More mortuary magic

Most researchers are familiar with two types of record associated with cemeteries, headstone transcripts and church burial registers. But headstones were a luxury and burial registers, where they exist, are usually very uncommunicative about the family of the deceased.

Lovely generic illegible headstone

However, a third class of cemetery record also exists, much less well known and much more informative. These are the local authority interment records.

What are they and why were they created?

The Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878  created public authority sanitary districts under the control of the Poor Law Boards of Guardians, and gave them responsibility for sewage, drains, water supply and … cemeteries.  When county councils came into existence in 1898 they inherited this mortuary responsibility and, it would appear, took it more seriously than their predecessors. At any rate, they began to keep records of every burial in the graveyards they controlled.

And what records they were! Most included the plot, the address, the date of death, the age at death, the cause of death, marital status, occupation, date of burial, next of kin …

Tralee burials in 1902. Poor Kate McQuinn died of a cold.

They were never intended to be public records, their relatively late start made them less obvious as genealogical sources and many have not survived, but over the past few years, some local authorities have begun to open them up for research. As guides to extended families, and clues for possible living relatives, they are wonderful. And sometimes, in the level of personal detail, just a little hair-raising.

Here’s a list of any I know are available, either online or in local archives. If you know of any others, please tell me and I’ll add them.

Cork Five cemeteries online at Cork Archives, another 15 onsite
Dublin (Fingal) Just launched online, a superb collection covering 33 graveyards in north Dublin and including more than 65,000 entries.
Dublin city Online transcript of the registers for Bluebell, Clontarf and Finglas. More please.
Kerry  The mother of all online interment register collections. More than 140 cemeteries with records coming right up to 2010.
Kildare A full collection onsite at Kildare Archives
Laois Registers of 27 graveyards, in the local studies section of Laois County Library.
Limerick Mount St Lawrence, complete from 1855
Mayo Full list of the registers held by the council.
Offaly Scanned copies of all available at the county library.
Waterford Six cemeteries online
Wexford Thirteen sets of graveyard registers on microfilm at the county archives.

7 thoughts on “More mortuary magic”

  1. In 2005 when I visited Blarney, home of my grandfather, we went to a cemetery outside Waterloo I think. A care taker was there and said a lady down the down road might be able to help you. He escorted us to her house and she invited us in. She left the room and came back with a register of the deceased. I’m thinking why does she have this and why doesn’t some agency have it. It had the date of my great grandmother and the number 101. We went back to the cemetery and after much searching found a little brick with the number 101. Apparently her husband had the duty and after he died she kept it. Sadly, I am not sure anyone will ever see it.

  2. That’s brilliant John, well done. I’ll add this to my database of genealogical data. Sharing all of the knowledge and research that you do is very gracious of you and much appreciated by me. Hopefully, I can make a contribution down the line.

  3. John, you keep finding these gems of information! And to think that for so long we all had pretty much accepted the fact that there were no records to be found, or at least very few. Suddenly our ancestors are rising from their graves, so to speak. Forgive me, no disrespect intended.
    I am quite taken with the title of this post, “Mortuary Magic”. Lol

    Thanks John.


  4. Please let us know if these records surface for Louth. I am trying to find my great grandfather John Dullaghan. The only one I can find in Drogheda isn’t him.😣

  5. Thanks John for doing more of your magic.

    Are you off then to Blarney, to see the woman Barb found with the inherited registry? 🙂 Wouldn’t it be interesting if it were just the tip of the iceberg.

  6. Hi John
    It would be great if you could publish all these blogs in book form. That would be so helpful.

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