First of all it is important to get some background information about the graveyard. This provides a context within which the memorials and their inscriptions can be studied.
Some basic questions to be addressed include:
How old is the graveyard?
Is it still in use?
If not, when was it closed?
Who was / is responsible for it?
What forms the boundary of the graveyard?
Are there any traditions associated with the graveyard?
There are over 1,200 graveyards in Northern Ireland and the number is increasing, if not annually, then certainly every decade. Some graveyards are, therefore, of very recent date. Others have been in almost continuous use for over a thousand years, a few even dating back to the earliest period of Christianity in Ireland.
There are nearly 300 identifiable graveyards in Northern Ireland that pre-date 1600. Most of these were the sites of medieval parish churches, though some were the location of a medieval chapel. In some old graveyards there will be relics of the early medieval period. High crosses can be seen at Arboe, Boho, Devenish, Donaghmore (County Down), Donaghmore (County Tyrone) and elsewhere. Round towers survive at Devenish, Drumbo and Nendrum.