Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Cemetery projects establish a social history of Limerick

The first in a series of projects aimed at documenting the social history of Limerick through one of the country’s largest cemeteries has been completed.

Mayor of Limerick Kathleen Leddin this evening officially launched an online, searchable database of 70,000 people buried at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery.

Staff from Limerick City Archives in conjunction with the History Department of Mary Immaculate College, have spent two years manually transcribing thousands of handwritten records of those buried at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery between 1855 and 2008. The records include the name, age, address and grave location of those buried in the 164-year-old cemetery.

Other projects underway include an illustrated publication outlining the social history of Limerick City through public submissions of photographs and stories relating to those buried in the cemetery. The book will be launched in April 2014 as part of a major conference on cemeteries, which is being organised in conjunction with Limerick being named Ireland’s first City of Culture next year.

Meanwhile, work is presently underway to develop a publicly-available online map of all burial plots at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery. Students and academics from the Geography and History Departments of Mary Immaculate College are working together with Limerick City Archives on the project.

Speaking at this evening’s launch event at the Georgian House in Pery Square, Mayor Leddin acknowledged the work of Limerick City Archives and Mary Immaculate College in creating “a lasting and precious record of Limerick’s social history.”

“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 final resting places of our citizens are documented. This project represents the first in a series of projects aimed at making it easier for members of the public, both at home and abroad, to locate information relating to their deceased relatives,” she added.

Mount St Lawrence graveyard, located in the South Liberties, 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.

Commenting on the newly launched online database of burials at the cemetery,Jacqui Hayes, Limerick City Archivist, Limerick City Council, said: “The records contain the names, addresses at time of death, ages, position of the grave and dates of death of all those buried in the cemetery. This information makes them an invaluable resource for those conducting genealogical research on the Limerick area. The records also offer a unique tool for those conducting research into the social history of Limerick and mortality rates for all ages in Limerick City and its environs for over a century and a half.”

“The address of the deceased gives an indication of the footfall of various institutions including the mental hospital and the County Infirmary. These are invaluable in the case of Limerick Union Workhouse whose admissions records are no longer available. This feature of the records also reflects the political and consequently geographical changes which took place in the city of Limerick, for example the renaming of the streets over time,” she concluded.

The online, searchable database may be viewed at www.limerick.ie/cityarchives.