Google Maps for the dead: Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery launches GPS project in Australian first


July 19, 2019 12:07:18

Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery, known as the oldest, largest and most multicultural working cemetery in Australia, has introduced a system allowing you to Google Map yourself to a grave, or view a headstone and its monumentation in real-time.

Key points:

  • The cemetery is the largest in the southern hemisphere, occupying grounds larger than Sydney’s CBD
  • Record keeping was an increasing issue tracking the more than a million interments, but live mapping will help
  • The tech maps to the actual plot, offers real-time photograph of the grave and any monumentation on the grave

The technology, hailed as an Australian first, allows the public to search the one million interments in Rookwood’s General Cemetery and follow a live GPS tracker on a smartphone before locating the exact grave.

“[Rookwood Cemetery] is one of the last massive green spaces in Sydney,” said the cemetery’s chief executive officer George Simpson.

Claiming the title as the largest cemetery in not only Australia but the southern hemisphere — occupying grounds larger than Sydney’s CBD — the launch hopes to make the nightmare of getting lost in the cemetery a thing of the past.

“We haven’t been great in mapping the cemetery and having our records entirely up to date, so we felt that it was something we needed to get done pretty quick smart,” Mr Simpson said.

“We’re the first people in Australia to have the software installed and to go live with it. So I guess we will be the prototype for Australia.”

Viewing gravestones in real-time

Mr Simpson said while the project will help people physically searching for graves at the cemetery in Sydney, it will also help those overseas.

“The first part is for people in Australia who can actually come onto the site, and through a handheld smart device access a database to gain the coordinates — through a couple of taps — to get directions from where they are located directly to the grave,” he said.

“The other aspect is for people that are overseas doing genealogy.

“Before, they were only able to access a system and get details.

“Now they can access to a system and drill down through the maps to the actual plot, but also in a large majority of the cases they will they will be able to see our real-time photograph of the grave and any monumentation sitting on the grave,” Mr Simpson said.

Executive officer of the Australian Society of Genealogists, Heather Garnsey, said this part of the project is of real interest.

“Not all of the graves have been digitised yet, but when they are it will make a big difference to genealogy,” she said.

Ms Garnsey said the Google Maps technology was also a huge help.

“I think one of the things that people often don’t realise, particularly visitors to Sydney, is just how big Rookwood Cemetery is,” she said.

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“In the past it’s been really difficult. But I think for the sections covered in this new project this really will help people locate the grave.”










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