free lunch! What I’m asking is:
Why not a subscription-based fee structure, with unlimited access to all of the information in the databases, on a monthly or quarterly or yearly basis? I would happily pay for something that allowed me to really search the records at a reasonable price (at a price that is comparable to the fees charged by similar online genealogy sites, for example).