Dec 15, 2022

Introducing Mems Dead

Mems Dead is a tool to help you make the most of a wonderful source for researching Irish family history and local history: the Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland (also known as the Journal of the Irish Memorials Association).

Quoting from the Mems Dead web site:

What is in the Journals

Most people will find something in the Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland (also known as the Journal of the Irish Memorials Association) that is of interest and value for their Irish family history research or Irish local history research.  The lucky ones will even find mention of the particular people or places they are researching.

Record types

A diverse array of records were captured in the Journals.  The vast majority of Journal entries contain gravestone inscriptions.  A reasonable proportion include snippets of family history; very occasionally they include pedigree charts or descendant reports.  Some Journal entries incorporate transcripts of parish register entries, funeral entries, newspaper clippings and other records such as wills, marriage licence bonds and family bibles.  Coats of arms are represented, both as illustrations and blazon.  The names and residences of the Journals’ subscribers and contributors are given.  Other content includes: local histories; church/graveyard histories and illustrations; lists of ministers by parish; and descriptions of church plate (e.g. chalices).

The Journals can act as a substitute when the underlying sources have been lost, particularly gravestones, many of which have become illegible due to weathering, vegetation and destruction.

As well as being a source of information in their own right, the Journals can act as a gateway to other valuable sources.  When a record or publication is referenced in the Journals, it is advisable to look for the original (if it survives) because it may include further information of interest beyond what was extracted in the Journals.  Similarly, it is worth checking any entries that mention a place of interest or nearby places – even if they do not directly touch on your research subject, they may signpost useful avenues for further research.

Date range

Most of the information in the Journals relates to the 18th and early 19th centuries.  There is also a reasonable amount of information relating to the 17th century and outliers on either side of this range.  Consequently, the Journals helpfully supplement mainstream sources for Irish genealogical research, providing evidence of events that pre-date civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in Ireland as well as many of the surviving parish registers.

Some of the information in the Journals relates to the date of production/publication, between 1888 and 1939 (e.g. details of subscribers and contributors).

Geographic scope

The Journals contain information from every county in Ireland but the extent of coverage varies considerably between parishes and many parishes are not covered at all.  Consequently, they will be more useful for researching some locations than others.  The southern half of Ireland is better-represented than the northern half.

Some Journal content provides information about events that occurred outside Ireland, such as Irish people who were buried overseas.

Data types

The Journals often provide information about family groups – something that is not frequently found in the other sources that exist for Irish genealogical research prior to the mid-19th century.  Due to the prevalence of gravestone inscriptions in the Journals, place of burial and memorial can commonly be found, as can date of death and age at death.  Place of residence is identified for about 1 in 5 of the people mentioned.  Occupation is indicated for about 1 in 3 men and place of work for about 1 in 6 men.  Details of baptism and marriage are much less common; they are most likely to be found for events that occurred in Co. Dublin and other areas included in the parish register sections of the Journals.

People represented

Women are more visible in the Journals than in many of the other sources that exist for Irish genealogical research prior to the mid-19th century (those often focus on landowners and heads of households, who were predominantly men).

Clergy are particularly well represented in the Journals, especially Church of Ireland clergy.  The other occupations that are most commonly identified include military, merchants and civic leaders (politicians, magistrates, etc.).  There is less chance of finding information about farmers, labourers, textile workers and the working class generally – compared to the landed gentry, these people were less likely to have had durable gravestones and were less likely to have attracted the attention of the Journals’ contributors.

All religious denominations can be found in the Journals though religion is seldom explicitly stated.  The context can provide clues to people’s religion but it is worth remembering that non-Anglicans may have been baptised/married/buried in Church of Ireland churches due to its historical role as the state church.


While compiling the sample shown on this website, we compared hundreds of Journal entries with the underlying gravestones/records/publications on which they were based.  The vast majority of the datapoints that were reconciled turned out to be dependable transcripts of the underlying sources, though mistakes were occasionally identified.  Additionally, we compared some Journal entries with alternative sources of the same information, which sometimes highlighted errors in the Journals and sometimes highlighted errors in other sources.  Observations are indicated on the entry’s page under ‘transcriber notes’, see for example here (not every entry was verified).

Considering the way in which Journal content was crowdsourced, the reliability is likely to vary.  Apply usual good genealogical research practices to validate information found in the Journals:

sense-check the internal consistency (e.g. do dates and ages match stated relationships?)

review the gravestones/records/publications on which Journal entries were based (if they survive) to check the accuracy of the transcription

correlate Journal entries with different sources to identify and overcome errors

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