History from Headstones Online is project devised and implemented by the Ulster Historical Foundation, the aim of which is to encourage people to take an interest in the graveyards of Northern Ireland and to provide an online resource for those searching for their ancestors. A major component was the development of learning packages specifically aimed towards adult education. The project also provided the opportunity to train people in research skills. The project was funded through the New Opportunities Fund.
Graveyards are open air museums where it is possible to walk among the exhibits – the tombstones – and examine at first hand art and sculpture from a bygone age. There are over 1,200 burial grounds in Northern Ireland and they form are an integral part of the Irish landscape.
Graveyards are a wonderful place to find out more about our heritage. A graveyard is the most accessible source for the study of the history of a local community. Because of the detailed information they contain, gravestones provide an ideal launch pad for any genealogical investigation. Our searchable graveyard database contains over 50,000 inscriptions from graveyards in counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry, Fermanagh and Tyrone.
One of the central aims of this website is to highlight the importance of gravestone inscriptions as historical sources that can be used to study the past. With this in mind local historians were commissioned to write about graveyards familiar to them. Their histories can be read in the Case Studies section. Many inscriptions have an overseas dimension reflecting the importance of migration in Irish history. Other inscriptions record the occupation of the deceased or the circumstances in which he or she died. These can be explored in more detail in the Themes section.