Graveyards are a wonderful place to find out more about our heritage. A graveyard is the most accessible source for the study of the history of a local community. Because of the detailed information they contain, gravestones provide an ideal launch pad for any genealogical investigation.

The value of gravestone inscriptions for ancestral research has long been recognised. Sometimes the discovery of a gravestone may provide more information on the history of a family than documentary sources. Prior to 1864, when official registration of deaths began in Ireland, and in the absence of burial registers, a gravestone inscription may be the only source for an individual’s date of death.

The information recorded on gravestones varies considerably. Some will bear the name of the family interred beneath the stone and nothing else. Others may contain detailed information about several generations of one family. A date of death will usually be given for each person named on the gravestone. Ages will be frequently given, meaning that a year of birth can be estimated.

Other information recorded in a gravestone inscription includes the place of residence, occupation of the deceased, and sometimes even the cause or circumstances of death. Often an overseas connection will be mentioned, such as a family member who died in another part of the world.

Greyabbey graveyard
Greyabbey graveyard

Through the perseverance and dedication of Professor Richard Clarke, former Chairman and long-time Trustee of the Ulster Historical Foundation, over 30 volumes of Northern Irish gravestone inscriptions were published by the Foundation between 1966 and 2005.

This area includes digitised copies of the published volumes: 21 for Co. Down and four each for Co. Antrim and Belfast. Each graveyard contains a general introduction, followed by the inscriptions from a series of burial grounds within a defined geographical area.

Note: This is an ongoing project and some volumes might be missing. We hope that by early 2024 every volume in this series will be added.