Steven Smyrl, a former President of Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI), has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious Society of Genealogists (SoG). The SoG, founded in 1911, is one of the world’s oldest genealogical organisations. It has over 11,000 members and its headquarters in London holds what is believed to be the largest specialist genealogical library in Europe. The honour is a fitting tribute to Steven’s long years of distinguished service to the field of genealogy.
His most significant contribution to the wider genealogical community, and to society at large, relates to civil registration in Ireland. He was the driving force behind a successful campaign which achieved fundamental change on both sides of the border.
He argued that, to bring integrity to Ireland’s civil registration system, there was an overriding need to improve the calibre of death registrations through broadening the data recorded. While there had been some helpful changes in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s, the system had remained completely unchanged in the Republic since registration of deaths first began in 1864.
Steven’s tireless advocacy ensured that since 2005 the Republic’s death registrations record, for the first time, each deceased person’s date and place of birth and their parents’ names. He followed this by securing Stormont’s backing in 2009 for recording parents’ names in all Northern Ireland death registrations. His achievement was described in The Irish Times as “spectacular”.
Steven has been a Member of AGI since 1991. As well as being a highly respected professional genealogist, specialising in legal and probate research, he is an authority on sources for Irish Dissenting Protestants. His most significant published work is the Dictionary of Dublin Dissent – Dublin’s Protestant Dissenting Meetinghouses: 1660-1920, published in 2009.
Television viewers will know Steven and his brother Kit from the IFTA-nominated RTE series Dead Money, which was based exclusively on probate research undertaken by their firm, Massey & King. Kit Smyrl is also a Member of AGI. Readers of Ireland’s only family history magazine, Irish Roots, will also be familiar with Steven’s regular column ‘And another thing …’ through which his knowledge, expertise and, indeed, his wit are given a regular public airing.
Steven is also well-known for his contributions to the world of Irish genealogy in a voluntary capacity. Beyond serving as both Hon. Secretary and later President of AGI, he was twice Chairman of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations and since 2010 he has been Chairman of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.
In addition, Steven has compiled comprehensive manuscript catalogues to surviving records in the Republic for both the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. In many cases his work uncovered records long thought to be lost.
The Fellowship of SoG is the second such honour granted to Steven. Twelve years ago in 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society. AGI congratulates him on this well-deserved recognition.