While we weren’t able to find any headstones confirming our family’s history when we walked the graveyards alongside church ruins of their home parishes in Ireland—not, at least, among the legible ones there—we did find several old stones which clearly showed their message. Some of them, as I later found out when scrolling through microfilm records when we stopped at Dublin, featured surnames that repeatedly appeared in parish documents.
Though these do not represent any surnames from my husband’s Irish roots, the least we can do is share what we found, in case anyone else is searching for details on these lines. The following photographs are of headstones found next to the ruins of the Catholic Church in the townland of Castletown in County Limerick, near the border with County Cork.
Some of these stones revealed family tales intertwined with the engraved names—some yielding details on many generations; some, like this one below, providing at least a snapshot of the family constellation back in the early 1800s.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Mary Quilty + son John
In memory of her Husband
Late of Castletown
Who Depd life April 7th A.D. 1836
Ag’d 63 Yrs
May his Soul rest in peace Amen
Some headstones had lettering so clear, it was hard to imagine it surviving intact in such superb condition since the early 1800s. And it likely didn’t. This headstone, for instance, appears to have had the indentations left from the original engraving re-touched in black. Once again, the record provides not only a snapshot of the one deceased member, but also a group record of the family constellation.
Dan Deely of Rusheen
In Memory of his Father
Wllm Deely Who Depd life
June 1st 1828 Ag’d 57ys Also his Mother
Mary Deely Who Depd life May 6th
1841 Agd 53 yrs And his Brother
Willm Depd life Augst 12th 1828 Agd 27 yrs
And his Belovd Wife Ellen Deely
Depd life March 14th 1862
Agd 57 yrs
May their Souls rest in peace Amen
Some stones didn’t fare as well—or at least, didn’t have anyone to look after properly preserving them through the centuries. This stone, possibly missing some details, still included the timeless request to share in the burden of prayer for those now departed.
Please pray for deceased members of Byrnes family
The most difficult ones to encounter in this search for our family were those which were near impossible to read. Could we be walking away from a stone marking the resting place of an ancestor, and yet not know it? Some, clear enough to make out the lettering, were obviously engraved in Irish, not English. Others were worn enough that it was next to impossible to determine which language was being used. And some, sadly, had ceased telling their story at all.
All photographs courtesy Chris Stevens.