Galway’s award-winning digital graveyard project records over 40,000 memorials

Graveyard survey of Clontuskert Abbey, one of more than 30 sites in Galway where memorials have been recorded as part of the “Digitising Galway’s Graveyard Heritage” project.
Survey of Clontuskert Abbey, one of more than 30 cemeteries in Galway where memorials have been recorded as part of the “Digitising Galway’s Graveyard Heritage” project (pic: (Old) Maxar, Microsoft | © Galway County Council | Ordnance Survey Ireland, Galway County Council | Esri Community Maps Contributors, Esri UK, Esri, TomTom, Garmin, Foursquare, GeoTechnologies, Inc, METI/NASA, USGS).

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Galway County Council’s digital graveyard project, cataloguing and mapping over 40,000 memorials, has earned a national prize for community engagement and technological innovation. The project’s 40,000+ burial records are free to access online, proving invaluable for genealogical research. 

Galway County Council has received national recognition for its innovative digital project, which recorded and mapped more than 40,000 gravemarkers and their inscriptions in over 30 of the county’s graveyards. These burial records are available to view online for free.

Also involved in the project were Galway Rural Development, Forum Connemara, the Heritage Council, the National Monuments Service and Galway County Community Archaeology Service, working alongside various voluntary community groups and schools.

Experts were engaged to train the local groups in surveying techniques, as well as the use of mobile app technology and drone mapping. Each memorial was photographed and the type of monument was noted (e.g. headstone, ledger, tomb, etc.). All memorial inscriptions were transcribed in full for posterity.

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Meticulously recording these memorials demands considerable effort and persistence, particularly when deciphering older and worn inscriptions that often rely heavily on local knowledge of names and placenames. Uninscribed gravemarkers of all varieties were also photographed and mapped. All of the 40,000+ memorial records and accompanying detailed maps were uploaded onto Galway County Council’s online database.

This resource is particularly valuable to genealogical researchers tracing their Galway roots. All of the photos, transcribed inscriptions and maps can be accessed here, where you can search by graveyard name, surname, first name and death date.

>>> Read More: Tracing your roots online using old records of Irish gravestone memorials and “Mems Dead”

On Thursday night, 11 April, the “Digitising Galway’s Graveyard Heritage” project was named the overall winner of the “Community Engagement” category of Esri Ireland’s annual “Customer Success Awards” held in Anantara The Marker Dublin Hotel. This is the project’s second national award, having been named winner at the Public Sector Digital Transformation Awards last October.

Galway County Council receiving the Community Engagement award at Esri Ireland’s Customer Success Awards.
Pictured receiving the “Community Engagement” award at Esri Ireland’s “Customer Success Awards”, left to right, are Mackenzie Boland (GIS analyst), Barry Doyle (GIS project leader), Anthonin Lizé (GIS analyst/developer) and Brídín Feeney (GIS technician) of Galway County Council (pic: John Ohle Photography).

Welcoming this latest win, Cllr Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, commented:

“The success of the digital mapping of graveyards project is the result of forensic research and cutting-edge surveying work by the local authority’s heritage department and local communities across Galway. This award win is testament to the innovative nature of the project and its benefit to the diaspora and academia at home and abroad.”

Outlining the background to the project, Barry Doyle, Geographic Information System (GIS) project lead for Galway County Council, said:

“We have been working with various community groups and organizations to collect and collate valuable data relating to those who are buried in various graveyards for several years.

Galway County Council, with funding from the Heritage Council, the Open Data Engagement Fund and its own resources developed and made available a mobile app specifically for use by surveyors at the local level for memorial surveys, along with associated data management and validation processes … This technology, along with drone technology, was made available to local community groups to expand the number of graveyards in the project resulting in the 40,000 records that are now publicly available.”

Esri Ireland is the global market leader in GIS. Its software is used widely in Ireland by both public and private sector organizations, including most local authorities.

The award-winning graveyard project can be accessed here.

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