Burial registers appear on the NLI site from as early as 1782 (Granard parish, County Longford), but most start in the early to mid 1800s. Burial entries are typically limited in information, usually with only the name and date of death included, along with his/her last place of residence. In the most complete death records for women you will find maiden names, appearing as ‘alias surname’ but sometimes only a woman’s married name is recorded.
While baptism and marriage, along with the anointing of the sick, are sacraments in the Catholic church, interment is not, so there would have been no requirement for recording burial registers.
From the Reformation in Ireland (c.1541) until full Catholic Emancipation, Catholic cemeteries were given over into Protestant control.
The movement for Catholic religious freedom which began in the late 1700’s, meant an easing of restrictions. The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 allowed the legal re-establishment of old Catholic burial grounds and the foundation of new ones.
With the suppression of Catholicism, burial registers kept by Catholic parishes are rare and an act of defiance.
We have to be more creative in our search for narrowing down dates of death and for finding Irish Catholic death/burial records
Church of Ireland Parish Registers
The upside of burial grounds being overseen by the Established Church, i.e. the Church of Ireland, is there are some existing Church of Ireland parish registers in which the burials of Roman Catholics are entered.
Be aware the date of burial and the date of death are rarely the same, usually differing by one to three days.
FREE: from-Ireland have 106 fully transcribed graveyards
70,000 Irish gravestone records, referencing hundreds of Irish graveyards, spanning all 32 counties
20,000 plus gravestone photographs, referencing hundreds of graveyards (from counties Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary and Wicklow) compiled and transcribed by Dr. Jane Lyons
FREE: The Irish Genealogy Projects Archives Headstone pages are excellent with over 82,000 headstones.
FREE: Irish Graveyards has a significant number of graveyard images and transcriptions, currently with a focus on cemeteries in the west and north counties of Ireland.
FREE: Stiff and Stones principally from cemeteries in Ireland. It is fully searchable by surname.
FREE: Historic Graves features more than 700 Irish graveyards, with approximately 400 complete surveys, geolocated headstone photos with inscriptions and person database, and about two graveyards added each week.
FREE: Regional burial records by county
FREE: Cemeteries – Ireland A list of cemetery headstones were transcribed by S & M Grieves
$$$: The Ulster Historical Foundation has over 173,000 records of death for Counties Antrim and Down. Access is either by Guild membership or ‘pay-as-you-go’.
$$$: Cemeteries such as The Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin have their online database available.
If your ancestor died in Dublin you can find a directory for all Dublin cemeteries on the Dublin Heritage website This listing includes all cemeteries in Dublin City, as well as those in Fingal (North County Dublin), South County Dublin, and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.
If you have ancestors who lived outside of Dublin or cities in general during An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger of 1845-52, and you are unable to find a burial record or site for them, you may want to check the records of city / workhouse cemeteries since a significant number of persons migrated in search of relief, only to die there.
Obituaries and Newspaper Reports
Although newspaper obituaries are most often limited to those who could afford them, you may be able to uncover the death of an ancestor by searching for stories of murder and mayhem, accidents and illness.
Eviction made people even more vulnerable, an ancestor whose name appears on that list may have died shortly thereafter, giving you at the very least at starting point in your search for date of death. Also, 1491 evicted from Strokestown immigrated to Canada, and the Library & Archives Canada has information about them, including some who died. (See Search for Anne and Michael: The National Famine Museum Strokestown)
Civil Registration Records
If your ancestor died after 1864, then chances are there may exist a civil registration record of death However, if such a record is missing, you may still be able to narrow down the date by comparing the civil registration records of birth and/or marriage for his children.
It is not unknown for a pregnant woman to have been widowed, so while her husband’s name appears on the birth registration of his first child, he may have died before the second was born.
Likewise, a father who was alive for the wedding of one child may have died before the wedding of another, and may be recorded as deceased on the second child’s marriage record.
Obviously, a comparison is not a record, but at least by comparing the two you may be able to narrow down the date of death for the parent in question.
Parish Register Entries of Marriage
Some parish register entries for marriages sometimes indicate whether or not one or both of the parents of the bride and the groom were deceased at the time of the marriage between their children.
As is the case with civil registration records of marriage, if you look at the parish records of marriage for all of the children in a family, you may discover a parent was alive to witness the marriage of one child and then deceased at the time of the marriage of another. Again, not a record, but comparing the two may help you to narrow down the date of death for the parent in question.
Irish County Library & Archive Websites
Online you may find death, burial and transcription records on some county websites. One site which is invaluable for researchers with ancestors in County Clare is the website of the Clare County Library
Although no match for the Clare library, you can connect to sources for death records and gravestone transcriptions via the Mayo County Library Also, be sure to consult the Irish Archives Resource a portal which will link you to archival collections throughout the island of Ireland.
Contact the Parish / Cemetery
Contacting a parish is no guarantee you will be able to retrieve such a record, but it is certainly worth the effort.
For cemeteries that do not have an online presence it may be possible to gain access to information about your ancestor’s burial by contacting the cemetery office by phone, or by making a written request to the sexton or caretaker at the cemetery office.