Have you ever noticed, while wandering around Dublin City and its environs, that there are a distinct lack of graveyards beside Catholic Churches?
Have a think about it; neither St. Mary’s ProCathedral in Marlborough Street, St Catherine’s in Meath Street, Saint Nicholas of Myra (formerly the ProCathedral) in Francis Street…. not a graveyard between them. So why was this?….. and how do I find out where my Dublin ancestor was buried?
Before I explain the how, I need to give you a little history lesson to understand the why?
The Irish parliament in the 1700s was exclusively Protestant despite the fact that Catholics formed the vast majority of the population. For most of the 1700s, a penal system existed throughout Ireland, which discriminated against Catholics and served to secure the political, economic and social ascendancy of Protestants in Ireland. Restrictions were imposed on the freedom of Catholics to practice their religion, educate their children, become teachers, inherit, own or lease land, to enter the major professions and to vote… and Catholics were forbidden from having burial places attached to their churches. Thus in Dublin City today, not a single Catholic Church has a graveyard attached.
So, where were all the Catholics buried?
Have you ever noticed, while wandering around Dublin City and its environs, that there are graveyards beside Church of Ireland Churches?
Well, if you happen to be in a Church of Ireland graveyard, you may notice some headstones with ‘IHS’ inscriptions and crosses which generally denote Catholic burials. So, Catholics could be buried in Church of Ireland graveyards, however to add further humiliation to Catholics, the Catholic priests were forbidden from performing the burial ceremonies. This practice continued until Catholic emancipation in 1829 and the establishment of the first Catholic Cemetery in Goldenbridge in Inchicore, Dublin. It is important to note that at this time in Irish history, the majority of the Irish Catholics were poor tenant farmers or poor city dwellers so you would be unlikely to find a headstone for your ancestor.
So, if we are looking for our ancestors burial place from this period in our history, it would be remiss of us not to check the Church of Ireland records. As the Church of Ireland was the established Church in Ireland since the 1600s, their records start much earlier than the Roman Catholic records. It ceased to be the established Church in 1870.
The Church of Ireland are in the process of digitising their records and some parish records are available online at the RCB Library; https://www.ireland.anglican.org/about/genealogy
If you cannot find what you are looking for, I would recommend you visit the RCB Library in person as they have records for over 1,000 parishes. They are located at Braemor Park, Churchtown, Dublin, D14 YH51