West Laurel Hill Cemetery First to Map and Memorialize with Smartphone App

July 14, 2011
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Bala Cynwyd, PA — Want to find someone buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery? Don’t look for paper maps – pull out a smart phone to navigate directly to the grave. Historic West Laurel Hill outside of Philadelphia, PA is the first cemetery to go mobile on an Android smartphone or tablet device.

“Following our tradition of embracing new trends and technology, West Laurel Hill is helping to revolutionize the way families memorialize and rediscover their heritage with the development of an app for cemeteries,”” says Alexander L. “Pete” Hoskins, President & CEO.

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Today, after over 130 years of paper record keeping, West Laurel Hill’s entire burial database can be searched from a smartphone or Galaxy Tab and the user can be directed from where they are standing to the exact location of a grave in the 187 acre cemetery. The app can also guide visitors on tours and help employees create work orders.

At the grave-site, the app delivers a truly timeless memorial to the deceased. “Families can create a digital memorial with their loved one’s life story, pictures and videos,” says Eric Robuck, President of webCemeteries.com, the company that programmed the app. “This memorial is electronically linked to the longitude and latitude of the grave and can be viewed from a mobile device. The life will be remembered and the grave can be found even in the absence of a physical headstone or paper map.”

Visitors can also use the app to be guided on tours of the graves of renowned residents interred at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Alternatively, visitors can create their own tours and direct the app to alert them if they approach graves meeting their search criteria as they walk or drive through the cemetery. For example, the app can flag all individuals with the surname Armstrong who served in the Army for the Union during the Civil War.

For most of the 95,000 people interred at the cemetery, the app simply shows the names and dates recorded on the headstone. To capture and tell the rich history of those interred at West Laurel Hill, the Cemetery is inviting the public to visit their website, www.forever-care.com, where visitors can search all of the burial records and submit memories, stories and photos. This community history project has already generated hundreds of submissions.

The app will also revolutionized daily operations at West Laurel Hill. Rather than being lost in the traditional paperwork for work orders and inspections, grounds crew can use an Android device to take a photo of a site requiring maintenance and complete the work order form. The photo and task is automatically emailed to the staff member who can complete the task and record it on their own device. The completed task is archived in the work order database.

For West Laurel Hill’s green burial section, the app will be helpful for directing families to graves that are marked by only natural markers. For green cemeteries that do not allow markers, the app offers families a way to relocate their loved one after the service.

West Laurel Hill is creating a trend in the cemetery industry with cemeteries across the country already lining up to use the new Android application. West Laurel Hill and webCemeteries.com plan to expand the functionality of the app to help cemetery staff with other responsibilities and to offer guided tours of the cemetery’s arboretum.

Incorporated in 1869, Historic West Laurel Hill Cemetery is a family-owned, non-profit, non-denominational cemetery, a 187 acre arboretum and an outdoor sculpture garden rich in cultural and social history. We offer one location for all your funeral and cemetery needs including an onsite crematory, chapels, reception areas and Jewish and green burial and funeral services. Bringhurst and Turner Funeral Homes are located on the grounds of West Laurel Hill Cemetery, 225 Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA.

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