Every family has at least one. No, not the crazy uncle. We’re talking about the record-keepers. You know, the ones that ended up with all the stuff: the family bible, the old photos, the diaries and letters. Some people spend a lifetime gathering records, hoarding photos, and hunting down lost items. Others come upon records by accident or inheritance. If you’re a record keeper, chances are you’ve thought a lot about what to do with your family records. You may not know it, but you’re an archivist.
Like professional archivists, your goal is to collect, preserve, and share things—in your case, family records. Among the challenges professional archivists face when building a digital repository is making their collections discoverable, accessible, and searchable to their patrons. Family archives share these same challenges. For record-keepers of family photos, journals, letters, and other precious memorabilia, we should think like an archivist and ask ourselves the following three questions about our family records.
1. Are they discoverable?
Do your relatives and researchers know your family records exist? If not, how would they discover them? If your records are not “born digital” and are still in their original state as paper letters, journals, and other documents, it’s nearly impossible for others to discover your records. If your records are digitized, where are they stored? For example, the storage options below have varying levels of discoverability.
- Cloud storage, like Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox
- Physical storage, like computers, external hard drives, USB, CDs, etc.
- Online family tree databases, like FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Ancestry
- Historical or genealogical archives
While some may think “I don’t want my records to be discovered,” remember that discoverability does not preclude archive owners from establishing rules of access and usage. For example, record owners may wish to be selective with record sharing, charge for record access, or enable rules and limitations on the use of the record. No matter what rules we have in place, discoverability remains the fundamental first step in creating a family archive. Without it, our records are lost to the world.
2. Are they accessible?
Once records are discovered, can relatives and researchers access them? There are many instances where records may be discoverable, but not accessible. For example:
- You discover records online, but they are in a private family tree you can’t gain access to
- You discover that a record in an archive, but it can only be accessed by visiting the archive
- You discover a record in an archive, but learn that access is limited to certain people
- Everyone knows Aunt Sue has the family Bible, but she won’t show it to anyone
- Your relative has the family photo collection on his external hard drive, but you can’t get a copy
As a record-keeper and family archivist, an important role is to enable accessibility to family records. If you don’t do it, who will?
3. Are they searchable?
Are your family records currently searchable? How easily are they sorted, searched, and read? What elements of your records are searchable (file names, titles, descriptions, etc.)? How does your software, cloud storage, or family tree database facilitate searchability? As a companion question, can your records (and all of their associated data) connect with other databases, family trees, and archives? Furthermore, can your record data be downloaded, manipulated, and applied in other ways, like timelines, maps, and books? When choosing where to place your family records, remember that full searchability is key to an archive that is engaging, connectable, and readable.
A Kindex Solution
These are the kinds of questions we think about every day. We help family archivists rescue their records, bring them out of obscurity, and create archives that can be discovered, accessed and shared. With Kindex you can:
- Enable your archive to be discovered by potential collaborators and contributors
- Access your archive from any computer, anywhere.
- Unite scattered family records, make hard-to-find collections accessible to your members, and create public or private networks to collaborate on your archive
- Create searchable record data in three ways (metadata, full text transcription, and tags)
- Download your archive data (as CSV) any time.
In addition, we have some amazing features presently in development that will help your archive to connect and be shared with other people in various formats.
Still undecided? Here are some bonus questions:
Where is your Archive?
|Undigitized||On your computer||In cloud||In a digital family tree||On Kindex|
|Do I control my archive access, scope, and content?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Varies (private vs. wiki-based)||Yes|
|Is my archive discoverable online?||No||Limited||Limited||Varies (private vs. wiki-based)||Yes|
|Is my archive accessible from any computer?||No||Very limited||Varies||Varies||Yes|
|Can others collaborate on my archive||No||No or very limited||Yes; limited||Varies||Yes|
|Can my archive be private?||Yes||Yes||Varies||Varies||Yes; Choose your privacy level|
|Is my archive fully searchable?||No||Limited||Limited||Limited||Yes*|
|Can I add metadata?||Yes||Varies||Varies||Limited||Yes|
|Can I add metadata in batch form?||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Does my archive have integrated transcription & record tagging tools?||No||Varies; often separate from primary source||Rare; Varies by platform||Rare; Varies by platform||Yes|
|Can I download all my archive data?||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Is my archive compatible with other databases?||No||Varies||Varies||Varies||FamilySearch (others forthcoming)|
*some metadata searchability in development
Archive Your Life on Kindex
Don’t you think it’s time you started thinking like an archivist? Kindex is free to try, so head over to Kindex.org and get started. Click “Try it Out” to start your free archive up to 50 records. Upgrade to unlimited records (and unlimited collaborators!) for about $12/month.