Kindex Co-founder Cathy Gilmore presented “Hoarder to Order: a Step-by-Step Family Record Rescue” at RootsTech 2018. This presentation examines why records are at risk, discusses obstacles to family record preservation, and gives a step-by-step overview of how record-keepers can rescue their family records. We will be sharing excerpts from her presentation on the Kindex blog. 


Most of you will recognize this young woman as Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who kept a diary while in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Her diaries provided a vital, personal voice to the war experience and went on to become literary and historical treasure.

Anne Frank, c1940. Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam – Website Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam

Do you recognize this woman?

By Rob Bogaerts / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

Hermine Santruschitz, also known as Meip, was among those who helped Anne Frank and her family hide in the annex during World War II. Her service to the Frank family continued after the war when she retrieved Anne’s diary from the annex and took the diary to Anne’s father, Otto—the only surviving member of the Frank family. Anne was the record creator, but Meip was the record rescuer. Without Meip, Anne’s story could have been lost to history.

By Heather Cowper [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Many of us are the “Meips” of our family: we are the record rescuers. While we do not face the same obstacles as the Frank family, we have a great responsibility to ensure our family records are not lost, damaged, or thrown away.  As keepers of family records in an increasingly digital age, we are among the last generations who will create or save written  family records. Stored in boxes or on closet shelves, our records are not just the museum pieces of the future—they are the ultimate key to our family history, the tablula rasa that coming generations will turn to for answers. 

Which leads us to the question: Am I my brother’s (or grandmother’s, or uncle’s, or cousin’s) record keeper? We must be. As the gatekeepers of family records, how do we fulfill our responsibility to rescue them and preserve both our family’s legacy and add their voices to history? From boomers to millennials, we must bear the collective responsibility to rescue history through our family records.

How do we begin? From inventory, to scanning, to digital archiving, each step of a record rescue could easily be (and probably is) a class of its own. It can be overwhelming, but there is hope. The purpose of this series make a family record rescue manageable, give tips for success, and inspire each of you to take action. 

Next up:  Hoarder to Order Part II: A Family Record Risk Assessment. We will discuss why family records are at risk and review common obstacles families face in record-keeping and preservation.

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