Cumbria is at the forefront of a project to make available online, millions of grave memorials.
The Google Maps for graves scheme has started the task of scanning headstones at 19,000 sites with surveyors using high-tech £100,000 backpacks.
The first headstones to be scanned were at the ancient church of St Bega, on Bassenthwaite lake.
Among the initial batch of churchyards to be surveyed will be at Grasmere – the resting place of the world-famous Lakes poet William Wordsworth.
Cumbrian-based surveying company Atlantic Geomatics has formed a partnership with the Church of England and will use the hugely expensive backpack-mounted laser scanners which are fitted with five cameras, two laser scanners and a GPS tracker.
Surveyors walk along every alternate row of graves, scanning the position of every memorial, building, wall and tree, taking up to 50 million measurements in every graveyard.
Each operative is likely to be able to scan nine or ten sites a day before the data is processed using bespoke software.
Bishop Andrew Rumsey, the CofE’s lead for church buildings, said: “This impressive national project will make a huge difference to those researching family history, as well as easing the administrative burden on parishes.
“It will soon be possible to visit almost any Anglican burial ground in the country and see in real-time the location of burial plots.”
Tim Viney of Atlantic Geomatics, said: “The seven-year project will create a database that promises to be a gold mine for amateur genealogists.
“Once the laborious task of putting the database together is complete, it could also reduce pressure on vicars inundated with queries from around the world from people researching their English ancestors.”
Funding for the programme has been given by Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Caring for God’s Acre, a charity working to preserve burial grounds, plus support from genealogy research websites.