Childrens' Burial Grounds in Ireland
The following is an Extract from an article on Children's Burial Grounds in
county Mayo: JRSAI, 1969. While it deals with county Mayo, the reason for
the existence of special burial grounds for children was the same throughout
Ireland and the types of site found in Mayo are the same as used in other
An introduction to a survey of these, and other forgotten burial grounds, in
R. B. Aldridge
"Particular attention does not seem to have been given to the recording and
mapping of what are known as "Children's Burial Grounds," primarily used for
the burying of unbaptised children. In some areas many are shown on the 6
inch Ordnance Survey maps, whilst in others only a few are marked. Knox
mentions most of the well known ones, as does O'Donovan, and these are
mostly on the maps. Without local help and interest many can be passed over
unnoticed, and in time will be forgotten or destroyed. Some have been lost
already in land reclamation work.
Probably in most cases unbaptised or stillborn children were not permitted
to be buried in consecrated ground, so that special plots outside the normal
burial grounds were very necessary. In more recent years these sites have
continued to be used as C.B.G's; certainly in many cases burials have taken
place within the last twenty years, and even up to as late as 1964 in one
Obviously in penal times, famines, and before the building of many R.C.
Chapels and graveyards during the past 170 years, the distances from
isolated villages and farms to a consecrated burial ground were often too
great or too difficult for normal use. In many cases I have used the term
C.B.G., when it is most probable that the site was also used for adult
burials in the past.
In some cases there were sites of ancient churches or graveyards, or of
ruined abbeys etc., that could be used; in others a convenient rath, or
portion of one, was set aside for burials, or a small piece of ground
outside a village fenced in; these latter sites not being consecrated ground
were used probably for the burial of unbaptised children only. A rath being
considered as pagan in origin, was an obvious choice for the burial of the
unbaptised. There are no suitable raths in much of the bogland of the west,
and though adults might have been taken long distances to consecrated
ground, small local enclosures were made for unbaptised children to be
buried in. These were often used for the burials of adults also. All the
above can be considered as "Communal burial" as opposed to "Private burial
places." O'Sullivan deals with the customs connected with children's burials
in many parts of the country, and gives a list of some sites, viz gardens,
fields, hedges, bushes, a cliff ledge (Donegal), high water mark, outside a
church wall, or to the north side of the graveyard.
TYPES OF SITE
(a) a prehistoric tomb
(b) a very slightly elevated flat rectangular or circular piece of ground.
(c) a small plot inside the vallum of a rath.
(d) a small plot outside a rath.
(e) a small piece cut off from the inside perimeter of a rath.
(f) a mound 5 or 6 feet high.
(g) marked by a cairn of stones.
(h) in an old graveyard with remains of a building, used only as a C.B.G. now.
(i) inside the foundations of an old church or abbey building.
(j) with the reputed site of a vanished church nearby.
extensively used burial places, probably village burial grounds before the
building of any nearby chapels, and now C.B.G.'s only. "
one reference mentioned:O'Sullivan on the burial of Children. J.R.S.A.I.
Note: The above was posted to the newsgroup soc.genealogy.ireland by Jane Lyons.
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