Indexing Hugs and Kisses: Building a Narrative Genealogy

One of our favorite letters in our grandmother’s Kindex archive is a letter she wrote when she was just nine years old. It’s the earliest letter we have from her. Dorothy’s mother June was out of town for an extended period working on a medical certification when Dorothy writes, revealing the usual nine-year-old stuff—clothes she crocheted for her doll, fun things she was doing to prepare for Halloween, and good reports on her piano lessons and school quizzes. She closes her letter with an endearing chart of hugs and kisses to be applied to specific recipients.


While the hugs and kisses were a little tricky to index, we are treated to a wonderful snapshot of who Dorothy was as a child: smart, affectionate, and playful. We count the hugs and kisses and see that Dorothy esteemed Aunt Mary high enough to send her the same amounts of hugs and kisses that she sent her mother. Reading this now is like receiving a virtual hug and kiss from the past: a gift of affection and greater understanding.

This letter plays an important role in not just Dorothy’s life narrative, but the narratives of her parents, Louis, and Aunt Mary. Stepping back even further, Dorothy’s papers as a whole—if transcribe and tagged—will have an expansive influence, reaching hundreds of additional people, adding citable sources for hundreds of places and events, and marking time with thousands of dates.

The influence of primary source records and the ability for us to connect them through transcriptions, markup and tagging is key to understanding history. While we struggle to add more dimension to those in our family trees, these records languish in shoeboxes and closets as untapped and often overlooked sources. Trees can’t stand alone in our body of research. We must digitize and share our historical records through indexing and create content-based resources.

We built Kindex to accomplish just that. It’s not family tree software. Rather, it’s indexing software that creates the tree’s parallel historical narrative. It’s the type of tool that supports the narratives discussed so effectively in Tony Proctor’s “Our Days of Future Passed — Part II”. Tony’s perspective on markup (STEMMA and TEI) is exactly in line with our commitment to not just share primary sources, but to elevate and empower them through transcription and tagging markup. Family source records can be applied to the narrative  in countless ways. They will connect histories, groups, associations and people, and the Kindex database can contribute to the creation of books, maps, timelines and other exciting medium for historical consumption.

As we continue to build and enhance Kindex, we understand the importance of creating a narrative genealogy source that has within it the tools to be an expansive and powerful resource for families, researchers, and historians.

Indexing shouldn’t be a tool reserved for official records or the so-called historically important. Building narrative genealogies through indexing the letters, journals and papers of everyday people is a key step to adding the depth and dimension we yearn for in our ancestors. We are committed to make indexing accessible for families, family organizations, genealogical societies, museums—anyone with historical records. We will be amazed with what we uncover from the shoeboxes and closets of everyday people. We will rewrite history, starting with a page of hugs and kisses.


See the original letter and transcript.

Search the Dorothy Smith Clark archive.

907 7th Ave.
Lethbridge, Ata
Oct 23rd, 1920

Dear Mother:
It’s getting near Hallowe’en. I am going to write another letter, befor [sic] Hallowe’en comes, because I have some things to ask you about Hallowe’en. I am getting along fine with my music lessons. In two or three more lessons I will be thorugh of that blue book. Olive is going to primary this Saturday. I wish Louis was hear [sic] for a week. We are having lots of fun at home. Every night we get an apple an make a face on it and play it is Hallowe’en. Papa gave me five cents to get some cards for Hallowe’en. At the fifteen cents store you can get four cards for five cents. I crocheted a little bonet [sic] for my doll, out of that blue silkene.

At school on f Friday we had a History, and spelling test. We just had ten words on spelling and I had them all right. Don’t stay in Magrath during Louises birthday. When you come home  bring Aunt Mary , for Christmas. Tell her I might write her a letter if I think of it. I will tell you some more in my next letter. Good-bye. Kisses for [page 2] Louis, and Mamma, And Aunt Mary.

Say Hello to Aunt Mary and Louis, and the Miller kids for me. Good-bye Mamma

Answer letter.

[Dorothy’s mother June B. Smith writes below]
Dear Dot here is a letter you wrote me 20 years ago and  more would you  like to keep it? I am giving the other children theirs. Don’s is just scratches but very charistic [sic] of his vigorous style.
[Dorothy writes in pencil at bottom of letter]
Life story 1920
Dot’s letter
Dot letter @ age 9



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