You can have a lot of fun publishing your own family newsletter. At the same time, you will be creating a true family treasure. If you do a family project like this, it will be years down the road that you fully realize just how important your efforts are. You will be surprised at the many ways this will affect your family in a positive (and often touching) manner.

Note that this is NOT a “Surname Newsletter” where you have a newsletter all about your last name (surname) only. The surname newsletters will help you further your genealogy research, but they are completely different from the informal family newsletter.

Your family newsletter will go out to many different family members. The in-laws and the out-laws can all be included. Think of it this way: If you were having a family reunion in your home - who would you invite? If your family is very large, you might want to stick to a set geographical region (the Southern U.S. for example).

You’ve got the computer - USE IT! Your newsletter doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Your family will enjoy it because of the content, not because it will win a graphic layout award.

Naming Your Family Newsletter

Again, this is not a surname newsletter. So if your last name is “Franklin,” your newsletter should NOT be the “Franklin Flyer.” What about all the other family members who are not Franklins? The “Family Flyer” would be a better choice. You need a name that will not have anyone on your mailing list feeling left out.

This will give you some insight on exactly how goofy that I am: Several years ago I started my family newsletter, which I called “The Bi-monthly BoBo.” I got BoBo from a private family joke where “kicking the BoBo” means “to shoot the breeze” or “chew the fat.”

My family has a “different” kind of humor than most folks. So, here are some more traditional ideas you can use. Examples: The Family– Chronicle, Constitution, Courier, Flyer, Gazette, Herald, Journal, Log, Messenger, Newsletter, Record, Register, Report, Times, Tribune, etc.

Your Family Newsletter Can Include:

Personal and Fun News from all those who will share: This is the most important element of your newsletter. Just a simple blurb about the person or family is fine. You will discover that everybody loves your newsletter (heaven help you if they miss an issue once you start sending them) BUT… they have trouble contributing the smallest bit of information. Here’s the solution to this problem: Folks don’t think that anything they are doing is newsworthy.

You will hear, “My life is boring” and “I just work and sleep” or “I never do anything interesting.” Of course, you know better than this. Any family news is important news. Did anyone: plant their garden, have a child that started T-Ball, work overtime all month, go on any type of trip, win a bowling trophy, have a birthday, have good or bad news from the doctor’s office, move to a new home, do anything with ANY hobby???

If they are local you can call them. If not, you can write them with a “response form” that you can easily make on your computer. You can have a form for those with children and those without. Your forms will ask a few simple questions that make it easy for your folks to respond. You will want to assure them that any small news really is important. After you do your first issue and they see what it’s all about, it will become easier for them to respond.

  • Your Family’s Recipes: And be sure to get the story behind that special recipe. The recipes that are on Treasure Map’s Web site came from my family newsletters (soon to be updated - my apologies for the delay to all who have shared theirs with me).
  • Funny Pictures and Stories: Include comics and drawings from any of the family artists. You probably already know some funny family stories. Type them up and use them.
  • Photographs: Are there any new babies or special events in your group? Don’t worry about having to scan photographs if you aren’t a computer “pro.” Just create your newsletter with enough space for the photo you have selected and use a small piece of tape to hold the photo in place. Make copies of your newsletter on a copy machine and put your picture back in safe keeping. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
  • A Genealogy Spotlight: You might want to “spotlight” an ancestor in a section of your newsletter. Use a picture (if you can) and include interesting facts and stories.

Paying For Your Newsletter: This is a labor of love. The normal family newsletter will have from 20-40 people (or families) on the list. It will cost you at first. But, you don’t need to ask for money because it will come to you from loving family members who want to help. Just keep sending it out - you will be amazed at the support you receive from your family.

How Often Should You Send Your Newsletter?: I said that my family newsletter was the “Bi-monthly BoBo.” That soon changed to the “BoBo Quarterly.” Then it was less frequent than that. I suggest sending your newsletter out twice a year - and no more than three times a year. You will be surprised at how fast time flies by and there is a deadline to meet.

Excerpts From My Old Family Newsletters

Note: I have changed the names to respect their privacy:

  • “Life goes on in Orangedale, the “Mayberry” of State Road 13. Everyone will be delighted to know that the local country store (BDR Faststop) now has pickled pig lips. XXX has been doing some serious fishing on the St. John’s River.”"Still cold and windy in Colts Neck, NJ. Nessy has had some dental problems that made it a chore to talk and eat. She’s doing better now.
  • “Burt’s ship was in Mayport this month. We got to spend some time with him and had lots of fun with the computer and eating Mexican food. Both XXX and XXX may be in Jacksonville for a visit in April.”
  • “Nothin’ much going on. Lily has planted her spring garden.”
  • “Nana has been out walking the Mt. Carmel area (chasing men). She’s been watching the bingo players from the best view in town. Nan reminded me of the days when our dad [her son] had the “reserved for dad only” cookie jar - which had the words “NO Dad” taped right on the jar. And Nana was right when she said that the “no dad cookies” tasted better than regular cookies. That’s what I’ve heard (cough cough) but I wouldn’t (cough cough) know…”

Personal Notes: So you see. You can do this - it isn’t hard. I got busy and stopped sending out my newsletter after a while. I have been thinking hard about starting it up again. As I was reviewing the old newsletters for this article, I was again amazed at how valuable they have become. So many things have happened since then. Some of the people on the list have departed.

I have written about my late grandmother (who we call “Nana”) before. She had a great sense of humor - so I could say she was chasing men (which she wasn’t) and get away with it. That may not have worked with other family members. Years later I was going though some of my files and found “The Recipe For a Happy Home” which was written by her hand on her personal stationary. She gave it to me to use on the family newsletter. I had forgotten all about it.

It was a few weeks before Christmas - so I had copies made on parchment paper and got some frames and gave it out to the appropriate family members during the holiday season. They immediately recognized the handwriting and were delighted to have it.

The moral: This is a positive, fun and wonderful endeavor. You never know how this will affect your family. It is well worth your effort. And remember, you honestly will be creating a family treasure most cherished.

Resources and Examples of Online Family Newsletters (blogs):

Starting a Family Newsletter - In a previous post I talked about the importance of improving extended family relationships and mentioned a few ways that this might be done. I’d like to discuss one of those ways now: starting a family newsletter. …

Our Family Newsletter Update - For reasons unknown, like laziness and pure procrastination on my part I missed the deadline for our Family Newsletter that we do quarterly with Aaron’s Family so here it is just in case any of his family actually checks out my Blog. …

Family Newsletter: February 2008 - I’ll also be trying to post the newsletter at the end of the month. My Beautiful Girls, This has been a very busy month for all of us, but especially you E. You’ve spent a lot of time in the car as we follow-up the outstanding items …

The Sorensen Family Newsletter - As many of you may or may not know we do not do the typical Christmas newsletter. I have found I , usually, have more time around Valentines AND I want all our close friends and family to know that we love them..it kills two birds with …