Kerry Deaths and Burials
A lot of Kerry descendants are either searching for the burial places of their ancestors or death certificates in order to put a date and hopefully place, on the departure of the long deceased relative.
I find death certs to be the least reliable sources of an ancestor’s genealogy and in many cases a direct path to the proverbial ‘brick wall’. ‘How could that be?’ you ask.
Well let’s deal with Irish Death Certs first. Deaths were not recorded by either Church or State until it became a legal obligation to register all citizens’ deaths from 1864 onwards. For us living in Ireland, we know what ‘legal obligation’ means. It means that we will carry out the legal obligation’ if it is convenient, if we are well disposed towards our government and if there is no great punishment for ignoring the law in question. So in the early days, up to the late 1800’s, if the family of the deceased was living in a remote area, if there appeared to be no great urgency in carrying out the letter of the law, then it just got forgotten about. Respect for the deceased and carrying out the religious rituals associated with death were scrupulously adhered to but going to the nearest Registration District to fill in forms was just seen as a nuisance. The result is some ‘missing’ death records before 1900 and indeed I spent a fruitless couple of hours in the Genealogy Registration Office (GRO) in Dublin since Christmas, trying to find two different families from the Killarney and Kenmare Registration districts for the periods 1912-1921 without success.
The information on these Civil Death Certificates is limited enough. The name and address of the deceased at the time of his/her death, his/her marital status, age, the medical cause of death and the name of the person present at death are the facts recorded The age more than likely is incorrect. As the deceased didn’t know his/her age while alive, it is hardly likely that his/her next of kin would be accurate.
U.S. & Australian Death Records
While I encourage descendants to search records in their adopted home at the very start of their ancestor search, particularly births and marriages, records of deaths are invariably unhelpful. Death Certificates are notorious for misinformation as the deceased has no personal input to either his age (even if he knew it), or location of birth. If the emigrant ancestor didn’t know his age when leaving Ireland and just guessed it during his lifetime in America,/Canada/Australia/New Zealand, well then his next of kin, all born in the new country is only able to make a wild guess in most cases.
While there will be valuable questions on these forms, for example asking where the deceased was born, the reply can sometimes be the correct place, but more often it is some mish-mash of phonetic English or even a different county in Ireland to the correct one. Again one could not expect the surviving relative who is signing the death certificate in Boston, Sydney or Wellington to be familiar with Irish ‘home’ townlands and parishes. Taking some time in considering a strangely spelled place, pronouncing it out loud often leads to a ‘light bulb’ moment.
Kerry Burial Records
In theory these should be straight forward. But theory is not practice. Kerry County Council have an excellent website www.kerrylaburials.ie for each of the local authority graveyards in the county. The dates at which these records begin, vary from Derryco (Ballyduff) 1919 to Kilcolman (Milltown) 1977. I had occasion recently, to enquire from the County Council if it would be possible to look up old records, of St. Michael’s Graveyard, Listowel. The online records for that burial ground start in 1961 and I was hoping to find a date or even maybe a location of a particular grave. I was informed that while they had the original written records going back to at least the 1930s, it would not be possible to discuss any individual grave with me or to see these records as ‘there is sensitive information in the book of a financial nature’ and this would contravene data protection laws! I have no idea what the ‘sensitive financial information’ might be, I presume it was payment or otherwise for graves in the first half of the last century.
Finally my most recent research into Kerry Deaths and Burials threw up a conundrum. I found the correct index for a Thomas Connor (not his real surname) on www.IrishGenealogy.ie Civil Registration. From the Group Registration on the Index, I acquired a copy of the Death Certificate from the GRO. Thomas died according to his death certificate on 18th November 1958. I then tracked down his burial place to Templenoe (Old) and found his burial registered there 30th October 1958.
Something wrong somewhere obviously but where?
[box] ContJoe Maher’s Photographs of tombstones tombs cemeteries with inscriptions from all over Kerry 1770-2014. Another excellent site, a very visual one, is www.Kerryburials.com. Joe Maher has included the headstones of 235 cemeteries to-date. He has photographed and logged 250,00+ names inscribed. Excellent quality photos can be freely viewed with minimal cost to purchase. Some of the most evocative burial grounds here are the very oldest and while you won’t see individual inscriptions on crosses or monuments in these graveyards you will get a great flavour of our older burial grounds.ent goes here[/box]