In 1999, the three cemeteries in Beaver River and Port Maitland, Nova Scotia, Canada lay hidden by alders and other brush that stood over 8 feet tall, rendering the cemeteries as almost forgotten. In that year, a community group was formed, under the leadership of the late Rev. Ulric Dawson, dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of the cemeteries. Recently, the group has expanded its efforts to educating people about the importance of these three historic places. With the assistance of a group of grade 4 students from Port Maitland Elementary School, the Old Stones Society has mapped the three cemeteries using GPS technology, and has created unique QR codes leading users to a website the Society has created.
The over 130 “residents” of the three old cemeteries are mainly descendants of the early founders of Yarmouth County, tracing their family history to Yarmouth township’s beginnings in 1761. As well, more than half of the residents can name at least one passenger on the Mayflower as an ancestor, and almost as many can trace their lineage back to the very earliest English speaking settlers of Nova Scotia. The Old Stones website (www.oldstones.ca) is bound to become a favorite with genealogists and history students alike as the society continues to add information about these earliest families of the area. The project undertaken with the help of the grade 4 students, has resulted in small red-gray bricks being placed in front of every grave marker – and every brick has fixed on it a QR code, a small postage stamp sized graphic which, when read with a smart phone or other Internet enabled device, leads the user to the individual profile for the person who is buried near the brick. While QR code technology is now being used on modern monuments, and can occasionally be seen in historic places to mark certain persons or events of importance, this may be the first time entire cemeteries have been linked by QR technology to an extensive website profiling every single person, and containing information about the area and its history. The students also created a map, accurate to within 3 feet, of the gravesites in the cemeteries which is online at the society’s website.
The Old Stones Society has news, minutes and other information on its website, and hosts events such as strawberry socials and cemetery tours on an annual basis. The society is looking forward to continuing the project – to continuing the maintenance and restoration of the cemeteries and to make more and more people aware of the importance of these three unique places and the history of the people who were buried there.