06 July 2008

The cat's out of the bag and the bird has flown

An announcement about the GRO Digitisation of Vital Events (DOVE) project has finally been made. Those who follow the British government and its genealogy bureaucracy will hardly be surprised.

Cast your mind back to 16 January 2007 when an announcement that the Family Records Centre (FRC) would be closed was made by the Office of National |Statistics (ONS) in a press release headlined Births, marriages and deaths records to go on the Internet.

Now the FRC is closed and, in a classic shell game move, responsibility for the GRO is shifted from ONS to the Identity and Passport Service. They are reneging on the other part of the bargain. Instead of the January 2007 announcement that "facilities to search indexes of births, marriages and deaths will start to be available on the Internet from early 2008," we learn only in July 2008 that "the project to produce the digitised index and make it available to the public online ... is likely to be delayed further." No firm deadline; not even an estimate.

On July 4 The (UK) Society of Genealogists wrote that "Having liaised with GRO about this project over the last three years the Society had heard regular assurances that the contractors Siemens were catching up with backlogs of digitising the certificates and that GRO was preparing to improve the indexes. This clearly is no longer the case."

Given that "Siemens has currently delivered over 130 million records; this is approximately half the total number of General Register Office (GRO) records of birth, death and marriage," what is stopping GRO from putting the existing index records online? Or why can't the digitised index information be made available to FreeBMD, assuming that work meets FreeBMD quality standards?

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