Over the past few years we’ve observed the increasingly prominent role stories have played in helping people engage with family history. During 2016, Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch International, revealed how FamilySearch is changing the way they engage people in family history. Starting with stories—rather than names, dates, and charts—turns the traditional family tree model upside down and offers an inviting approach for users who crave a more emotional connection. Steve Rockwood, as quoted in the Ancestry Insider, said:
“We are concentrating on how everyone can experience and feel those emotions.” By giving them immediate, emotional experiences, FamilySearch hopes they then engage in family history. FamilySearch decided to concentrate on stories. “We are serious” [about this change]. Steve said. “We changed our logo, our entire branding.” The FamilySearch logo now looks like a set of picture frames. FamilySearch starts people with photos, audio recordings, anything that anyone can participate in. That makes it an exciting world of change. “Now, more and more people are getting involved in this thing called family history.” For example, FamilySearch has seen a 47% increase in young people involved in family history. 
Later in 2016, he repeated the emphasis on stories. Upon learning that only 2 percent of LDS church members responded to the call to do family history when they were told, “here’s a chart; here’s a record; here’s a computer”, they changed their approach. As blogger Lynn Broderick wrote in Steve Rockwood asks: Where’s your Jerusalem?:
“…FamilySearch decided to “turn the model upside down. [FamilySearch is] going to start with stories.” Stories are not a “niche” like genealogy. Memories and photos are a place where “all the people on the earth” can participate. This is an area that attracts more young, single adults and statistics show a greater participation by the millennials.”
However, such changes are not always met with enthusiasm by traditional genealogists who adhere to strict standards of proof, accuracy, and source citations. Stories without sources are, after all, just stories.
But is there a different way to look at this disconnect? Can stories be both emotional and accurately sourced? While stories often function as the broad gate by which many people enter family history, they are not a substitute for accurate research and use of best practices. But are stories and narrative-based family history really incompatible with traditional genealogy research? As Tony Proctor explains in his post Evolution and Genealogy, narrative-based genealogy can unite both storytelling and sound genealogy practice:
“…[I] presented a view of narrative genealogy that embraced story telling, narrative reports, proof arguments, and transcription (of both old and new material). I believe that this seamless inclusion is necessary for useful genealogy, and for micro-history in general.”
The inclusion of stories, accompanied with relevant sources and transcriptions, is not only helpful, but necessary when creating genealogies. The key, as always, lies in the source. Primary source records like letters, journals, and similar documents are the holy grail of stories. In truth, they are the story.
When properly sourced, stories can play a key role in genealogy research. But so often, these sources are elusive and unsearchable. Whether hidden away in closets or filed in an archives, family records are one of the most underdeveloped and at-risk resources family historians and genealogists have.
One of the primary purposes of Kindex is to elevate family records to a key role in both storytelling and sound research. By indexing records, they become accessible and readable by anyone who knows how to search. And let’s face it, searching—and not reading—is the default way we find things, especially youth. By removing barriers that prevent us from accessing and reading family records, we can place sourceable stories at our fingertips.
There are other applications beyond stories. Through the addition of transcriptions, tagging, and macro-data, records are elevated in their usefulness and purpose. For professionals and casual researchers alike, records with linkable data are invaluable in their ability to connect records to other databases and family trees. This connectivity will someday make it just as easy for families to cite a family record to their tree, as it is to cite a birth or death record.
Additionally, transcribed and tagged records can be scaled to many applications, including historical research, book publishing (i.e., The Joseph Smith Papers), and limitless after-market products such as maps, timelines, and other creative works. By putting families in control of their own archives, they can choose how to apply and make available their own records.
Through the search and application of primary source records, Kindex provides a solution that both genealogists and storytellers can agree on: that the best source is an original source. Perhaps it’s not enough to turn the family history model upside down—we must also turn it inside out, and get to the source of our history. What a gift it will be for us, and the generations that follow.
 Turning the Model Upside Down. (2016, 07 27). Retrieved February 2 , 2017, from Ancestry Insider: http://www.ancestryinsider.org/2016/07/turning-model-upside-down-byugen-byufhgc.html
 Broderick, L. (2016, 11 1). Steve Rockwood Asks “Where’s Your Jerusalem?”. Retrieved 2 2, 2017, from Family Search Blog: https://familysearch.org/blog/en/steve-rockwood-asks-wheres-jerusalem/
 Proctor, T. (2016, 02 12). Evolution and Genealogy. Retrieved 02 02, 2017, from Parallax View: http://parallax-viewpoint.blogspot.com/2016/02/evolution-and-genealogy.html
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 diary provid 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?
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.
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 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.