Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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

In 2010 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. So too, I had always wondered why my mother had never taken us to pay our respects at the graves of her mother and father.

As I stood at each one of the graves, I felt an overwhelming sadness, and that feeling gave me some insight into my mother's reticence to visit the grave of the mother lost to her when she was only five years old and the grave of the father she adored. I realized that perhaps it was simply too sorrowful a visit for her to contemplate.

In Glasnevin cemetery, 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 the Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin, so that I could learn at least a little 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 have taken to calling Mary's tree, was 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. Her date of death is right in the middle of the years of the Great Hunger, leaving me to wonder about the possible cause of her death. 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 at the time of her death. 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'. Eliza's father Fralise is noted as the informant of her death. The family lived at 7 Mark's Lane in Dublin.

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 is noted as 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, Dublin City. 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, four days before Christmas. Thankfully, Glasnevin Trust has assured me 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.

©irisheyesjg2014.

12 comments:

  1. Many of my ancestors are interred in Glasnevin, most in now unmarked graves, and quite a number in shared plots, still owned by Glasnevin Trust. Visiting their graves is too sad, even today, 180 years for some. It is somehow comforting that the tree stands over your grandmother's grave, offering its protection to those interred below.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments Dara. It is indeed comforting that the tree stands over the grave. When I visit the cemetery I can see the tree from my granddad's grave, and from the grave of my dad's mother, as well as a couple of other family plots, so it is as though it draws all of them together.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Jennifer I was wondering about the grave with so many people. Please excuse my questions. Is it what I'd consider a plot with people who are side by side or a grave with people above and below each other? I had not thought of graves as holding more than one person. I'd kike to understand for my own Irish research. It is great that you could find the complete record for that lovely spot.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments and question Colleen. There are many shared plots and family vaults in Glasnevin, as well as in cemeteries all over Ireland. It's certainly not unusual. Almost all of my deceased family members across both sides of my family tree are in shared plots and/or family vaults, including my mother and father. Some are buried side by side; some on top of one another. It is very much our tradition to bury family together. My mother used to joke that my dad proposed to her by saying 'do you want to be buried with my people?'.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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    2. Jennifer, thanks for explaining that to me!

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    3. Thanks so much for asking Colleen! I really like it when comments turn into a 'conversation' of sorts. Also, I wanted to mention the fact that my paternal grandmother Anne Magee Geraghty is interred with her own parents rather than with her husband — for whom she bore 7 children — and his family. Some members of the family considered this to be a sign that his family never truly accepted her. He is interred in his family's vault miles away from her. Very sad.

      Cheers to you,
      Jennifer

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  3. RIP dear ones. Amazing information Jenn.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments Carol. I second your RIP. It's so fortunate that Glasnevin Trust has preserved the burial records so that so much information is there to be found.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. It must have been so painful to bury a loved one that way and not be able to memorialize them, Jennifer, but you have done so through this story. What an eloquent and moving tribute to not only your grandmother but to the others who went before her into that sacred ground.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments Linda. I feel exactly the same way; it must have been so painful to know they were there without any sign of them. I like to think of my granny taking care of those babies in the afterlife, especially since her death meant she left behind seven babes of her own.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. When I began reading your story, I was so pleased that a tree marked the resting place of your grandmother, then became uneasy when
    I read of the multiple burials. I didn't realise that this happened in Ireland also, as it is happening in Australia. Sadness followed hearing of the number of infants buried in this grave, but was soon overcome with the warmth of love and comfort and the feeling that your grandmother would be watching over them. I certainly know that my mother would be more than pleased to know that her grave here has children around her. So you have taken me through varied emotions, but ultimately peace as you seem to have also attained, knowing that your grandmother shelters beneath a beautiful tree, while resting with tiny infants. May they all Rest In Peace.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments Crissouli. Just like you I experienced these same feelings when I learned of the multiple burials, especially with the little ones in the grave, but it does help to think of my grandmother taking care of those babies in the afterlife.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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