Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beneath Mary's Tree: The interred of unmarked grave #G 87.5

A while ago I wrote about my experience of finding the unmarked graves of my maternal grandparents in the Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin. Although I never met my grandparents, it was difficult for me to accept that my grandmother and my grandfather are interred in separate and unmarked graves.

In Glasnevin, a gravestone cannot be erected unless the plot is owned by the person who wishes to erect a stone. Also, an unowned, and thus unmarked, plot can be reopened for additional interments. If the grave is not yet occupied to capacity, persons completely unconnected to those already interred can be buried in the plot.

When I learned these facts, I began to think about those individuals who are interred with my grandmother Mary Fitzpatrick Ball.  To erect a stone which only acknowledges the passing of her life would be to forget the others who had gone before her, and with whom she is now interred in the same grave.

To that end, I sought out the entire record of the interments of plot #G 87.5 in the Garden section of Prospect Cemetery, so that I could learn at least a little more about those individuals. Here is what I discovered.

In addition to my grandmother Mary Fitzpatrick Ball, there are six people buried in the grave, for a total of seven.  The first interment took place in 1835. All six people, with the exception of the first person buried here, died in the Autumn of the year in which they were interred. It seems fitting that the tree which stands at the foot of the plot, the tree which I had taken to calling Mary's tree, should be replete with the reds and golds of Autumn when I first visited and photographed the grave. For the family members connected to each one of those interred here, I imagine the autumn and winter of their loved one's passing was a difficult time indeed.

The first person interred in the grave was a man named James Doyle. The record of his 1835 interment offers little information, apart from his name and his last known address of Rainsford Street, Dublin. The record notes his date of death as 27 February 1835. There is neither a statement of his age, nor of his next of kin.

In 1838, the grave was opened for the interment of Mark McGrath. The record bears a little more information in his case. Mr. McGrath of Garden Lane, Dublin, died 30 October 1838 at the age of 70 years. Just as in the case of Mr. Doyle, there is no reference to next of kin.

The grave remained undisturbed for eleven years until the interment of Monica Hendricken of Crampton Court, Dublin. At the age of three weeks, Monica died on 12 December 1849. There is no reference to the names of her parents or to her cause of death, but given that her date of death is right in the middle of the years of the Great Hunger, one can easily imagine a possible cause. Monica was the first of four children who would be interred in this grave.

A full twenty-four years after Monica Hendricken's burial, the grave was once again opened for the burial of another young baby. On 5 October 1873, Eliza Anne Murphy was interred.  Like Monica before her, Eliza was also aged three weeks. The record notes Eliza was a 'Labourer's child', the daughter of Fralise and Eliza Murphy. Eliza died 4 October; the cause of her death is recorded as 'Bronchitis'. The family lived at 7 Mark's Lane in Dublin. Eliza's father Fralise is noted as the informant of her death.

In 1886, another child was interred in grave #G 87.5. Daniel McKillop, a 'Sailor's child', was the son of Michael and Mary McKillop. Daniel died 19 September 1886 at the age of one year and nine months, and was interred three days later. The cause of death is noted as "Diarrhoea", and the informant to the registrar was his mother Mary McKillop. I find myself wondering if her husband was away at sea when Mary had to bury their little son.

Twelve years after Daniel McKillop's interment, the last child to be interred in this grave was eight month old Christopher Byrne. Christopher, noted as a 'Labourer's child', was the son of James and Isabella Byrne. Christopher lived and died in a house on 10 Bath Avenue Place, County Dublin. He died 18 September 1898 of "convulsions", and was buried two days later.

Thirty eight years later, my grandmother Mary Angela Fitzpatrick Ball was the last person interred in plot #G 87.5 in the Garden section of Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin. Mary died 18 December 1936 and was interred on the first day of winter, 21 December 1936. Thankfully, I have been assured by Glasnevin Trust that the grave will never again be opened.

James, Mark, Monica, Eliza, Daniel, Christopher, and my grandmother Mary Angela, all together for eternity. Across a period of just over 101 years, when tragedy brought them to this place, the families of each one of these individuals stood over this grave in the autumn or winter of the year, while their loved one was interred. I find myself wondering about who planted the tree at the foot of their grave. It does not seem like a very old tree, but I like to imagine it was planted in 1835, grew a little taller each year, and cheered the members of those families with the colour of its leaves, and the soft whisper of the wind moving through its branches.



  1. Jennifer,

    What a lovely post...informative and a tribute to all seven individuals. You are so fortunate that all the records were still available.

    A tree was planted near my great-great grandfather's unmarked grave. I like to think a family member did it, but I just don't know.

    Wishing you a Happy and productive 2012!

  2. Jennifer,

    I really like the way you see more than just what is on the surface. I hope that there are people out there searching for these names and they find them here.

  3. Hello Jenny and Hello Charlotte,

    Thank you to each one of you for your comments; they are much appreciated.

    Jenny, one of the wonderful things about Glasnevin Cemetery (for which I am grateful on a daily basis) is their meticulous record keeping. Although not all the records have complete information, they have all of them, over 1.5 million, going all the way back to the first interment in 1832.

    Cheers to each one of you,


Comments on this blog are always deeply appreciated; however, in the spirit of true collegiality, I ask that you do not write something you could not say to me in person.

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Cheers, Jennifer

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