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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Genius is 1% Inspiration, 12% Exhumation, 87% Perspiration

Joseph L. Kennedy of Holmes Beach, Florida, received a patent last month for his "System and method for retrieval of ancestral information." The invention calls for a medallion with a unique ID number to be permanently affixed to a headstone. The number is linked to an Internet database entry containing genealogical info on the grave's occupant. (Curiously, my similar invention of a genealogical database of the living using their Social Security numbers on medallions glued to their foreheads was shot down by the Patent Office.)

This is the most recent in a long line of contraptions meant to turn gravestones into kiosks. Among the "prior art" cited by Kennedy is a device that wirelessly transmits ancestral info from a stone to a remote receiver, but I think I prefer the low-tech approach of Scott C. Hobbs' 2001 invention, "Memorial Family Finder."

"Like a sticky-note for headstones!" says the HobbsHouse website—unfairly exploiting my love of sticking things to headstones. The Memorial Family Finder is simply a Plexiglas box with blank cards inside that one affixes to a headstone. Anyone who visits the stone can jot down her contact information, with the goal of finding long-lost relatives who frequent the same gravesite.

One caveat: Despite the assertion that the Memorial Family Finder is "scratch-resistant," I wouldn't try sticking it on one of those stones that lie flush with the ground. Riding lawn mowers have no respect for American ingenuity.

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