The latest in a series of projects aimed at documenting the social history of Limerick through one of the country’s largest cemeteries, Mount St Lawrence, was launched at Limerick City Hall today by Catriona Crowe from the National Archives.
Limerick Museum and Archives (LM&A) in partnership with Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, has produced an online, searchable database of 7816 grave markers in Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery. All have been photographed, GPS located and are indexed by the first surname on the grave markers. Two thirds have been fully transcribed and are searchable by each individual recorded on a grave marker.
An interactive map, which is publicly available on mountsaintlawrence.limerick.ie shows the exact location of individual burial plots, and is the result of work carried out over the past two years by more than 350 volunteers who photographed and transcribed grave markers throughout the 18-acre site.
The online database was launched on the opening day of a three-day conference exploring the theme of death and burial in Ireland, which is being organised by LM&A in partnership with Mary Immaculate College.
Mayor Leddin paid tribute to the hundreds of students and academics from the Geography and History Departments of Mary Immaculate College who together with Limerick Museum and Archives volunteered their time to provide "a useful and fascinating record of burials in Limerick City's largest cemetery."
"The development of a publicly-available online map that allows people to pinpoint the exact location within the cemetery of their loved one's burial plot is a wonderful achievement for everyone concerned and greatly complements last year's launch of the serachable database of burial records,” said Mayor Kathleen Leddin. “Our cemeteries and the stories surrounding those who are buried there contain vital links to our past and therefore, it is important that these stories and the location of the final resting places of our citizens are documented," she added.
The launch of the burial ground map and book is one of the highlights of the three-day 'Beyond The Grave' conference, which features speakers from Ireland and overseas and culminates with site visits throughout the City.
Limerick City and County Council Archivist Jacqui Hayes explained: "The Geography and History Departments of Mary Immaculate College have been working with us for almost three years on a joint project to digitise the records of Mount St. Lawrence and to showcase its historic importance to the city. The information that has been collated will prove to be an invaluable resource, particularly for those conducting genealogical research in the Limerick area."
"This conference will also explore a range of themes that explore the social and physical acts surrounding burial and death in both modern and ancient Ireland. This conference is for everyone interested in this area of our heritage, and is especially timely considering Limerick is this year celebrating being Ireland's first National City of Culture."
Speakers and topics being discussed during the conference include: Dr Joan O' Doherty, Civil Funeral Celebrant (English Versus Irish Death Rites); John Tierney, Historic Graves Project (Surveying, documenting, publishing of Historic Graves); Dr. Ursula O'Callaghan, Independent Scholar (What the obituaries tell us about society); Leonie Kellaher, Professor Emeritus, Cities Institute, London Metropolitan University (Where are the Dead?); and Emeritus Professor Patricia Lysaght, UCD (Attitudes to Dying, Death and Burial as Expressed in Irish Folklore). The keynote speaker Turtle Bunbury, author of Vanishing Ireland, is looking at how burial practices have changed in the recent past.
The conference concludes on Sunday with tours of various graveyards in Limerick City Centre, including Mount Saint Lawrence, St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Bridget's Watchhouse Cross. Conference delegates will also visit the LMA's City of Churches Exhibition which is taking place throughout Limerick City during 2014. The secular exhibition examines Limerick’s churches and places of worship through their records, buildings and impact on the social history of the City.
About Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery: The graveyard is located in the South Liberties and has been the primary place of burial in Limerick City for all strata of society since its opening in 1849. Its development was initiated as burial ground capacity elsewhere in the city was placed under pressure following cholera epidemics in the 1830’s and the Great Famine in the 1840’s. An extension to Mount St Lawrence was opened in 1960.
The management of the cemetery was transferred from the Church to the Limerick City Council in 1979. Mount Saint Lawrence contains plots reserved for particular groups, including religious and diocesan graves and the Republican plot. One of the largest is the Good Shepherd Plot where 241 women who had passed through its reformatory for girls, industrial school and Magdalene asylum on Clare Street were buried. They were unmarked until a campaign resulted in the erection of markers listing by name the women interred there.