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Monumental/Memorial Inscriptions (MIs) including Scotland

Nature of Source

Memorial commemorating a person's death marked on a gravestone and usually found in a churchyard. Traditionally a Monumental Inscription would be found in the local church burial ground. However, the rapid population increases especially in urban areas and migration into larger towns and cities led to the development of large municipal burial grounds and cemeteries.

Beware that the stone may have been erected some time after the death. MIs can offer a surprising amount of family information and may include information relating to several generations of the same family. MIs are a useful source if parish registers are not available or an entry is not found. The death record may show where the burial took place as might an obituary. Directories will list churches and burial grounds. From the mid 19th century, cemeteries and crematoria were opened. Also look for funeral and death notices and obituaries, often found in local newspapers, for evidence of a death.

For those seeking Gloucestershire ancestors, researchers can benefit from the work of Ralph Bigland. In 1750 he embarked on a project to transcribe every gravestone and monument in each parish church and graveyard in Gloucestershire. Although he failed to cover every church in the county, he did manage the vast majority and in 1786 two huge volumes were published. The collection is available on CD ROM from Archive CD Books.

Following the Reformation of 1560, Scotland broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, eventually becoming a Protestant (Calvinist Presbyterian) nation. The elaborate burial rites and rituals associated with former times were banned as was the use of burial vaults inside the church. Many pre-reformation flat grave slabs were destroyed and banned from further use and burial in earth within the churchyard became the accepted practice. Later, upright stones were introduced as the norm from 1640 and over the years, the custom of erecting gravestones became increasingly popular with ordinary families. The use of emblems etched into the stone were frequently used with emblems associated with the deceased’s former trade as well as with mortality, immortality and heraldry also popular.

In Scotland look for the lair (burial plot) record which can provide very useful genealogical information. In addition a chronological record of burials should also exist. Some Scottish MIs may show dates in the Roman style, by reference to Kalends, Nones and Ides (essentially phases of the moon). Dates are given as days before these phases, counting the day itself. For more information see

See also
Cemetery & Crematoria Records
Civil Registration, Death
Old Parish Registers-Burials (OPRs)
Parish Registers-Burials
Statutory Registration-Death

Where Found

Society of Genealogists (Monumental Inscriptions. The society holds the largest collection of MI transcriptions in the UK with many relating to British people buried overseas)
ScotlandsPeople Centre
(The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. The Centre's Reference Library holds a collection of monumental inscription publications and transcriptions of burial registers and newspaper obituaries. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
Family History Societies
County Records Offices
British Library
Scottish Genealogy Society
National Library of Scotland (Gravestone inscriptions)
Local Authority/Council

Period Covered

1600 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Place and date of birth and death. Family members and relationships. Address (parish) and occupation.

Further References

Bard, Robert. Graveyard London: Lost and Forgotten Burial Grounds: Historical Publications, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon

Beach, Darren. London's Cemeteries: Metro Publications, 2006

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Burgess, Frederick. English Churchyard Memorials: Lutterworth Press, 1963

Collins, Lydia (ed). Monumental Inscriptions in the Library of the Society of Genealogists : Part 1 Southern England: Society of Genealogists, 1984

Collins, Lydia (ed). Monumental Inscriptions in the Library of the Society of Genealogists : Part II Northern England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Overseas: Society of Genealogists, 1987

Gibbens, Lilian. Basic Facts about Using Death and Burial Records for Family Historians: FFHS, 1997


Greenwood, Douglas. Who’s Buried Where in England: Constable, 2006


Hartley, Tom. Belfast City Cemetery: The History of Belfast, Written in Stone: Blackstaff Press, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Jones, Jeremy. How to Record Graveyards: Council for British Archaeology, 1976


Lees, Hilary. Exploring English Churchyard Memorials: Tempus, 2002


Love, Dane. Scottish Kirkyards: Amberley Publishing, 2010


Meller, Hugh. London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer: The History Press, 2008

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Mytum, Harold. Recording and Analysing Graveyards: Council for British Archaeology, 2000


Parker, John. Reading Latin Epitaphs: A Handbook for Beginners with Illustrations: University of Exeter Press, 2012


Philpot, Terry. 31 London Cemeteries: To Visit Before You Die: Step Beach Press, 2013

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Rayment John, revised Pattinson, Penelope. Notes on Recording Monumental Inscriptions: FFHS, 1992


Raymond, Stuart. Death & Burial Records for Family Historians: Family History Partnership, 2011

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Ruston, Alan. Hertfordshire Obituaries 1801-1837: As extracted from the Gentleman's Magazine: Hertfordshire Family History Society, 2009


