A free website which allows users to access the location, names and details of graves in a number of cemeteries is expanding further into Longford.
IrishGraveyards.ie, which surveys graveyards and records names, dates and location of graves – including a photograph of the headstone – was established in 2007, and has since gone on to feature hundreds of graveyards on their site.
Its founder Michael Durkan, an undertaker from Mayo, got the idea back in 2006 after the death of his father. “My father would have known all the graves in our local graveyard and when he passed away, I approached the local parish priest and said we need to compile all the details of the graves so everyone can access the knowledge my father would have had,” he told the Leader this week.
Since the first graveyard in Co Mayo, Michael has noticed a knock-on effect as neighbouring parishes hear about the service. Michael’s company Irish Graveyard Surveyors has already compiled details of a number of cemeteries in Longford: Abbeylara, Abbeylara monastery, Carra, Granard and Mullinalaghta. The details of Loch Gowna graveyard are also online.
The process of surveying a graveyard takes roughly two to three months. “We start out with a digital survey mapping all the graves. We then print a vinyl sheet of the graveyard which we display in the local church where people can correct details or add people to graves that might not have been on the gravestone for whatever reason,” Michael said.
The information is then uploaded to the website along with a photograph of each grave. On site, an easy-to- follow sign is erected at the entrance to the graveyard with a map and index of all the grave names and locations.
Costs to survey a graveyard costs approximately €2,000, depending on the size, with a small upkeep charge to maintain the details on the website after, and to add new additions or changes.
In the last 12 months alone, the website has had two million hits, despite very little publicity other than by word of mouth. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people logging onto the site are in the US with Ireland next, then the UK and Australia.
“Seeing the breakdown of hits is fascinating,” Michael said, adding: “We’ve had people on the website from everywhere you would expect but also places like Egypt and China, just proving how wide the Irish diaspora has travelled.”
Irish Graveyard Surveyors are in discussions with a number of Longford parishes to get their graveyard details compiled and online, a move Michael believes will open up the history of the parish to everyone.
“Going back to my father knowing all the graves in our parish and having that knowledge, this allows anyone to log onto particular graveyards and check how far records of your surname go back or to see the number of deaths in a particular year and so on.”
Longford Town Council have already compiled their own details of Ballymacormack cemetery and are now working with Glasnevin Trust to get the records online, as reported previously in the Longford Leader.
To date, the oldest grave found dates from 1647 in Muff in Co Donegal. As they continue the survey into Longford, who knows what details will be uncovered?