Chairman's Address 2000 AGM
Steven C. ffeary-Smyrl

It is an understatement when I say that I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as CIGO's Chairman during the year just gone. For CIGO, this past year has been one of unprecedented growth in both its membership and in its activities and in this regard I would like to thank all the Organisations that participate in CIGO. Each of the representatives of CIGO's constituent organizations attend the council meetings not for their own personal profit but to give unselfishly of their time and knowledge to further CIGO's raison d'être which is to lobby for ever greater improvement in general public access to all of Ireland's genealogical records. I would like to thank all of the following for participating in the council meetings during my year in office: Mary Beglan, Des Clarke, Linda Clayton, Colm Cochrane, Vivien Costello, Aidan Cruise, John Dyer, Fiona Fitzsimons, Mona Germaine, Randal Gill, Graeme Igoe, Máire Mac Conghail, Eileen Ó Duill, Tom O'Keeffe, Chris Ryan, and Bill Sargent. In particular I would like to thank John Dyer for his work as treasurer and Des Clarke for performing his duties as secretary. Des has for the past number of years graciously accepted each year's call for him to continue as secretary of CIGO and of course I hope that this year will be no different.

Recent additions to CIGO include the Blessington Family History Society, the Ballinteer Family History Society and the Certificate Genealogists Alumni Group. I am also pleased to note the presence at council meetings throughout the year of an observer from the Irish Family History Society. Needless to say, they are all very welcome and I hope that the representatives of each of these organisations have enjoyed the past year.

Those who have known CIGO since its embryonic beginnings in 1992 will be all too aware that the issue which sparked CIGO to life, the General Register Office, still exercises our minds today, all most ten years later. However, CIGO's Report On The General Register Office, which was issued after the public meeting held in this building in August 1999 and subsequently published in full in Irish Roots Magazine, has been taken on-board by both Mr. Michéal Martin, the Minister for the Department of Health & Children and Mr. Tony Enright, the Registrar General.

As suggested in CIGO's report, the GRO's Public Search Room has been completely reversed with the public counter now being located at the opposite end of the room and the Search Room itself has been completely refurbished. And, for the first time, a member of the GRO staff has been permanently assigned to the Search Room to offer help and advice and this innovation has proven to be very popular with all the users.

However, the GRO's unilateral decision to enforce a stringent new rule that ends almost twenty years of direct public access to the Search Room indexes is lamentable. The unfortunate implementation of this new 'access' rule has caused lengthy and unnecessary queues. Many regular users are voicing concern at often having to spend half the time the Office is open standing in line to gain access to the indexes. Almost none of the regular users of the Search Room now feel that there is any value to be gained from paying a IR£12 'General Search' fee. Because of this new system the provision of on-the-spot photocopying has come to a complete stand still as the running of this new service needs every available member of staff.

CIGO is currently involved in consultation with The Registrar General, Mr. Tony Enright, about the GRO's new 'access' policy and the full implementation of CIGO's Report On The General Register Office. At a recent meeting Mr Enright gave me his personal assurance that he was actively seeking solutions to the GRO's current difficulties and hoped at least to restore on-the-spot photocopying facilities in the very near future.

CIGO's Report On The General Register Office, as suggested by the meeting in August 1999, deals specifically with the short to medium term. It is CIGO's intention to publish a detailed report about what it sees as the issues surrounding the long term future of the GRO at a future date. However, in this regard I welcome the contributions made to the whole GRO debate by the Genealogical Society of Ireland, which celebrates its first birthday this month. The GSI's own report on the General Register Office deals with the long-term future of the GRO and puts forward a number of imaginative and ambitious proposals.

As a Final point on the issue of the GRO, CIGO urges you all to lobby your local government T.D.s at their next constituency clinics and to make strong representations.

In the early part of this year Des Clarke proposed to council that there was a growing need for a series of guidebooks dealing in detail with specific aspects of Irish genealogy. As an example, the London based Society of Genealogists has published a very successful series of guides on specific subjects relating to British genealogy under the title My Ancestor Was… Some of the titles in the SOG's series are My Ancestor Was a Freeman, My Ancestor Was in the British Army and My Ancestors Were Londoners. Each of these guides deals in detail with the sources available for the subject.

It took little time for CIGO to determine that the publication of a series of guides, under the series title Exploring Irish Genealogy, would be very worthwhile. In May we launched the first in the series, entitled Irish Methodists - Where Do I Start ? Even given that most Irish people will not have Methodists in their ancestry, the Methodist guidebook has proved to be very popular. We have sold copies all across the English speaking world. This evening, as many of you already know, CIGO presents the second in the series entitled Irish Civil Registration - Where Do I Start ? During the coming year we hope to add to the series with guides on Irish Catholics, Irish Anglicans, Irish Silversmiths & Goldsmiths and Irish Huguenots.

In August Mr. Fergus Gillespie, the Deputy Chief Herald, wrote to CIGO seeking our support for the Genealogical Office's proposal that Ireland should be the venue in 2002 for the 25th International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Studies. The ICGHS was founded in the 1920s and its first congress was held in Barcelona in 1929. The most recent congress was held this year in France. Since August we have learnt that the ICGHS 2002 Congress will indeed be held here in Ireland and further details about it will be published in forthcoming editions of CIGO NEWS.

I am pleased to announce the re-launch of CIGO NEWS which took place in May. CIGO NEWS is CIGO's own newsletter the aim of which is to keep its readership abreast of Irish genealogical news. During 2000 it has been published twice, however, in the coming year we hope to publish it three times, in February, June and October. We also hope to increase the newsletter from eight to twelve pages.

I would like to thank all those who attended the last CIGO Table Quiz held here in the Freemasons' Hall in May. It was wonderful to see so many taking part. I especially thank all those who helped to organise that evening and specifically Paul Gorry for composing the questions - he never fails to turn-up new teasers with which to confound us. Also, a special thanks to all those who generously donated prizes for the evening.

Finally, in closing, as I return to the ranks, I wish the incoming Chairman of CIGO, Vivien Costello, as much enjoyment in her year of office as I have just experienced in mine.

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