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New Technology and an old headstone

I have recently had the exciting opportunity to mix new technology with an old grave, in the form of a OR Code (quick response). This is a small square made up of little dots, which works in a similar way to a barcode, and is the latest in new technology, as far as headstones are concerned.

When the code is scanned by a mobile telephone, it will link up with a web page that gives further details. These codes are used in all manners of businesses - for advertising, extended information, etc - and can be seen every day on the High Street and in national and local newspapers. Just look for a small black and white square with dots inside it! Anyone with a modern mobile phone can download a free “app” to scan the codes and link up to the associated web page.

l have had the code fitted to a simple granite flower vase on the family grave of the Wl'l"l‘ and WHITE families of Southampton, Hampshire. The grave contains the bodies of Ellen WITT (nee SILLENCE), died 191 1, and one of her daughters - Nellie Elizabeth Mary WHITE (nee WITT), died 1929 - and Nellie’s husband James Albert WHITE, died 1928. On the original kerbstones the family had also placed a small steel plaque to commemorate the loss of Ellen’s son Henry (“Harry”) Dennis Wl’l"l‘ on RMS Titanic. He was a crew member, a fireman/stoker, and his body was never recovered after the vessel sank on 15 April 1912.

Some time before the centennial in 2012, new technology and an old headstone vandals struck in Southampton Old Cemetery, and the plaque to Harry was removed and discarded. So, in time for the official commemoration, I had a replacement steel plaque engraved and added to a granite flower vase to be placed on the burial plot, rather than have it reattached to the original kerbstones, as they are quite fragile now.

The QR code was provided by Chester-Pearce, funeral directors of Poole, Dorset. It is around two inches square and is engraved onto a small steel plaque. It is quite discrete, but when scanned it takes you to a web page providing further information on Henry’s life and ultimate death on Titanic. Obviously, with a whole page dedicated to his life, there is potential here to give so much more information than is possible to fit on to a gravestone or plaque, and the scope for family historians to give and to gain lots of information is infinite!

I thought readers may be interested in such possibilities that may occur by having one of these codes fitted to a loved one’s headstone. It can be fitted either as a tiny plaque or engraved directly onto the headstone and could, of course, be used for an ancestral burial plot without harm or damage to the headstone itself. It may equally form part of a new burial stone or marker for a more recent bereavement. It can also be fitted to a grave even where no headstone exists - in the form of a small plaque on a grave plot marker peg, etc.

In terms of family history research, finding a QR code on a family headstone can not only provide a great deal of information via its web page, but can also offer the option of reaching other people who are researching the same family, simply by adding contact details to the web page, etc. The person commissioning the OR code will have full control of their own page, amending the information as they see fit. They could, for example, provide not only information on the deceased, but perhaps a family tree, old photos, etc, as well.

I am excited to be a part of helping the memory of an otherwise forgotten Titanic victim to remain alive, and this new technology has helped me to do this in the most modern of ways!