QR Codes on a Tombstone

Monday, September 12, 2016 - 21:29

I never missed an opportunity to visit Samuel Adams gravestone whenever I walked along the freedom trail in downtown Boston. Like many of the founding fathers, I deeply respected the principles he stood for and lived by. And yet his tombstone did no justice in representing the impact that he made upon the world. If it wasn't for the nearby placard, his entire existence would be summarized by a name and his birth and death year.

Among the other tombs, the stories of everyone's life were condensed down to a name and two years. What a pity, given the richness that each one offered.

Preparing for Your Ancestry.com Contribution

Recently, I was moved by a youtube video from Gary Vaynerchuk called "Document, Don't Create". When you think about the opportunity that social media and our digital trail affords us, we literally have the ability to have our entire life story accessible in a way that was unimaginable to previous generations. I know this because my mother-in-law is an ancestry.com guru and has traced back family lines back to the 1700s. It's fascinating to hear how different families met and weaved their way into the tapestry that resulted in our lives, and how ridiculously lucky we are compared to the challenges they faced during their time on this planet.

It's also disheartening to know that we only get tiny glimpses of their lives due to the limited number of artifacts linked to their existence. For some members, we only have birth certificates and maybe a photo. Others, we have stories and small biographies pieced together through journals or letters.

A few years ago, I asked my grandmother (now 92 years old) to help me build out our ancestry.com account with any/all information she had with her relatives. I was shocked that she had a binder full of written accounts of her family line back to the mid-1800s in Chicago. What a tragedy that I may have lost that information for good if I never asked the question.

All of this searching through the past brought me to think about my contributions to the future. Given that it's inevitable that I'll leave a digital trail that will likely live forever beyond my last breath on earth, how can I make sure that I provide a rich and detailed account? That's where I love the videos by Gary. He's been doing a fantastic job documenting his entire journey along the way. While I haven't been doing this all along, I'm doing so more and more.

Gravestones with QR Codes?

It's one thing to create a story that stands the test of time, but how do you access it? If I'm walking through the graveyard, how am I able to see beyond the name and dates to explore that life in more detail.

In jest, I posted a tweet about how I wanted to be more than just letters on a tombstone.

In a back and forth exchange, Kami suggested that we could use QR codes to bring up a peer reviewed registry. What a fantastic idea! Sure enough, we weren't the only one to think about it, and there are already services that will slap a QR code on a gravestone to access just such a memorial.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.