Irish Roots


November 5th 2012

More graveyard buzz

John Grenham

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Northern Irish gravestone and graveyard management site discovereverafter.com. Like buses, you wait for ages and then umpteen graveyard management sites come along at once.

First, Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer for Co. Galway, points out that the County Council is supporting a project in the North-East of the county to map each graveyard, then photograph and transcribe every gravestone and make the end result available online, along with a Google Earth aerial image. So far, the project has covered just thirteen graveyards (see tinyurl.ie/als) , but it promises to become very useful indeed for Galway research.

On a different scale altogether is the site historicgraves.com. This is designed by archaeologists and aims to facilitate community-focused grassroots cemetery projects. Teams of volunteers are trained in using GPS-enabled smart-phones and cameras to survey the graveyards, and the results are combined on the site with text transcripts, maps, and audio and video interviews. When done well, an extraordinary multi-dimensional record of the graveyard emerges. The site has records of about 350 graveyards, but actual headstone transcripts from fewer, perhaps 60 or so. Most seem to be in the Tipperary-Kilkenny-Waterford area, but the potential exists for much broader coverage.

And then of course, there are the large numbers of transcriptions already done: for Northern Ireland by historyfromheadstones.com; for Wicklow and Galway by the Cantwell family at findmypast.ie; for almost every part of the country by volunteer transcribers at interment.net; for (at least parts of ) seven counties by FÁS schemes at rootsireland.ie.

The difference with the new projects is largely technical. A digital photograph of the headstone relieves that sceptical genealogical itch like nothing else. Precise GPS coordinates make it child's play to locate the most inconspicuous grave in the largest cemetery. It would be great to see the existing transcripts used as the jumping-off points for broader projects.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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