How Do I...
Publish A Family Newsletter?
by GFS Jill
Q. What costs virtually nothing to mail, has the potential to reach hundreds, even thousands of family members, can be seen almost immediately, and is easy to create?
A. An online newsletter!
If you can write or paste together news and articles submitted by other people, you can edit and produce a family newsletter on the internet. All it takes is a little research, a little thought, a little time, and a little input from contributors. Here's how you can get started . . . .
How about a website for your newsletter?
- Decide if a surname newsletter or a family newsletter best fits the bill or suits your needs. (A surname newsletter would be sent to any interested individuals with e-mail addresses who have a particular surname in their family tree in common with you. You might also include variations of that surname's spelling.)
- Let two or three others know of your intent and see if they are interested in receiving and contributing occasionally to the project. Ask them to send a brief family history or story, or maybe the URL of their online family tree.
- Gather a few facts of your own together. Share a little about your own family or the surname. Write out your goal in producing this online newsletter. Keep it short and simple at first!
- Begin collecting e-mail addresses from the internet, from AOL's member directory, the genealogy forum, etc. Write and ask if they are interested in family history or surname origins. Ask them to reply if they wish to be put on the list. Be sure to explain that it's free and that they can ask to be taken off the list at any time.
- Determine the frequency of your newsletter. Will it be monthly? bimonthly? quarterly?
- Prepare to type out your first issue. Be sure to use plain text so that all can easily read it. While keeping it basic, think about how you can make names and items stand out without using html, color, or bold letters.
- Plan ahead. What regular features will you want to include? Consider the following ideas: letters to the editor, a letter from the editor, family tree of the month, family websites, census extracts, famous people bearing your surname, reunion stories, family recipes, etc.
- Consider using a separate screen name or e-mail address just for newsletter business. Promote the newsletter by creating a profile for that screen name with a description of the newsletter.
- Be open to reader/family feedback and suggestions.
- Keep up with your mailing list and always be on the lookout for potential subscribers.
Another option is to create an online newsletter available for all to read at a website. You can upload a new issue each month and give it a home page all its own. Consider e-mailing family members and other similar surname researchers the URL each time you edit it. One advantage to doing it this way is that you can be more creative with the text, adding different font styles, color, and even graphics.
(I have chosen to do both of the above methods. I send out a surname newsletter by e-mail and upload it to my family genealogy site each month, AND the Genealogy Forum's newsletter section in the file libraries. You can see what I've done by visiting SYERS Seeker's Nest. When I began the newsletter three years ago it was sent to three other individuals. Now we have a mailing list of close to 80! Some of these people are not related to me -- at least not as fas as we can tell -- but the surname they are researching is very close in spelling or pronunciation. This newsletter project, along with the homepage, the RootsWeb SIRES-L, and the SIRES GenConnect boards, provide us with opportunities to glean from and share with others. These resources did not exist, especially for uncommon surnames, until just recently.)
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