Irish Roots: Graveyards Worth Whistling Past

Irish Roots: New technology and the dead


Genealogy deals with the dead, so it’s not surprising that graveyards loom large in researchers’ minds, and have done for 150 years.

Since the mid-2000s, however, technology has brought about a sea-change in the kind of access we have to graveyards and to headstones. No fewer than three Irish companies are offering graveyard survey services, recording the precise position of each grave using GPS, transcribing inscriptions, taking digital photographs, producing cemetery maps and making the whole lot freely available online.

The oldest is Irish Graveyard Surveyors, at Set up in 2007 by Michael Durkan, the son of a Mayo undertaker, it aims to preserve the kind of detailed knowledge of local graveyards that his father had. So far, almost 200 cemeteries are covered, mainly in the West, with the majority in Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Donegal and Clare. For each location the cemetery owner gets maps, along with transcripts and photographs for every headstone, from the most recent to the oldest. And so do we, on their free website.

Its most direct competitor is, based in Northern Ireland, but also starting to operate in the South, and online only since 2012.

The site doesn’t have a large-scale map showing the locations covered, making it a little awkward to work out precisely what they’ve done, but there appears to be around 100 graveyards included, mostly in Northern Ireland and heavily concentrated in Co Derry. Again, the survey results – photos, transcripts and maps – are all freely searchable online.

The third of the trio,, is not a business in the same way as the other two. It relies on volunteer-led local groups, provides them with technical and archaeological know-how and publishes the results online.

Not all surveyed graveyards include a full set of transcriptions, but the quality of what is there is very good and, again, free. The main focus of work is in the south and south-west, Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford and Cork in particular.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.