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Burying the Past? Evidence of Burial Customs in Wills

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 25, 2009


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by Christina Morgan

"The study of wills can provide an insight into individual and societal responses to death and burial, providing a wealth of information about factors such as social class, age, sex, and religious beliefs which can help our understanding of the rituals and practices surrounding the disposal of human remains. The Victorian era is of particular interest because of the widely acknowledged ‘culture of death’ that was prominent during this period and which saw the emergence of unique attitudes and practices to death and burial.

This study of burial location in Ireland during the Victorian period focuses upon burial preference and the choice of burial location as specified by the individual, with the aim of understanding why certain sites were selected as ‘final resting places’ for the deceased. The study of eighteenth century and nineteenth century Irish wills forms the basis of this research in the hope that they might provide an explanation for the wishes and requests of testators, especially with regard to what would happen to their body after their decease."

This article looks at a sample of Irish wills for the district of Armagh from 1858 to 1864, in order to gain insight into the Victorian culture of death in Ireland, including burial customs.