The Power of Small and Simple Things

October 19, 2015  - by 

In 1972, mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz suggested that a Brazilian butterfly’s flapping wings could set off a chain of meteorological events that results in a Texas tornado. This attempt to explain the unpredictability of the weather has come to signify, in popular culture at least, the concept that small things can trigger momentous change.

As the new CEO of FamilySearch, I have been asked about my goals. My answer is simple: I want to be a small part of the continuous efforts of FamilySearch—and the whole industry—to discover small and simple things to spur exponential growth in family history. I want to find those butterflies, and get their wings flapping!

We are all indebted to Dennis Brimhall. In “The Fantastic Four” years he has been at the helm, Dennis has pioneered a number of small and simple things that have generated exponential growth and opportunity. The simplicity of starting first with heart-warming photos and stories has engaged thousands of new people on FamilySearch and other sites. With a simple stroke of a pen, his vision of bringing key players in the industry together to forge partnerships has given millions of people access to billions of more records to enjoy.

Steve Rockwood CEO FamilySearch
To continue on and honor the path Dennis blazed, my question is “What are the next small and simple things—the multiplying innovations, discoveries, and collaborations—that will bring great things to pass for all of us.” I am extremely curious by nature and it is that pursuit that excites me as we work together to discover the future of family history.

In our discovery I hope we will all shine a light on the life-changing nature of family history. All of our family and friends need to personally experience the emotion, understanding, and joy that comes from discovering family, both past and present. Let’s work together to make connections that strike us to the heart and fill our lives with a sense of heritage and purpose. Let’s find the accelerators that will exponentially inspire the family history industry and engage the growing community that loves it. One butterfly flap at a time.


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  1. I do not know if this is possible but I never will if I don’t ask.
    Ancestry has some great family trees that I can read but not comment on through my family search link. It requires a paid Ancestry account to send a message. Could the individual Family History Libraries obtain one of these memberships? When I worked at the Oakland Family History Library someone always had one. This allowed us to contact the contributor and ask questions or share data. But when I asked in Salt Lake no one seemed to have even considered this nor did I receive a positive response to making the suggestion. Some of the most important contacts I have made have been on these trees back when Ancestry allowed comments on the trees. I have shared documents with many distant relatives, greatly expanding our common tree. But now I have no way of sharing, a sad state of affairs since I finally possess the documents that allow me to link the family back from the US to a specific farm in Ireland. Everyone on Ancestry is stuck one generation before that. And the people in Salt Lake act as if you only need what we already have.

    1. Perhaps you could get your extended family to pay for an Ancestry membership for you to use. That way you can get all the bells and whistles. If you have family who have no interest in doing famhist research this is one easy way they can contribute to the effort.