16    Mar 20100 comments

Family Newsletters: Spotlight on your family

family newsletterFamily newsletters are a great way to involve relatives in family history.

Such publications can be as simple or as detailed as the author desires. They are another way to stay in touch and keep relatives informed of what's going on.

While in Australia, I attended an informative session by Bubbles Segall, who addressed the essentials of family newsletters.


According to famed author Eli Wiesel,

"Your family is only the bare framework of your family history. Without the stories, legends, tales and episodes of your cousins and ancestors, all you will have is a dry collection of names and dates."

Your newsletter can be another part of the "keeping connected" plan. In addition to a family site (such as MyHeritage.com), a publication may likely reach relatives in different ways. Of course, if you have a family website, the newsletter can also be placed online at the site for invited members to read.

In any case, there are numerous reasons to create one. A family newsletter:

-- Helps everyone keep in touch.
-- Preserve stories and data which might be lost.
-- Shares information with relatives.
-- Shares, preserves photographs of lifecycle events.
-- Serves as a central family information location and points to other family resources.
-- Leaves a paper trail for future generations.
-- Records your family's history, customs, origins and culture.


How often you publish a family newsletter is up to you. Factors impacting this includes whether you will be emailing the newsletter or printing and snail-mailing copies. Although many researchers I know choose a quarterly newsletter, others prefer a larger semi-annual or annual edition, and still others send out short monthly updates. It is up to you and depends on your available time. It will take time to produce a good one.

Depending on your family's unique demographics, you may need to use both emaill and postage as older relatives may not have computers. However, their children and grandchildren are likely Internet users; email them the newsletter and ask them to print a copy for their older relative.

Mailing copies? Who will pay for the postage? It can be expensive, especially if you're considering a large semi-annual or annual publication.Birthdays

Will you be including photos? Everyone wants to see photos, but it can make a Word document very "heavy." Consider converting Word documents to PDF files via readily available software.


Before you write your first issue, think about who will receive it. Do you have a family address list already? Will you need to create one?

Consider the fact that many people will want it, but others simply won't care.

You could try sending the newsletter to everyone in the family and ask them to respond if they'd like to continue receiving it.


-- Life cycle events (births, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, deaths) are all important to each family. If possible, include photos of the individuals and make sure to identify them in the photo. An important idea is to include the relationship of each individual to the first person on your tree, e.g. great-grandchild of X, great-grandson of X's brother Y, etc.
-- Family traditions, customs, hoildays, recipes.
-- Stories about the ancestors.
-- Family history projects completed by relatives
-- Origin of the family's surname
-- Updates on recent research success

Other items:

-- Old letters (remember to identify the writer and recipient)
-- Old and recent photos
-- Diary or journal entries
-- Obituaries
-- Newspaper articles mentioning family members


Unusual original names are good. Easy to remember should be another quality. When I was considering a TALALAY newsletter, we used "Tales of the Talalay." Use the following - a thesaurus will come in handy as well - as a jumping-off point:

Tie your surname's first letter to any of these: Connections, Beat, Family, Chronicles, News, Words, Capers, Tales. Links, etc.


There are many free newsletter templates available. Check Microsoft Publisher and other desktop publishing programs, or simply compose it as a Word document. If you plan to use many photos, consider converting the newsletter to PDF.


Will you be covering your paternal or maternal line or your spouse's family? Will you want to do separate newsletters for each side of the family? Remember that readers may not be interested about the other side of your family.


Is there a relative who is also loves genealogy? Ask his or her help to proof the newsletters before they are sent out. Sometimes it is hard to keep things short and interesting. We may be too close to a topic to write succintly. Ask someone to assist in reading each issue and suggesting ways of making it more interesting.

We already covered this, but it bears repeating again: Make sure to name people in photos and include the relationships of everyone.

Attempt to make sure that information included is correct -- ask someone to make sure.


WeddingsAre you emailing your newsletter? Make sure to use BCC (blind carbon copies). It is considered bad form to make such a long list of emails open to the public. You can include in your newsletter that you'll be happy to put relatives in touch with each other upon request. In practicality, it means that family members wishing to contact someone would write to you and you would forward the email on to that individual, who may choose to answer it or not. It also helps keep your address list safe from spammers. If a family member forwards the newsletter to someone else, they won't get the entire list of emails for everyone. Think security.

Remember to capitalize and bold surnames. For example, write TALALAY, not Talalay.

Think privacy and security. Be careful what you write.

If you publish your newsletter on a family web site, make sure that site is secure with strong privacy controls (such as MyHeritage.com). Email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and locations of children's schools should be removed.If family members want more information on relatives showcased in an issue, they can contact you.

Some stories are better off remaining in your files and not for public consumption. Think sensitivity.

Think about sections for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, births, deaths. Bubbles commented that she includes people's ages for those 21 and younger and for those 80 and older. So, she'd write: Susan Brown celebrated her 21st birthday on May 1, but for her mother Judith, she might write: Judith Green's birthday was September 1.

For all announcements, list the wife by her maiden name: David Brown & Ilene Smith celebrated their 27th anniversary on June 10. or Ilene Smith Brown celebrated her birthday on April 16.


Bubbles offered this quote from a well-known genealogist, Ted Margulis, which offers more food for thought:

"You know, you'll never own your family history. All you can expect is to merely take care of it for the next generations.Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. And today, well, today is a gift - and it should be treasured and memorialized."


Family Newsletter News: This is a newsletter for those who write family newsletters. It is packed with helpful information, ideas and more. There are even more useful links to more resources here.

Create a Family Newsletter

How to Create a Family Newsletter

Doea your family have a newsletter? How often is it published? Are you considering starting a newsletter? Tell us about it.

Search for your ancestors:

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