The seed for LegacyScribes.org, a journal transcription service, was planted when Eric returned from his mission with his hand written missionary journal that he was afraid might someday be lost and those precious memories forgotten. So he decided to digitally transcribe his journal, and eventually shared it with his mother, Shelley Gish. In response, Shelley gave Eric boxes of her own handwritten journals – she was a lifelong prolific journal writer and Eric found her written record beautiful and inspiring. He came to know his mother in an entirely new way. And he was determined to digitize her massive collection, but knew he needed help. He scanned every page. But it wasn’t enough. No one was reading the imaged journals any more than they had the originals. So he hired transcribers to type her journals and then the idea of making them searchable set him to put his programming skills to use.
This was the beginning of LegacyScribes. Once he developed a system for taking digital images of journals and having them transcribed and indexed, with tags for names, places and other significant markers, he started offering the service to others through organic marketing on Facebook and at local Family History Centers in St. George, Utah.
This was just a hobby while Eric continued programming for his employer. Then on a fateful day in 2014, Eric attended the LDSTech Conference in Salt Lake City, and for the first time, he heard about the Innovator Showdown. This lit a fire in Eric.
His patriarchal blessing counseled him to make sure his career helped people. He was a natural programmer, he’d designed websites professionally by the age of 16. It was obvious to him that programming was the career he was cut out for, yet, he didn’t quite see how it would fulfill the counsel in his blessing.
Inspired by the idea of Innovator Showdown, Eric thought maybe this could be a way to marry the two forces in his life, and he used the competition to focus his energy to make a product worthy to be a contender in the 2016 Showdown.
This sense of mission took Eric on a journey out of his comfort zone. He knew he not only had to program, he would have to perform. He would have to sell. He would have to promote – and this was not natural for him, but each step along the way, he felt guidced – he saw doors open – and he was able to progressively become who he needed to be to make this vision a reality.
As he talked about his product with me, as a prolific journal writer, in a generational line of journal writers, what he described caught my fancy in a way I wasn’t expecting – he listened to my journal stories and it was clear my experience and concerns and questions were similar to those of many others he had worked with, and I saw how valuable this service could be to me. They don’t just transcribe – they tag names and locations and events, the original image appears side by side with the transcription. Original spelling and punctuation are honored. The humanity and individuality of the writer remains in tact. And though we may feel our journals are too personal to ever share, would never interest someone besides ourselves, he suggested that I might be surprised just how much value families receive from having access to the inner thoughts of parents, grandparents and beyond, and the more we share, the more people can benefit from what we have recorded of our lives. More than we might ever think possible.
I know how I treasure the journals of my grandmothers and grandfathers, some going back five generations, and only wish they’d written even more. If we thrill over a classified ad in a 1790 newspaper that mentions an ancestor, or a ship manifest, or a census record or deed – how much more will a handwritten and digitally transcribed journal mean to us?
Eric said that he was terribly nervous about the semi-final round, and though he wanted to get to the finals and maybe even win, he was actually relieved when it was over. He knows the finalists were further along in the development of their products than he was, but it has been an amazing journey and opportunity to be at RootsTech – for the focus it gave his work, for the way it forced him to grow, for the things he learned, for the connections and networking and exposure he has received and for the amazing consumer feedback he gots as he visited with RootsTech attendees. It was totally worth it! He has every intention of continuing to develop, improve, and partner his product as a result – and there are is no more confusion about his talent for programming being exactly the way his career would be all about helping others in the tremendous work of deeply connecting families across generations.