Who are we, really?

For many, the best way to answer that question is to dig into their genealogical pasts, amassing family trees that go back generations, supported by birth certificates, immigration documents, municipal records and whatever else can be tracked down. Before the dawn of the personal computer, that task was a prodigious and labor intensive undertaking.

But it’s a personal journey that has become considerably easier in the last decade or so thanks to the widespread digitization of public records and document archives and technological advancements that have turned genealogical research into a user-friendly, plug-and-play process.

The engine behind much of that research evolution is a genealogical products and service industry that generated some $3.5 billion in revenues in 2021 is expected to grow to over $8 billion annually by 2030.

But search specialist and veteran entrepreneur Kendall Hulet says there’s a critical missing element when it comes to answering the “who am I” question that falls outside even the most intricate map of family blood lines.

The stories that illustrate a life.

Hulet knows a thing or two about genealogy and search services having spent 14 years upgrading the search functions for family history giant Ancestry.com and launching his own mobile browser, Cake, a few years back.

Now, Hulet is CEO of Storied, a newly announced rebrand of newspaper and record archive service World Archives which was acquired in 2020 by Charles Thayne Capital. Storied is looking to make stories, from relatives as well as the important people in our lives outside the family circle, an integral part of building family histories.

“Records are awesome and a lot of family history sites are really good at hosting records and making them searchable,” Hulet said. “Right now, when discussions about family history happen, people’s eyes glaze over a little because it’s not stories they’re hearing, just a list of facts and dates.

“But stories are what really matter. Telling stories around campfires has been happening throughout our history and it’s how humans are hardwired to communicate.”

Storied is getting a running start as a new genealogy service, thanks to the billions of domestic and international records already amassed by World Archives.

While Storied is continuing to build out that database, its new platform offers tools to create, document and share stories from family members and the pivotal, nonfamily members who’ve impacted life stories and whose narratives complete the richer tale of a life lived, Hulet said.

“Documenting family history has been so isolated, focused on family trees and familial relationships,” he said. “But think about all the people who have major impacts on our lives. Friends, teachers, classmates, mentors … all these and other people are a huge part of your story.”

Julianna Pulsipher, associate product manager at Storied, and Laryn Brown, vice president of content operations, chat at the company’s office in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Hulet said Storied is the first family history platform built from the ground up with next-generation “graph” architecture that allows for a virtually unlimited number of connection types between people, places and things.

“The industry must evolve to provide a richer and more complete lens into the past,” he said. “That vision can only become a reality with a new set of tools. With Storied, we want users to still have the ability to build a family tree, but to go beyond it as well.

“Everyone defines family differently, so we want to account for connections to a best friend, beloved pet, professional colleague, trusted mentor or chosen family. Storied’s unique approach unlocks a fuller view of our past.”

Storied.com is live now in a beta version and allows users to create a family tree from scratch or upload one that was previously built. You can then add additional, nonfamily members and find connections through Storied’s record archives as well as through the stories recorded by other groups and individuals on the platform. Users also have the option to create private groups to share stories and other records like photos, videos or audio recordings.

One Storied user posted a story and photos about his grandfather and his collection of cars from the 1920s. Another about his time as a less-than-stellar track athlete who, in spite of a lack of competitive success, became lifelong friends with his coach. Another person shared a story that detailed their family member’s work on sheep breeding research in the 1960s.

Hulet said Storied is built to allow people to leverage user-generated stories to “break past previously insurmountable barriers in their research.”

He also shared a personal example of how extending family search parameters outside the boundaries of blood relatives is set to change the depth and breadth of the historical narratives for individuals and families.

“I have an ancestor who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and another who sailed across the Atlantic without her parents as a young child,” Hulet said in a press statement. “Traditional records help me learn their names and things like the unit they served in or where they were at certain moments in time, but they aren’t able to provide the rich detail of what those experiences were like.

“Other people in their military unit or fellow passengers may have shared firsthand accounts that would help me understand what my ancestors experienced. Storied is the first family history platform designed specifically to bring those accounts to the fore by creating connections between people based on shared experiences.

“When you combine stories like those with the billions of traditional records accessible to Storied users, you have the ingredients to enable a new era of personal and family history discovery. We’re just getting started, but we’re very excited about how Storied can improve the family history experience.”

Hulet also noted Storied’s family history services are being offered at a very competitive price compared to current rates in the industry. Storied’s monthly subscription rate is $4.99, coming in significantly lower than other search platforms that are typically charging over $20 a month for registered users.

Kendall Hulet, CEO of Storied, poses for a photo at the company’s office in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News