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.
Now that we’ve discussed the important role of record-keepers, and what risk factors help us prioritize our record rescue, we are finally ready to begin a record rescue in earnest. Put very broadly, here are the basic steps of the record rescue.
Before a single record is gathered, scanned, or indexed, we must prepare for the rescue by asking a few important questions. The first: What is your Why?
Establishing your “why” is a crucial step, because it’s a reason you will turn to again and again. Record rescuers will face countless challenges, face adversity, and experience burnout (and that’s just the first week!). Your “why”” will inspire you and others stay focused on the goal more than a “what” ever could.
Knowing your “why” will help you visualize what you want to have happen as a result of your record rescue. Your “why” can be specific or broad, tangible or intangible. Here are some examples:
- “I want my family to know who my grandmother was”
- “I want to ensure my Great-Grandfather’s influence will be felt for generations”
- “I want to help future researchers and historians”
- “I want my father to be remembered”
- “I want to change the hearts of my family”
Now that you’re thinking about your “why”, let’s also think about the “what”. The “what” is the scope of your record rescue. Your scope should answer these questions:
Who? Which? What? When?
In other words:
- Whose records are we rescuing?
- Which records are included?
- What are we doing to the records?
- When will we complete it?
- We are scanning grandma’s love letters by Christmas! (not photos, not greeting cards, not family letters)
- We are gathering all of the family records pertaining to Aunt Betty before she moves into her new home.
Advice on Scope
- Start small. You wouldn’t climb a mountain pulling a mountain of 15 boxes, but you could take a backpack. That’s actually a good rule of thumb: can you fit your record rescue in a backpack? If the answer is no, consider paring down the scope into something with reasonable, reachable boundaries.
- If possible, separate records based on record type. For example, rescuing grandma and grandpa’s love letters is easier when you don’t include t photos, slides, and diaries. The more record types you have, the more complex your project will be, especially during the scanning and preservation stages.
- Show success early and often. Keep your family engaged in the rescue by updating them on your progress and sharing records on social media.
In addition to knowing our “why” and “what”, there is one more step in our record rescue preparation: enlisting help. Stay tuned for our next installment where we discuss ways to engage your family in the rescue.