SHARING THROUGH A FAMILY NEWSLETTER
October 3, 2010
Your reasons for beginning to research your family history were probably because you wanted to find out a little more about yourself and your ancestors, to share what you found with your family, and maybe to meet some “genealogy” cousins whom you had never known. Then, after becoming thoroughly hooked on researching and finding more and more, it is likely you forgot to share with those closest to you. If you fall into this category, then now is the time to begin writing a newsletter to finish what you started.
Whether you have been researching for a short time or for years, you must first decide where you are going to start. It is best to begin with yourself, just as you were told was the proper way to begin researching. Use the story map your teacher introduced in grade school. It flows from title, character(s), setting, events, problems and or goals, and ends with a resolution. Using this guide for writing about every generation is ordinarily successful when you plan ahead for the data in each category.
Open the newsletter by describing your purpose and intent. Maybe it is something you want to publish quarterly, twice a year, or just at Christmas. Remain creditable by continuing the publication as you promised. In cases of extenuating circumstances, a card to each of the people receiving your newsletter acquaints them with your problem, and puts them on hold.
The first thing to do when planning the first newsletter is to select a title for the overall newsletter such as “Swain Family History Newsletter,” or “Ancestors of Eldred J. and Elizabeth J. (Brown) Swain.” Then title your research to include the name of the person or couple in the target generation, their birth and death range, and possibly states and counties where the target lived. Here is an example, “Eldred and Elizabeth Swain, 1840-1911, Rockwall, Rockwall County, Texas.” Now you are ready for the next phase of the story map.
Your family’s personal information may be acceptable to print, or if you prefer to establish the connection, just mention yourself and your parents and grandparents if they are alive. Then go directly into describing the first deceased generation. Keep in mind that some of our “genealogy cousins” have published, to our dismay, family information on the Internet that includes personal information on the living. This is always the decision the writer must make. Personally, I prefer not to publish information on living people on the Internet.
With the title selected for the overall newsletter and the generational title decided, it is now time to establish a setting: when, where, and the time period. Try to use an opening sentence or paragraph that pulls the reader into your story and leads them through it to the very end. Use historical information as well as research findings to place the family into their historical, ethnic, cultural or social setting. Discuss the family education, occupation, talents and abilities, physical characteristics, personality, health, heirlooms and economic situation. Discuss anything you know. Although you may not have found all of the above information on your people, you probably know some of these things about the person and each is definitely important to the readers.
Establish the background. Include the events in the life of this generation such as the full name, which might be only a middle initial, parents’ names, and siblings. Do not use ‘my mother’ or ‘my grandfather.’ It is best to use the name of the person so the reader recognizes the subject and can follow the storyline.
Discuss any problems you found and goals you established for future research. Finish your story with a resolution. Summarize for the reader what you told them. In other words, you begin by telling them what you are going to write about; tell the story; and end with a recap of what you covered in the story of their family history.
Sharing your research information with other bloodline family members is rewarding beyond belief, and gives the researcher a sense of completion and self-satisfaction. Begin today.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.