Thursday, December 19, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday (December 19, 2013) -- The Tew Family Holiday Newsletters

This week The Weekly Genealogist newsletter by NEHGS has an essay by Lynn Betlock titled, "A Note From the Editor: Holiday Newsletters Revisited."  The essay is a revised update of her December 2011 essay on the same subject.  It is a good read and presents thoughts on annual holiday newsletters with which I completely agree. 

Lynn writes about how B.C. ("Before Children") her holiday greetings consisted of individually composed notes to friends and relations; but once her twins were born she found she had many more news items to report with much less time to devote to individualized notes in cards. This conundrum gave birth to her first annual holiday family newsletter.

Being somewhat more "seasoned" than Lynn, I met this same conundrum of increased news vs. less time to report almost two decades earlier with the birth of the first of our two sons.  BUT, being a slower learner than Lynn is, it took about eight years for the nickel to drop for me and our newsletter was not begun until 1992.  Since I am a pack rat of the first order, I did not run into the dilemma Lynn encountered when she realized her annual holiday newsletters were a great genealogy resource for memorializing family experiences, events, celebrations, etc., and then also realized she did not have copies of all her newsletters.  As she writes, she had to begin "the painful process of trying to reassemble what  [she had] sent out." Since the computer on which she had composed her first newsletters died and took her newsletters to the grave, Lynn had to reach out to relatives to inquire if they had by chance saved any of her newsletters.  Lynn was able to report that, "[f]ortunately, some had, and were willing to return them." Now Lynn has a treasured album of all her holiday newsletters and annual holiday photographs -- and her twins have really enjoyed family readings of holiday newsletters that summarize and report events from their early years.

Two years ago I struck on the same thought Lynn had about preserving by sharing the annual holiday newsletters I have written for more than two decades.  I had a file with a hard copy of every newsletter and decided to have them copied so that I could assemble them all into a chronological binder of holiday newsletters for our sons and our new daughter-in-law. Since 2012 was the 20th year of an annual holiday newsletter, it was the perfect time to have some fun with gifting copies of the assembled newsletters --  so I created a "Limited Collectors Edition" of "The First Two Decades of The Tew Family Holiday Newsletters" (complete with a special 20th anniversary seal).  All the newsletters were assembled into green three-ring binders that allowed insertable front and back cover sheets.  [The front cover sheet is reproduced above.]  I inserted each newsletter in its own protective sleeve (archival quality, of course).  The beauty of choosing the binder format is that I can now present the newsletter for each coming year in a protective sleeve to be added to the collection.

Since I wanted to have fun in presenting the collection, I also developed a tongue-in-cheek "Interactive Reader Quiz" to turn the reading of the old newsletters into a game.  A copy of the first 7 of the 36 quiz questions is depicted here . . . 


I presented the completed "Collectors Edition" of the Tew Family Holiday Newsletters as gifts to our sons and daughter-in-law at Christmas last year.  I have this year's newsletter in protective sleeves all ready to present to them in about a week.  Our sons are now 27 and 29 and they and our daughter-in-law all got a kick out of reading the old newsletters last year.  There are now at least three complete sets of family holiday newsletters out there -- which increases the odds of these little gems of family history being preserved and perhaps extended into subsequent generations!

Like Lynn, I have expressed concern about the loss of written sources of family history as we move more and more into the digital technology of the late 20th and early 21st century.  Our newsletter collections provide a great way to preserve these bits of genealogy documentation even in the face of the constant challenge posed by ever-changing technology, formats, retrieval and storage systems. Just in looking at the paper copies of our family newsletter over two plus decades, one can see the changes.  The original newsletter was produced on a dot matrix printer using a 386 DX 33 PC.  It was all text in simple (yet elegant) black & white.  When digital clip art became easily available, black & white holiday clip art was inserted into later newsletters.  Scanner technology and color printers soon added colored text and insertions of color photographs to the body of the newsletters -- and for some who received the newsletter electronically via email in subsequent years, hyperlinks were inserted to take them to other photos, genealogy data, my blog, etc.  The newsletters are the embodiment of the record of a growing family AND of the changing technology used to produce that record! 

If you are in the process of composing your New Year's Resolutions, I highly recommend that you insert into the genealogy section of your resolution list the following to-do item . . .  "Collect and assemble all the family holiday newsletters to share and preserve by making them gifts to family next year!"
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Photographs by the author.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


  1. An excellent idea. I will have to do this some time soon. We have them since about 183, I think.

    I also have a Seaver-Richmond Family Newsletter published from 1989 to 2011 that I could put into an eBook and provide a link to the extended family. I put them all on a CDROM for Christmas about 8 years ago.

    A picture book for one family line or one couple has also crossed my mind.

  2. My first letter was 20 years ago this year, my daughter's first Christmas. I have mine and I have those sent to us from family and friends, too! I can help others with their collection. Pack rat here too ;)

  3. Wonderful idea John! I also write an annual family newsletter that I send with our Christmas cards. I haven't been writing them for as long as you have though, unfortunately.

  4. John,

    I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!