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.
What’s in Your Closet?
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.
SAY NO MORE. LET’S DO THIS!
Still undecided? Here are some bonus questions:
Where is your Archive?
||On your computer
||In a digital family tree
|Do I control my archive access, scope, and content?
||Varies (private vs. wiki-based)
|Is my archive discoverable online?
||Varies (private vs. wiki-based)
|Is my archive accessible from any computer?
|Can others collaborate on my archive
||No or very limited
|Can my archive be private?
||Yes; Choose your privacy level
|Is my archive fully searchable?
|Can I add metadata?
|Can I add metadata in batch form?
|Does my archive have integrated transcription & record tagging tools?
||Varies; often separate from primary source
||Rare; Varies by platform
||Rare; Varies by platform
|Can I download all my archive data?
|Is my archive compatible with other databases?
||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.
TRY IT OUT!
One family organization—the Sampsons of Delta, Utah—embraced the idea of record gathering and digitization. When reunion organizer Tonna Bounds first approached friend and Kindex owner Kimball Clark, she had a great vision of uniting her family records, but was concerned about the following obstacles:
- How to encourage family members throughout the country to attend the reunion and bring their records
- How to scan records correctly within a limited timeframe
- How to discern which family members had what records
- Convincing aging or skeptical family members to preserve and share their records
- Involve children and youth in family record archiving
With her family’s biannual reunion several months away, we suggested she use Kindex Gather Services to hold an on-site digitization event—a “family scanning party”.
Several weeks before the reunion, we sent the family a “Call for Records” publicity image to promote the digitization event. The family posted this image on social media and emailed this image to family, and provided guidelines on record gathering including:
- A list of family members in attendance, and who of those brought records
- How record scanning would be prioritized. For example, the Sampson family focused on letters, journals, and papers more than photos. They also gave higher priority to records coming in from out-of-town attendees, and those records belonging to first-generation family members.)
- Acceptable record sizes, and what types of scanners would be available to accommodate those sizes
- Suggestions on preparing items for scanning, including the removal of loose papers, staples, paper clips, sheet protectors, etc.
When family members with records arrived at the reunion, we checked in their records and gathered the following information:
- Record owner and contact information
- Primary person to whom the records originally belonged
- Inventory of items to be scanned
As more documents arrived throughout the day, we were impressed with the family’s response to the Call for Records. Records were gathered from New York, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. Soon all our scanners were busy, and several family volunteers—including several youth—jumped in to help. Throughout the reunion, families entered the “record room” to check on the status of their scanning. They were delighted to see the process, and several volunteered their time to move the process along.
Mark Sampson, Kimball Clark, Dale Sampson, and Caleb Sampson busy scanning their family records. Caleb remarked, while scanning the journals of his ancestors: “This makes me want to go write in my journal when I get home.”
Ikara Bounds scans her family records while Kimball trains Caleb Sampson on book scanning
A Sampson family member pauses scanning to review an old school photo of an ancestor.
At the end of the day, we returned the records to their owners, and made arrangements to scan any records that remained. Following the compilation of all digitized files to an external hard drive, Kindex will:
- Orient each scan
- Save each in the appropriate format and grouping.
- Transfer the complete digitized archive to USB drives for family members to order
- Upload all digitized records to sampson.kindex.org, which enables the family to access each record and begin the indexing process.
Because of the Sampson Family’s dedication to the preservation and and sharing of their family records, their scanning event was a great success. Family members couldn’t wait to access records they had never seen, and were already planning indexing and book projects. Several volunteers became emotional as they paused to read journal entries between scans, pored over old photos, and when a copy of the Delta High School fight song was discovered, played an impromptu version of on the piano. Others simply poked in their heads and exclaimed, “Wonderful! We can’t wait!”
After the reunion, we asked Tonna how she felt about the record-gathering effort. She said:
“How do you explain something that took place at our past reunion that is so futuristic in thought and action. People don’t understand the potential in all of this—jaw dropping in thought!! Just trying to wrap my brain around it all. Aunt Zelda and Uncle Ivo’s history has been destroyed and through all the ancestors’ history. Those lost histories can now be put back together with even more force then could be imagined.”
The Sampson Family prepares letters for scanning.
We were honored to be a part of the Sampson Family’s effort to bring their family records out of obscurity, and hope to enable many more families see the the potential in utilizing family reunions for the gathering and preservation of their own family records.
Contact us to learn more about how Kindex can help you rescue your family records.
Kindex is excited to announce the release of two major software updates that enable Kindex users to customize and grow their archives in powerful new ways.
1. Add & Organize Records into Collections
Archive owners can now create Collections within their archives to organize their records. With collections, you can organize your records any way you wish. For example, your collections can be named as family names, record types, dates, or subjects.
2. Add Multiple Records & Assign Record Info (Metadata) to a Batch
You may now add multiple records to your archive quickly and easily, with the added benefit of designating Record Info (metadata) to a batch of records. This feature allows users to apply common metadata to an entire batch of records, instead of applying metadata individually. Metadata may include Record Info such as descriptions, provenance, dates, places, and keywords. Metadata can also be added and edited in batch form from your archive’s Gather page.
Step 1: To add multiple records, click “Add Records”, and select “Upload from my computer”.
Step 2: Select your records. If you don’t know how to select multiple files at once from your computer, hover atop the link “How to Batch Upload”.
Step 3: Assign your batch of records to a collection, or add a new collection for them to be placed, and review your upload progress. At this point, you may opt to add Record Info (metadata) as a batch now, or individually later.
Step 4: Add Record Info to your records.
The following enhancements are currently in development and will be released soon:
- Manually order your Collections
- Nest a Collection within a Collection
If you don’t already have an Unlimited + Collaborative Kindex Archive, now is the time to upgrade and take advantage of these amazing tools. Please contact us with an questions you may have, and happy batching!
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Among the many documents our Grandma Dorothy Clark left behind was a handwritten list of her attempts to be published. She sent articles to church magazines or the Reader’s Digest, but not once were her stories published. As an amateur artist, she never had an exhibit of her art beyond the walls of her own home except the occasional entry at the State Fair. And her letters—including hundreds of handwritten letters to family & friends—sat folded up in boxes for years.
Dorothy Smith in Paul Wildhaber’s art studio in Salt Lake City, Utah, 1932
Her amazing life never made headlines, and was never published. Her records are not found in any special collection, or any other archive devoted to preserving government, academic, or historical records. Her records live on our shelves and closets. But to us she was a leader worth following, and a woman worth remembering. She deserves an archive.
Your Records At Risk
What about your records? Family records represent one of the most at-risk sources of our history. One only has to walk through flea markets and second-hand stores to see the plethora of family records that are discarded. Records that are kept are often scattered among various families, eventually getting lost, damaged, or forgotten.
How will you ensure this doesn’t happen to your records? Do your photos, journals, diaries, letters, and other precious family records deserve an archive? Another way of asking that question is, “Do you deserve to be remembered?”. The answer is, of course “Yes. A thousand times yes.”
Everyone deserves an archive—not just the rich, famous, or important. We all deserve to be remembered.
Searchable Archives for Everyone
When we built Kindex, our goal was to bring amazing archival tools to everyday families. Putting family records on Kindex enables anyone to create a digital archive and access professional tools that make their records more accessible and relevant than ever. Families who manage their own archives on their custom Kindex subdomain can:
- Collaborate with unlimited people to gather records from multiple sources
- Add unlimited records
- Import and add metadata in batch mode (release April 10 2017)
- Utilize crowdsourced indexing tools
- Choose public or private archive access
- Enjoy full text searchability
- Access & download source records and indexed data
Cool. How do I start?