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Major survey of graves underway 23.09.10

by Linda McGrory

A MAMMOTH survey of graveyards currently underway in Inishowen to map the names and burial places of the peninsula's deceased will be a "huge boost" to local genealogy.
The indepth graveyard index is being compiled by Irish Graveyard Surveyors Ltd., (IGS Ltd.,) and the company claims the project will bring a massive historical and genealogical boost to the area.
IGS Ltd., is a private firm, started four years ago, by Mick Durkan and Niall Broderick, from Castlebar, Co Mayo.
The two men have already surveyed thousands of graves around the peninsula including Iskaheen, Muff and Drung as well as Bocan, Culdaff and Ballybrack, Greencastle.
Their survey begins next week at cemeteries around Buncrana including Cockhill and Desertegney. Parochial permission is still being sought for graveyards including those at Burt, Inch and Fahan and other parishes.
Mr Durkan said the company, which employs 12 people, has so far invested 160,000 surveying graveyards all along the west coast including west Donegal. The company aims to survey every grave in Ireland over the coming years.
Mick Durkan, left, and Niall Broderick of Irish Graveyard Surveyors Ltd at Ballybrack cemetery in Greencastle.
"We want to get the whole community involved. The main benefit is that deceased people won't ever be forgotten because every plot will be surveyed even if it doesn't have a headstone or isn't marked," said Mr Durkan.
"It will be a great genealogical tool for anyone searching for their family roots which is a huge industry. I get countless phone-calls every week from people in America and other places."
Inishowen local historian, Sean Beattie agreed, saying the project will bring great benefits to the area.
"This is a great piece of news for Inishowen genealogy. Donegal has lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of the listing of graveyards," he said.
"I think this will be an incredibly helpful tool to historians and researchers on a worldwide basis and will also be a great addition to the 1901-1911 Census which is now online," he added.
IGS Ltd., surveys each graveyard from dawn to dusk each day and sends the information by email to their Castlebar headquarters at night. Parishioners will first get a chance to see the graveyard map on paper - posted in local chapels - before a permanent sign is erected. People are invited to offer any corrections or amendments to the index.
A stainless steel sign is then erected at the graveyard with the map and the corresponding alphabetical listing of names showing the deceased person's name, address, month and year of death, age at time of death and plot number.
Mr Durkan said the company is getting a favourable response from local authorities in terms of planning permission for the signage.
The company will not profit from the survey itself but the cost will be covered by the local parish. The average cost of survey the Inishowen graveyards is between 3,000 and 3,500. IGS Ltd., will also have a website up and running from next year on which they hope to sell advertising space to the funeral trade including undertakers, monumental sculptors, florists and hotels. The website will allow users to find any grave including a digital photograph of the plot.
Meanwhile, once the sign is erected, it can be updated as and when the parish decides, for a nominal cost. Anyone who would like to contact IGS Ltd., can email .
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