Tombstone inscriptions are a rich resource for family history research as memorials can often contain the details of several generations of a family. However, it is not until later in the 19th century that inscribed stones become more prevalent. Indeed, many families could not afford a tombstone and often a burial was marked with a wooden cross or unmarked and it was usually the wealthier families who were inclined to erect memorials.
Cantwell’s Memorials of the Dead
The most comprehensive collection of County Wicklow tombstone inscriptions was compiled in the 1970s by Mr. Brian Cantwell in his four volumes – Cantwell’s Memorials of the Dead. These records can be accessed online at www.findmypast.ie . The printed volumes are available (reference only) from the Wicklow Library Service. A digitised version of the memorials is available on CD ROM from Eneclann. (Please note Cantwell’s cut-off date was 1880 – he did not record any tombstones erected after this date – but if a stone erected before 1880 contained an inscription that was added later, Cantwell recorded this). Cantwell’s contribution to our county’s heritage is immeasurable as he captured the information on many stones that have since perished due to the elements.
The Irish Genealogical Project has also done outstanding work on making many County Wicklow tombstone inscriptions and images available online. There are also some Wicklow inscriptions available on Interment.net (mainly West Wicklow). The websites www.findagrave.com and www.historicgraves.com also have Wicklow tombstones.
Burial records can be a difficult source to access in Ireland. Most Roman Catholic parishes only kept baptism and marriage records and did not tend to keep burial registers. Church of Ireland parishes usually kept burial registers and most of these can be found in the Representative Church Body Library or are held in local parishes. County Wicklow Church of Ireland burial records up to 1900 can be accessed on Roots Ireland or contact the archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org . You will find county council burial registers in most county council archives including Wicklow County Archives, but they mainly date from the 1930s onwards. A full list of county council burial registers and start dates can be found in the document below: