What if there was a way to hear your great-great-great grandmother tell the story of her upbringing and all the most pivotal moments in her life? Now, with Chapel Hill-based startup Audible Ancestry, there will be a way to hear those priceless stories—both today and for future generations—in their own voices.
Audible Ancestry founder Evan Hatch was inspired to create his startup after years of experience with folklore and oral history, seeing the benefits that come when people tell their stories.
“I think there’s a great therapeutic value for people who are being listened to and asked questions about their lives,” Hatch said. “Although it’s impossible, if you could interview everybody in the world, you would have such great understanding and great knowledge of people everywhere, and there’s great wisdom there.”
The graduate of UNC Chapel Hill (undergrad) and the University of Mississippi (a master’s in Southern Studies) fell in love with talking to people who have wisdom to pass down. So amid the coronavirus lockdown, he put his passion into action as Audible Ancestry.
Grandchildren will be able to listen to grandparents tell stories on subjects they might not think to ask about—or be afraid to ask—like marriages or military service.
But Audible Ancestry does more than preserve the stories of older family members. It also offers a youth “audio portrait” service, allowing families to take a snapshot in time of a child and their full personality, which parents and family members can listen to for years to come—and that the child can even share someday with children of their own. Other services include capturing event-focused “group ancestries” like reunions or weddings.
Prices range from $150 to $750 depending on the type of session.
Audible Ancestry hopes to fully launch at some point next year and so far has focused on Hatch’s friends and family. Hatch said none of the interviews ever sound the same, as each one is an organic conversation. The final product Audible Ancestry provides is geared to sound like a full narrative from whomever is being interviewed.
Looking ahead, Hatch wants to focus on offering services to at least five senior citizen retirement communities in the area, which are full of residents who might be interested in capturing their life stories and the wisdom they’ve acquired—and who might have families who are eager to hear it.
With the coronavirus pandemic, Hatch believes people are looking even more so for the service that Audible Ancestry provides.
“I think that Covid has focused a lot of that energy, with isolation and people needing to talk to one another,” he said. “But also people considering their mortality, knowing that that they have something they contributed and they want people to know what their life has meant to them. I think that there’s definitely a need for that now.”
One interview close to Hatch’s heart is with his two friends detailing the adoption story of their son, which will be preserved forever for the son to hear when he’s old enough to understand.
“I think that while he may not value that as a young person,” he said, “I think to have it one day will be—I would consider it a part of the legacy, part of what you leave for your children.”
Audible Ancestry is part of the current cohort of the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator, which Hatch was referred to by another business owner.
“No one ever treats you like you have a dumb question, and I am not somebody who’s ever been driven to be in a business,” Hatch said. “So I have a lot of things that I don’t know about about businesses, and everybody is so encouraging.”
Hatch said the founders at Launch Chapel Hill are driven and exciting to be around. The 16-week accelerator has made a true impact on Hatch and Audible Ancestry.
“It’s really called an ‘accelerator,'” he said, “and I have to say I feel accelerated by the whole thing.”