29 March 2012


The Irish Family History Foundation (IFHS), the largest online database of Irish genealogical records, has revamped its pricing system. The new system has significant changes. First, users must now pay to search the database (new users are given ten free searches). Prior to this change, searching was free. However, users would periodically complain of being barred from the site after performing a large amount of free searches. So, although the reason for the new charges is not stated, I am assuming part of the change is directed towards eliminating problems with their "you can search free but not too many times" system.
     I am cognizant of the IFHF's need of funds to create and maintain this wonderful database. However, I do not think they have yet hit upon a fair and reasonable system of payment. I would rather see them create a subscription service. Under their payment systems, both past and present, a researcher literally gambles on whether they are paying for a search or a record that might prove to be useful to them.  I will probably not use the IFHF database much now that I have to pay to search. Maybe it is psychological, but I don't mind paying a subscription fee for unlimited searching and viewing, whereas when I look at my past balance and see that I paid hundreds of dollars to view records that turned out not to be helpful, I get upset. Really upset.
     The pricing system is detrimental to research. A researcher needs to be free to get wrong results and go down errant paths. If every search and every view of a record is a monetary gamble, we cannot research effectively. The IFHF needs to reexamine their pricing policy and to assess the needs of their market--Irish family historians.  Good business sense, at the least, demands such a market analysis! I don't mind a fair subscription price, but don't make me feel like a chump for paying for records and searches that come up empty for me.
     The new credit system as described by the IFHF site:
The IFHF ORS has been converted to a credit system. All user balances have been upgraded to the new credit system automatically.
Part of this upgrade has been the reduction in the cost of a record from €5 to as low as €2.50 depending on the amount of credit purchased. However, users will be charged 1 credit for a page of index search results. Every user will be given 10 free searches.

     The site also has a "top up" system for bulk credit purchases. Buying in bulk reduces the costs. For example, 35 credits cost 5 euro, but 320 credits purchased in advance would cost 32 euro.