Rutherford, Sarah. The Victorian Cemetery: Shire Publications, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon

Storey, Neil. The Little Book of Death: The History Press, 2013


Stuart, Denis. Latin For Local And Family Historians: Phillimore, 2002


Treneman, Ann. Finding the Plot: 100 Graves To Visit Before You Die: The Robson Press, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Turpin, John & Knight, Derrick. The Magnificent Seven: London's First Landscaped Cemeteries: Amberley Publishing, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Webb, Cliff. Greater London Cemeteries & Crematoria. 7th Ed: Society of Genealogists, 2005 Buy Now on Amazon

White, Dr H Leslie, Monuments and their Inscriptions: a Practical Guide: Society of Genealogists, 1978


Yorke, Trevor. Gravestones, Tombs and Memorials: Countryside Books, 2010


Websites (Information on and photos of London cemeteries) (Links to online burial and cemetery records and other useful information) (Online store selling MI data from a variety of suppliers) (Listing of church yards and cemeteries) (Gravestone symbolism) (Tomb and mausoleum descriptions) (Flickr Photo group: London Cemeteries) (Alphabetical List of Graveyard Symbols and their Meanings)
(Keighley and District Family History Society: Research Guide: Gravestone Icons - Common Gravestone Icons and Symbols)
(Links to online Tombstones & Monumental Inscriptions) (Birthdate Calculator: Calculate birth date from death date and age on tombstones and death certificates)
Scotland (The Scottish Association of Family History Societies: Burial Grounds. A list of more than 3,500 known burial grounds in Scotland organised by county and parish) (Researching Your Graveyard) (National Records of Scotland. Links for information about local burial grounds in Scotland and a Scottish cemetery in India) (Resources for studying gravestones and recording the information) (Gravestone carvings and symbols) (Stories on Searching for Scottish Ancestors: Visiting Your Gravestone) (Council for Scottish Archaeology: An Introduction to Graveyard Recording) (Deceased Online: Scottish Memorial Inscriptions step-by-step guide on how to get the best from the SMI collection, by Emma Jolly) (Historic Churchyards Dumfries and Galloway. The site includes information on individual parishes and churchyards and an explanation of the meanings of carved emblems found on burial stones) (Scottish Gravestones. A series of image galleries of Scottish graveyards, located mostly in south-east Scotland the Lothians and the Borders) (This website is dedicated to promoting the historical and educational assets of Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis, opened 1840. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow hold microfilm of some of the original cemetery burial records) (Funeral Cards Online) (Free Obituaries On-Line: Links to obituaries, death or funeral notices mostly from newspapers across the world with a focus on Canada) (Researching Funeral Home Records) (Links to resources dealing with funeral homes and funeral cards)

