Digital Tombstones Explained: Origin, Cost & Allure


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Gravesites and memorials provide you with a place to remember your lost loved one. They’re sanctuaries for the grieving family and friends of the deceased and serve as a sacred place to reflect, think back on memories with a loved one, and pay respects.

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Tombstones have a public nature to them as they proudly display your loved one's name, as well as birth and death dates. These silent sentinels often sit in churchyards or cemeteries serving as a memorial of life that everyone can see. 

You've probably read engraved tombstones of people you don't know while looking to find a grave in a cemetery. You may even have found yourself sympathizing with the tributes inscribed by their family.

But these inscriptions fade and wear with time, leaving us with little to remember the deceased aside from their name. Thankfully, with the coming of the digital age, gravestones can now both stand as tribute physically and provide you with a link to digitally remember the beautiful life stories of those you love.

What’s a Digital or Virtual Tombstone?

We haven't seen any significant changes in the process of burying our dead over the centuries. But as technology advances, the funeral industry strives to keep pace with by constantly introducing new memorial technology tools.

One such tool is the latest in gravestone technology called virtual tombstones. The cutting-edge memorial idea is not only applicable to new grave markers of a recently lost loved one but can be placed on existing tombstones to give them a fresh breath of life. 

In comparison to a traditional gravestone, a digital tombstone offers much more in the way of remembering a loved one and commemorating their lives. This unique, technology-enhanced memorial is an excellent combination of tradition and modernity. Plus, it comes with many features allowing you to easily share your loved one's story with future generations.

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How does it work?

Virtual tombstones serve as an interactive living memorial of your dearly departed. They are placeholders or online memorial sites for the identity of your deceased loved one. It's a digital entity like a memorial website or social media page and may provide a digital space for the following:

  • Condolences
  • Pictures
  • Comments
  • Other memories of someone who passed away

In real life, gravestones are expansive and can be quite difficult to find. So, digital tombstones can fill a natural void by enabling family and friends to write their respect to the deceased. Likewise, you can view their accomplishments, browse pictures, and reminisce from the comforts of your home. 

Nowadays, it's not uncommon for family members to share their passwords with someone they trust. They do this to ensure that they'll be able to manage their digital afterlife effectively when they pass away.

Digital memorial sites encourage plenty of interaction and serve as a public or private forum for friends and family to grieve, mourn, share, and reminisce together. Some platforms like GatheringUs even have specialists who can guide and support you through the planning process.

What's a digital marker?

A digital gravestone marker is an innovative technology being offered by some funeral homes in the form of QR codes. A QR code is placed in the grave marker or monument of the deceased. This can be done for new, existing, and very old grave markers, alike.

Visitors of the grave can learn more about the person who passed away by scanning the QR code using their smartphone and an app. Aside from learning more about the deceased, they’ll be able to leave messages and even record stories for other visitors to read as well. 

Benefits of digital tombstones

There are numerous benefits to this new technology, making this a fast-growing trend. After the QR code has been placed on the tombstone, you can:

  • Personalize the linked memorial site. 
  • Update an old gravestone with new information.
  • Share and store videos, photos, and audio recordings forever.
  • Save long messages from friends, family, and acquaintances. 
  • Access the digital site using a smartphone, internet access, and an app for the QR code.
  • See the details, stories, and photos of your deceased loved one through the QR code while you’re visiting their grave, or at home by visiting the linked website.
  • Conveniently view all information related to your deceased loved one anywhere and anytime using the internet or your mobile phone.

If you want a legacy that goes above and beyond, attaching a digital marker to your tombstone is a brilliant way to share the story of your family for generations to come. Virtual tombstones are affordable and can be combined with a traditional headstone or used on their own to save on the average headstone cost. 

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Why Do Digital Tombstones Exist?

A virtual tombstone is a personalized space online designed to celebrate the memory and life story of your loved one.

Many people in the funeral and cemetery industry suggest this as a great option for families since it provides a common place online where family and friends of the deceased can come together to remember, share, and celebrate fond memories through online tributes. The best part is that anyone can interact regardless of where they are in the world as long as they have internet access. 

Today, more and more funeral and cemetery websites are offering grieving families a more personalized and customizable way to remember their loved ones. However, a rise in popularity is not the only reason why grieving families are opting for the new funeral technology. 

With the accelerated growth of technology, the internet, and social media platforms, these online memorials are constantly introducing new features and advantages. Among these are the ability to add a video tribute, upload photos, offer condolences, post stories, communicate with others, and more.

Reasons why families are choosing virtual tombstones

  • A positive experience. Being able to easily connect through someone's life story and pictures helps counter feelings of loss and grief. Likewise, it enables you to heal and remember the person you lost privately, on your terms and time.
  • A lasting and personalized way to grieve and remember a loved one. You can use digital tombstones for existing gravestones or for someone who recently passed away. This presents an intimate space for friends, families, and loved ones for many years to come.
  • A better overall family experience. The latest virtual funeral technology comes with enhanced features that allow you to create a special tribute to the life and memories of the person you lost. Additionally, virtual tombstones can offer your children and their children's children the chance to visit and discover more about the family's history.
  • A more complete legacy. With a digital tombstone, you and the rest of the family can leave messages and stories about your loved one for each other. These memories will create a beautiful record and leave behind a special capsule for future generations.
  • You can store and access it forever. In comparison to other funeral technologies, the details, life story, and photos of your dearly departed will be archived and stored forever. This means that you will be able to access it at any time. So as long as you have an internet connection, you'll always have full access to your information.

How Much Do Digital Tombstones Usually Cost?

You can create a virtual tombstone or online memorial by creating an independent website on your own or through an established memorial website. Most families typically choose the latter option because of how easy they are to use. You can build and personalize them in as little as 30 minutes or less.

Numerous sites offer this service today. A quick Google search for online memorial sites or virtual tombstones will give you plenty of choices. Here's what you can expect to pay:

  • The cost of running your online memorial on these sites is anywhere from $0-$50 per year. 
  • While some offer a free or low annual fee after the first year, others offer a lifetime option where you pay a one-time fee for permanent storage and archival, which can range from $75-$100.
  • If you're on a budget, you can also find websites that offer a basic service for free. However, the downside of opting for this is that the service will post ads on your loved one's memorial site. 
  • If you search enough, you can find a few free virtual tombstone websites with no ads. The downside to these is that they have very limited features.
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Are online memorials secure?

Security and privacy issues are one of the main concerns of families when it comes to digital tombstones. Every family member has a choice whether they want to open their online memorial site to the public or keep it “private” so it can be accessed by friends and family alone.

You can also choose a password-protected option for the best in security measures and encryption. This can provide extra peace of mind knowing that only those you give the password to can access your family's digital tombstone and any records you’ve uploaded.

Digital Tombstones: Bringing Memories To Last a Lifetime 

Digital tombstones are a great approach for family and friends of the deceased to gather together and share their feelings, memories, grief, and thoughts.

It's a convenient yet secure way to pay tribute to your loved one no matter where you are in the world. 


  1. Fielder, Elizabeth. “QR Codes for Headstones Keep Dearly Departed Close.” All Things Considered, NPR, September 29, 2017.
  2. Kneese, Tamara. “QR Codes for the Dead.” Technology, The Atlantic, May 21, 2014.
  3. Shiferen, Nick. “Digital QR Codes Offer Interactive Cemetery Experience.” ABC News, ABC News, September 6, 2012.

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