How a QR code could give you that family history research breakthrough

Creepy or a lovely sentimental touch? How a QR (quick response) code could help you break through that research brickwall by providing you with extra information at the grave side.

Small black and white squares and a handheld device could be the key to that long-awaited research breakthrough.

QR codeQR codes (‘quick response codes’) are a kind of square barcode that can be scanned by mobile and tablet device cameras and then link you through to a webpage. You may have seen some on bus stop or underground posters, or food packaging, or even on the tags found on the end of a teabag string.

Whilst those examples might not help you discover what happened to your Great Great Aunt Emily after surviving the sinking of the Titanic, or reveal a photo of your mysterious lost Uncle Freddie, QR codes could become a genealogist’s friend in the future.


Companies are finding ways to use these codes to expand on the information that can be obtained from gravestones. I quite like this idea, although several non-genealogist friends I’ve talked about this with, find the idea to be unsettling.

So will it catch on here in the UK? I guess it’s down to the delivery – if a memorial web page had to carry advertising, or was poorly designed, i’m sure that it would be unpopular.

poll carried out by The Guardian newspaper in September 2012, found that 62% of respondents answered ‘No’ to the question ‘Would you have a QR code on your gravestone?’. Is the QR code a fad? Deemed ‘too gimmicky’ and disrespectful to appear on a gravestone?

To explain how a QR code may work on a gravestone, here’s a video from Quiring Monuments – just one of many organisations who offer this service in the USA.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has already started a similar project to bring QR codes in to Botley Cemetery, Oxfordshire, England, which they hope to complete in time for the centenary of the beginning of the First World War in 2014.

Heritage and Education

In May 2012, Monmouth in Wales, became the world’s first ‘Wikipedia town’, with buildings receiving QR codes that would lead tourists to find out more about the history when scanned, under the moniker of ‘Monmouthpedia’.

Gibraltar and Brazil followed suit with similar ideas.

QR codes are generally free to create. I created the code at the top of this article at

Have you ever seen,or used a QR code on a headstone? Are headstone QR codes a creepy or a lovely sentimental touch? Would love to know what you think.