The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 23, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Digital grave codes aid research

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When descendants visit the graves of loved ones, they sometimes leave mementos such as floral bouquets. Some leave small stones. At the grave site of Dred Scott, I noticed that visitors leave pennies -- a sign of respect to the president who helped end slavery.

Some descendants bring a broom to sweep debris from a stone, or they bring loppers to remove brush. Others bring water and a brush to scrape away lichens. A few do rubbings of stones.

Dedicated genealogists often leave a plastic bag that contains notes for other genealogists who might visit the site.

Genealogists across the nation canvass cemeteries, record information and take photos of gravestones. They add research notes and submit the information and photos to the Internet website at

This amazing, free website allows users to enter a name and search for it by state, county or cemetery. The site is thus very helpful for researchers.

This week I learned about a new technology that has the potential of revolutionizing visits to cemeteries. The quick response technology uses a type of code that was developed in Japan to keep track of vehicle parts.

The code is a square with a white background and includes small, square, black dots arranged in a pattern. When a person scans the QR code using the camera on a smart phone, the person is connected to a website that contains information about that item. The person can view the website using a computer, cellphone or other mobile device.

For a fee, a few funeral homes and monument companies are starting to sell a printout of a QR code that enables people to learn about a deceased person. The code can be added to the funeral service card and other related documents. QR services include a code link, a lifetime subscription to a personal archival website and the placement of the code on the gravestone.

The family of the deceased designs the website, which can include videos, photos, an obituary, maps and similar types of material that relate to the deceased person. Only the family can make changes to that information. When visitors go to the site, they can leave comments on a message board.

Some monument companies charge a lower fee for QR services if a headstone is also purchased. One website charged an extra $75 for the QR services. If the QR services are for an existing gravestone, the same company charged $150. The website of that company notes that QR codes can even be purchased for ancestors who died hundreds of years ago. In those instances, the QR code can be embedded in old urns, mausoleums, garden benches and old gravestones -- even field stones.

Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or email