Simple steps to survey an historic graveyard

When we run our workshops we cover a lot of ground and 'learn by doing'. The average training session lasts two days and our training manual is twenty pages long - but most people learn the system without even using the manual. People sometimes ask us to condense the system further and this is a quick attempt to do so.

In the training workshops we cover 3 Simple Steps to Surveying an Historic Graveyard/Cemetery and the system has been used to publish everything from small rural graveyards to very large urban cemeteries.

The system feeds directly into our own site but it works equally well for building a dataset to upload to any digital database.

The simple steps are  Read more »

Jacinta Kiely Newstalk Interview with Sean Moncrieff 07032014

Jacinta was on the Moncrieff Show on Newstalk ( this afternoon and gave a broad introduction to the Historic Graves Project, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the whole thing. We have the software and the methodology while the communities have the knowledge, the grá, the heritage and local authorities and Leader development companies have the ethos and imagination to support the overall project.

The interview can be heard towards the end of the above link or more directly here Read more »

Vectorising simple graveyard sketch plans

We train communities to do simple sketch plans of historic graveyards ( The gravediggers 3 ft or 1 m pace is key to drawing a simple but accurate sketch plan. With our friends in Glanmire, Co. Cork we have been surveying Rathcooney graveyard. We did the standard pencil on A4 sheet drawing of the older section of the graveyard and uploaded it to the website and now Robin Turk has vectorised the drawing for the group. We did it as an experiment to see how long it would take. It took a few hours to do but I think it is very atractive and clear. Read more »

How-to Signup to Become a Transcriber


A short video showing how to signup and become a member of the Historic Graves website and project. Read more »

Video of rubbings in Shanrahan, Co. Tipperary, and a very fine headstone


Under the shadow of the Knockmealdowns Tony & Mark took to the recording of the graveyards of south Tipperary like ducks to water. Mark is a geographer and Tony a retired builder so they both had a strong spatial sense and a tidy approach to dealing with paperwork.

This video shows the lads doing their first newsprint rubbing in Shanrahan graveyard. The group of graveyards from Newcastle, Tubrid and Shanrahan have a distinctive iconography of carving in the tympanum (top part of headstone). Common motifs in the Arma Christi headstones are the Pillar on which Our Lord was scourged entwined with the rope which bound him and this is clearly seen in the rubbing. Read more »

Search by Stonecutter

As we work with community groups around the country one of our main aims to track the different stonecutters who have worked in Ireland. We record the carved grave memorials by geotagged photo and database record sheets always taking care to record the stonemason/cutter if they have signed their work.

We can now search the Historic Graves database for stonecutter/stonemason in the Family Search view Read more »

Stonecutters, stone masons and stone carvers - some Irish sources

As we record grave memorials throughout the country we come across the names of the stonecarvers and cutters who made them. Sometimes a signature (in full or initials) is found below the upper carvings and sometimes at the base of the stone. We have come across Bolster, Beary, Keane and Dack, amongst many others, and as the project develops we will pursue other historic sources to research these tradesmen. Read more »

How to draw a sketch plan of an historic graveyard

Grave plots are generally three feet wide and six feet long. Most grave plots are arranged in rows. The very first thing when recording an historic graveyard is to identify the row arrangements. Be patient and let the patterns reveal themselves - we prefer to find the straightest row (often along a boundary wall) and start there. Then we number the memorials (using strips of masking tape with numbers stuck to the back of the memorials) and sketch the relative location of the memorials. With practice, surprisingly accurate plans can be drawn. We have been using A4 ruled pages for the drawings but Robin Turk has just designed a new template sheet for the plans. Read more »

Sunlight on a headstone


The key tools we use in reading headstones are the sun and the human eye. Oblique sunlight casts shadows on incised inscriptions allowing patterns to be recognised and words to be read. Patience is rewarded in graveyard recording when that perfect moment arrives and a previously undecipherable inscription is lit up by the sun emerging from behind the clouds. Using a mirror to bounce the sunlight during afternoon recording sessions onto the headstone face gives surprisingly good results. 
Rubbing grass, soil, chalk and other foreigh substances onto a stone are all less effective than the use of a torch and mirror and are strongly discouraged. They do not work and they may damage the memorial stone. Read more »

Brambles, nests and gravestones in Prospecthall

The Piltown/Kinsalebeg Community Alert Group called a graveyard meitheal ( last weekend and a group of gloved volunteers armed with clippers and hedge cutters assembled to improve the accessibility of the historic graveyard. Following the guidance of the Care and Conservation booklet ( Terry O'Callaghan, Chairman, consulted with the county heritage officer and also got in touch with us in Historic Graves.

In little over three hours an area measuring 400 sq m was shorn of brambles and grass clumps while a railed memorial at the eastern end of the ruined church was cleared of some invasive elder plants. Read more »

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