Gravestone inscriptions can be a useful source of family history information. Sometimes, multiple family members are buried in the same vault and the inscription will give information on all that are buried there. Gravestones may give birth, marriage, and death information. They may also give clues about military service and occupation, or family members buried in the same area. Sometimes they give more information than the parish burial register or civil certificate of death. Gravestone inscriptions are especially helpful for identifying ancestors who are not recorded in other existing records.
What you must know to use these records
To find an ancestor's gravestone inscription, you must know where he or she was buried. Your ancestor may have been buried in a church, city, or public cemetery usually near the place where he or she lived or died. There are also beginning to be databases containing inscriptions from multiple cemetaries that can be searched.
You can find clues about burial place in:
- Church records
- Death certificates
- Probate records
- Census or Census substitutes
- Family histories
Cemeteries are often located next to a church. If you know where your ancestor attended church check that place first. The book by Ryan, James G. Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1988. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D23r.) lists the various parishes and religious denominations in each county. This will give an indication of places where cemeteries may exist.
Griffith's Primary Valuation listed churches and graveyards known to exist as late as 1864. Brian Mitchell's book, A guide to Irish Churches and Graveyards (FHL Ref book 941.5 V3tgi) lists the cemeteries in each townland, parish, and county.
Municipal cemeteries may have cemetery registry books listing persons buried in large towns or cities.
The search for the cemetery where your ancestor was buried may be simplified by following (read more... )
Finding Gravestone Inscriptions
If your ancestor was buried in a churchyard, the parish minister of the church may have information about your ancestor in the church's burial registers or burial plot records. For help in finding a minister's address, see the "Church Directories" section of this outline.
- Some gravestone inscriptions have been transcribed by Ireland's county heritage centres. Contact the centre in the county where your ancestor was buried for more information.
- You may also search some of the online indexes. Below are some of the available indexes. You should also search the internet to look for other online indexes.
http://www.irish-world.com/gravestones/index.cfm - pay for view
http://www.historyfromheadstones.com/ - pay for view, Ulster cemetaries
http://www.interment.net/ireland/index.htm - free, mostly cemetaries in the Republic
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlmea2/Cemeteries/ - free, County Meath
- Gravestone inscriptions that have been transcribed by other organizations or individuals are listed in:
- Catalogs and inventories of various repositories. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline.
- Hayes, Richard J. Manuscript sources for the history of Irish civilization. (FHL book 941.5 A5h.)
- Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 1992. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27gj.)
- The Family History Library has a growing collection of transcriptions of gravestone inscriptions. To locate these, consult the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the following headings:
- IRELAND - CEMETERIES
- IRELAND, [COUNTY] - CEMETERIES
- IRELAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CEMETERIES
- Gravestone inscriptions may be found in printed histories and periodicals. Many such inscriptions are listed in:
- Smith, Frank. Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources: Ireland. (FHL book 941.5 D23s.)
- Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the 'Memorials of the Dead'in Ireland, includes an index.
- Other periodicals and histories that may contain gravestone inscriptions are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the following headings:
- IRELAND - PERIODICALS
- IRELAND, [COUNTY] - PERIODICALS
- IRELAND, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
- IRELAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - HISTORY
Ireland's Gravestone Index
Ireland's Gravestone Inscription Index provides:
- Nearly 400,000 gravestone inscriptions
- From 851 parishes in ten counties.
It may be the largest online source for Irish gravestone information.
The full gravestone inscription is not available online but the index provides:
- Person ID
- First Name
- Year of Death
The counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Louth and Monaghan are included in the index with other counties being added in the future.
Using the site:
- Type as little or as much information about an ancestor as you want in the search boxes on the right side of the screen.
- Click on the Search Database button.
- A page will open showing the number of inscriptions found. Click on one of the links to inscriptions. Up to ten entries will be displayed on a page.
For a full transcript of the gravestone transcription you will need to click on the Purchase Full Transcription link and pay for the details.
Although there is a fee for a full transcript the index details are very helpful providing the parish and county of the grave.
Ireland Cemetery Registration Books
Cemetery registration books are registers of burials and cremations at municipal cemeteries. Few records are available. Those that do exist are mostly for the large municipal cemeteries.
Possibly the best cemetery registration books are for Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Memorials of the Dead
The Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead published journals from 1888 to 1934 and contain information from gravestones throughout Ireland.