The Value of Headstone Transcriptions

I find that headstone transcriptions are very valuable resources in family history research. As the Catholic Church in Ireland did not record burials, often the only record of a death in the time before 1864 when Civil Death records started, is the headstone. Over time the headstone is eroded, or even worse moved to allow for building over the graveyard. The building over graveyards is more common in cities and often people don’t know that there was a graveyard at the site.

Recently, I was asked if I knew about a Coppinger tomb in St. Annes’s Shandon. This graveyard has undergone much damage and vandalism over the years as well as the removal of headstones to the side wall. I found the photograph I had taken in 1997, well before digitization, and realized how important the transcription is. The headstone (probably the slab covering a tomb) was barely legible in 1997 but in 2011, I am not sure it would be recognizable. It was lying flat on the gound with debris and dirt on it with the top right hand corner broken off. Here is the 1997 image:

Coppinger – Shandon Graveyard

Here is the transcription I did in 1997. The stone is not visible any longer but it is a pity I didn’t have the advantage of a digital camera in 1997!

This monument was ……
William Coppinger
where lyeth the body of his f…….
James Coppinger Esq.
who died the 27th April AD 1815
And his beloved wife Ellen Moylan
Whose body is deposited with those of
her infant Child
She died in the bloom of life the 18th day of June 1818
With the …………….possessed a mind of the Purest
And which……………….the most Becoming
………..to those ……………………whose loss will be great


It is be worth stating that it is said that there were about 40,000 burials in the graveyards (in two parts) surrounding the church and about three quarters (about 30,000) of these were Catholic. Most of these had no headstone but there are burial records in the keeping of the Church of Ireland. These have been digitized by the Cobh Genealogical Project.


See the images below of the church and the outer graveyard:

The oldest one at the bottom shows the multitude of headstones which were there, the next one shows these headstones along the wall and the long grass in the graveyard. More recently (as seen in April 2011), shown in the top photo, there is work being done by the Cork City Council, to make the graveyard a more welcoming place.

St. Anne's 2013

St. Anne’s 2013

(above photo added April 2013)

St. Anne’s in 2011

St. Anne’s, Shandon

St. Anne’s Shandon in a postcard from 1900

Above 1900 postcard image courtesy of Michael Lenihan, from his collection.

Here is a link to some information on St. Anne’s, Shandon: Shandon Bells

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One Response to The Value of Headstone Transcriptions

  1. Maureen Pova says:

    Thank you for photo. Recently found my Gr Gr Gr Gr grandparents William Coppinger wife Mary Gould buried in this burial ground. Their daughter Mary Anne married Maurice FitzGerald M.D 1791. Mary Anne was sister of Alicia married to cousin James Coppinger, and were parents of William, who married Ellen Moylan, The stone says father James buried there also so possibly grandfather William also? First evidence for proof about my family burials at St Anne’s Shandon.

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