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The English call tombstones "monumental inscriptions" (or M.I.s). Monumental inscriptions may provide birth, marriage, and death information. They sometimes give more information than the parish burial register or civil death certificate—information such as military service, occupation, or cause of death. Cemetery records are especially helpful for identifying ancestors not in other records. Because relatives may be buried in adjoining plots, search the entire record.
Before the Burial Acts of 1852 and 1853, most people were buried in church graveyards. The Burial Acts enabled the town officials to purchase and use land as civil graveyards. Private companies also maintained cemeteries before and after this time. Civil cemetery registers are located at local archives or libraries or are held by the group controlling the cemetery.
To find monumental inscriptions, you need to know where an individual was buried. The person may have been buried in a church, city, or public cemetery— usually near the place where he lived or died. You can find clues to burial places in church records, death certificates, or family histories.
Ministers may have the burial registers or the records of the burial plots for the cemetery you wish to search. The "Church Records" section tells how to find a minister’s address.
English family history societies are transcribing the monumental inscriptions from their local areas. Write to the family history society in your area of interest to learn more about their work. See the "Societies" section of this outline for how to find an address.
Many monumental inscriptions have been transcribed. The Society of Genealogists in London has a collection in its library. Two guides to this collection, are:
Collins, Lydia. Monumental Inscriptions in the Library of the Society of Genealogists. Part 1: Southern England. London, England: Society of Genealogists, 1984. (Family History Library book 942 V33s, pt. 1.)
Collins, Lydia, and Mabel Morton. Monumental Inscriptions in the Library of the Society of Genealogists. Part 2: Northern England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Overseas. London, England: Society of Genealogists, 1987. (Family History Library book 942 V33s, part 2.)
Another way to gain access to tombstone inscriptions is through the Internet. There are lists of people on the Internet who volunteer to search various types of records for certain areas, free of charge. You can locate these lists through the GENUKI Web site at:
- From the above site:
- Click [County of your choice].
- Click Genealogy.
- ClickLook-up Exchange.
The Family History Library has copies of some monumental inscriptions. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
ENGLAND, [COUNTY] - CEMETERIES
ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] -CEMETERIES