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Provo company seeks to enhance storytelling, family history experience

By Harrison Epstein - | Jan 22, 2023
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Kendall Hulet, Storied's chief executive officer, is pictured at his desk in the company's office in Provo on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.
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The Storied logo adorns the wall of the company's office in Provo on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.
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A desktop Christmas tree holds ornaments featuring the names of Storied employees at the company's office in Provo on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.

Every person is the sum total of experiences — of friends, family and classmates, of neighbors, co-workers and more. Telling the story of how a person becomes who they are is complex; it weaves and winds through both genetics and moments.

That’s where Storied comes in. The Provo-based company, founded by a handful of executives from Ancestry.com, launched Wednesday with a mission to expand the idea of genealogy beyond the family tree.

Kendall Hulet, chief executive officer of Storied, worked for 14 years at Ancestry.com, eventually overseeing product at the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world.

After a series of fortunate events, Hulet and Brandon Camp, Storied’s chief marketing officer, ended up leading NewspaperArchive, an online service containing over 290 million newspaper pages from around the world.

“Our vision was, ‘Well, let’s take that and let’s build upon that and build a really cool offering that we think can help people tell stories about their family history,'” Hulet told the Daily Herald.

At the center of Storied’s ethos is an article published in The New York Times in 2013. In “The Stories That Bind Us,” author Bruce Feiler wrote one sentence that Storied continues to use in explaining the company.

“The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative,” he wrote.

Feiler’s story dives into research done by psychologists at Emory University examining why some children have more self-confidence than others. As it turned out, students more aware of their family history exhibited more confidence in their daily lives.

To the team at Storied, this was proof that genealogy can be about more than just your direct relatives, but also about who they were and the lives they lived.

The question then became about use, entering a space dominated by prominent companies doing one kind of research for decades. That’s why Storied developed its four pillars — storytelling, relationships, collaboration and affordability.

For storytelling, the most important thing was taking the genealogy people have done for decades and building from there. The service uses names, dates and places just like other companies. Users can find their ancestors in immigration records, military service records, address and job records listed on the U.S. Census and much more, but seeks to jump beyond the straight facts.

“No one wants to read the dictionary; they want to read a story,” Hulet said.

Writing that story, though, is partially on the user. When someone signs up for Storied, they start by building their family tree and go, piece by piece, to add individual stories. Hulet uses his uncle as an example. Having fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, military records are searchable almost anywhere. But Storied allows users to add stories of their own.

Hulet can attach his uncle’s words, retold through the family, to his page and to the battalion with whom he served. Now, anyone else using Storied with a relative in the battalion can connect with Hulet and see the story he shared.

With relationships, the company doesn’t want things to end with blood relatives. The bond shared by Hulet’s uncle and the rest of his battalion are just as strong, shaping each of their lives and personalities.

“Family is only one of the influences that impacts our lives,” Camp said. “If you were to ask people — and we have — ‘What are some other people that had a meaningful impact on your life?’ they’ll bring up military comrades, they’ll bring up friends, a best friend from high school or college or roommate, someone in the religious community.”

While newspaper records are available from almost 50 countries, a significant amount of the site’s content is from the United States aside from a few outliers — specifically, census documents from the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

More than a family tree, Storied wants users to build a family forest. It’s the collaboration, though, that makes it possible to build the forest. Camp explains that most family history products currently available are designed for people who want to find and research on their own. Services make the documents and information available for the family genealogist to then comb through.

“We feel like that there’s a real opportunity to bring people together, that there’s value in shared memories,” Camp said.

Stories shared on Storied also serve to build a social network. People can create groups and share stories with their group instead of the general public. Camp said he uses the service to share characteristics and moments about his kids, preserving them for the foreseeable future.

Affordability, too, was key when building Storied. The team wanted to create a product that was feasible for anyone, not just those with a preexisting affinity for family history.

Users have access to a free tier where they can build a family tree, share stories, get access to story starters and more. For $4.99 a month, users can sponsor groups and search through traditional family records like birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, passenger lists and the 290 million news pages available from NewspaperArchive.

“Almost all of us know some stories about our family. Whether we know all the details and who was born where and when, that’s actually less important to me,” Hulet said. “I think it’s actually pretty ideal for people who are less interested in doing the hardcore research.”

The user-generated content, the personal stories, will grow in number across the website as more people sign up and build their groups. The program will build on itself like a snowball, the executives say, as more people join Storied, contribute to the forest and so on.

On a corporate level, Storied doesn’t exactly see itself as a competitor with companies like Ancestry. With deep respect for his former employer, Hulet calls Storied an evolution of the “nuts and bolts” content currently on the market. Between full-time employees and contractors, Storied currently has about 60-70 people on staff between those living and working in Utah County and remotely.

The website is currently in its beta form and a mobile app is available to download. They will also make their public presence known in Salt Lake City during the first weekend of March with space at RootsTech, the family history conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There are a lot of people that will come and talk about their family history experience and how much it’s changed their lives. So you want to be involved in something that can really make a difference,” Camp said.


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