Wednesday 24 July 2013

Mount St Lawrence cemetery: Phase 1 almost complete

Limerick City Archives will be releasing a searchable database of nearly 70,000 burial register entries for Mount St Lawrence cemetery next month. The burial ground has been the primary place of interment for all sectors of the population of Limerick City since it opened in 1849 and is one of the largest cemeteries in Ireland.

This will mark the completion of Phase One of the Mount St Lawrence project, which started in 2008/09. Initially, the registers were digitally copied and made available for free download in a series of pdfs (here). Since 2010, Archives staff have been working with students from the History Department of Mary Immaculate College of Education to manually transcribe the registers; they date from 1855 to 2008 and record name, age, address and, in some cases, the cause of death of those buried in the 16-acre cemetery.

"The greatest challenge of this phase has been deciphering some of the writing in the registers," Limerick City Archivist Jacqui Hayes told Irish Genealogy News. There were so many different staff making entries in the registers, there were inevitably a lot of inconsistencies, spelling mistakes and other errors. So the quality control exercise has been intense."

She added that while the initial release of the online collection – on 20 August – will be searchable by surname, it is possible that the database may be refined, in time, to be searchable by date or even address.

In the meantime, Phase Two of the Mount St Lawrence project is already underway. This involves the mapping and photographing of every plot in the cemetery. Some 70 students from the Geography department of the college have been carrying out this work every week for some months and have already completed one-third of the cemetery.

"The resulting database should finish in April 2014 and it is our intention to merge the two databases," said Jacqui. "We will also be producing a publication and we plan to hold a conference next April to showcase the project and its results."

The event, and the successful completion of the Mount St Lawrence cemetery project, will form part of Limerick's celebrations as Ireland's first National City of Culture in 2014.