Online Databases (Parish Records Collection: MI transcriptions in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies including Mid Norfolk Monumental Inscriptions, 1471-2012) (The Manchester Collection: Ardwick Cemetery Monumental Inscriptions 1845-1938; Rusholme Road Cemetery Inscriptions 1821-1933. The original records are held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies) (County coverage includes: Dorset; Essex; Lincolnshire, 1400s-2012; Middlesex, 1485-2014; Mid Norfolk, 1471-2012; Surrey Monumental Inscriptions Browse; Staffordshire; Sussex; Warwickshire; Worcestershire; Yorkshire) (Scotland coverage includes: Scotland Monumental Inscriptions Index containing records from burial grounds across 14 Scottish counties including Berwickshire, East Lothian and the Isle of Skye. Other coverage includes: Aberdeenshire; Banffshire & Kircardineshire) (Deceased Online: Scottish Monumental Inscriptions/Headstone Collections: Photographs of grave [lair] memorials, with searchable transcripts of the inscriptions from over 250 cemeteries and burial grounds across Scotland, dating back to 1526. The records contain transcriptions, scans of the registers, scans of books of remembrance, photos of graves and cemetery maps. See web site for full county coverage and read Emma Jolly's special step-by-step guide on how to get the best from the SMI collection) (TheGenealogist Headstones Project. This project aims to photograph and transcribe churchyards from around the world. The records are linked to images of the stones and maps to locate the actual burial grounds, they are searchable by name, year of death and graveyard. Area coverage includes Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Jersey, Northamptonshire, Somerset, West Midlands, Wiltshire) (Wishful Thinking Local History Pages: Memorial Inscription Collection covering Gloucestershire and a number of nearby counties) (Named inscriptions entries from Great Britain and international cemeteries) (BillionGraves: Family history database for records and images from the world's cemeteries. Members of the public can collect photos of headstones in a local cemetery with iOS, Android and Windows mobile apps and then upload the photo and headstone transcription. BillionGraves records are also available to search at FamilySearch) (Cemetery Records Online: A free online library of cemetery records from thousands of cemeteries across the world)  (Gravestone Photographic Resource: Transcriptions and photos) (Monumental Inscriptions Project: The site provides a means to search the index of monumental inscriptions held by the Society. The index will show whether or not a survey of the monumental inscription for a particular Norfolk parish has been made) (GenoGold Search: Some English transcriptions) (Kent Archaeological Society: Kent MI transcriptions) (North West Kent Family History Society: Ladywell & Brockley Cemetery Memorial Inscriptions) (Cornish Cemetery Index) (Cornwall OPC Database: Memorial Inscriptions) (Wiltshire MI name indexes and photos) (Warwick Cemetery Index, 1859-1968) (World Burial Index: Access to MI transcriptions taken from graveyard headstones, churchyard memorials and cemeteries) (Liverpool and Merseyside Graveyards)
(Norfolk Monumental Inscriptions, 1600-1900's) (Transcribed data covering 40 square miles around Wirksworth and Matlock, Derbyshire. Data sets include Parish Records 1600-1900, Derbyshire Wills 1525-1928, census returns, Petty sessions, Memorial Inscriptions, Board of Guardians, Hearth Tax and others)
(Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire Monumental Inscriptions) (SoG Data Online: Whitehead Collection of Monumental Inscriptions: County coverage includes: Bedfordshire; Buckinghamshire; Cambridgeshire; Cornwall; Cumberland; Derbyshire; Devon; Essex; Gloucestershire; Hampshire; Herefordshire; Hertfordshire; Huntingdonshire; Kent; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; Monmouthshire; Norfolk; Northamptonshire; Nottinghamshire; Oxfordshire; Rutland; Shropshire; Somerset; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Worcestershire; Yorkshire. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details) (Datasets include St. Michael's Parish Church, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire Monumental Inscriptions, 1411-1882; Warwickshire monumental brasses, 1401-1748. See web site for complete coverage) (The Parish Register Transcription Society. Indexes and transcriptions of Monument Inscriptions. See website for county coverage)
(Shropshire Family History Society: Monumental Inscriptions from over 350 County Burial and Commemorative Sites)
(Find a Grave in Scotland: Access burial and cremation records online with photographs where possible) (Memento Mori. The site is dedicated to the recording and photographing monumental inscriptions covering central, east and west Scotland. Transcriptions include war memorials)
(The OGRE Online: Selection of Monumental Inscriptions and memorials in Wales)
(Transcribed indexes of Wolverhampton St. Peter's Monumental Inscriptions) (Jewellery Quarter Research Group: Transcribed memorials from the Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries, Birmingham) (Wishful Thinking Parish Records Database: Transcripts of baptisms, marriages and burials extracted from a variety of sources including MIs and Bishop’s Transcripts and focussing on Derbyshire) (Online Parish Clerks: The project is run by volunteers who collect and transcribe parish records for a chosen Parish and make the data available for free online. The range of information covered includes Apprentice Indentures, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates & Removal Orders, Militia/Muster records, Directories, Land Tax Assessments, Workhouse/Poor Law records, Churchwardens Accounts, Tithe Apportionments, Wills, Poor Rate Payers, Lay Subsidies, Protestation Returns, MIs, Church Memorials and Hearth Tax records. Old parish maps and photos are often included) (Aberdeen & NE Scotland FHS: Name index to MI Booklets published by ANESFHS)

Many transcriptions published by local Family History Societies

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (County coverage including the 'Bigland Collection' of Gloucestershire MIs)
S & N Genealogy Supplies (Churchyard inscriptions of London including inscriptions from over fifty churches in the City of London; Monumental inscriptions from St Mary's in Lewisham, 1889; Dwelly's monumental inscriptions for Devon; Herefordshire monumental inscriptions index; Salisbury Cathedral monumental and gravestones inscriptions)  
Herefordshire Family History Society (Transcription and index of mainly Church of England parish monumental inscriptions)
Scottish Genealogy Society (County coverage of Monumental Inscriptions) (Warwick Cemetery Index, 1859-1968)
The Scottish Association of Family History Societies (Inventory of Scottish Graveyards 2nd Edition)
Berkshire Family History Society (Wokingham All Saints MI's, Berkshire)
Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society (Monumental Inscriptions covering various Lancashire parish churches)