I didn't plan to publish a one-family newsletter. I planned to
publish a one-surname periodical one that would serve as
a research exchange for every researcher of the surname Brixey, whether
related to me or not. When I downloaded a national listing of people with
that surname and their addresses, my plans changed. There were less than
three hundred Brixeys listed. From three hundred, I knew there would be,
at best, twenty fellow genealogists, counting the half dozen with whom
I was already in contact. I discarded Plan A...and I'm glad I did.
My second look at the list of Brixeys brought the realization that I
am related to nearly every one on it. They are in locations where I knew
my Brixeys live or lived; they repeat the same given names or given names
taken from the surnames of allied families. Most Brixeys in the United
States do not merely share a surname; we share two mid-18th century immigrant
ancestors, John Brixey and Rachel Mackie! We are one family!...And
that was the beginning of Plan B.
Developing the Plan
Most of us do want to stay in touch with our extended family. Most of
us would...if we had time. But the realities of daily life leave little
opportunity for communicating with distant relatives or for researching
dead ones. Perhaps I could publish a newsletter focused on all descendants
of this couple; non-genealogists as well as genealogists; today's family
members as well as ancestors. This one-family newsletter could
allow us to stay up-to-date with what's happening within the extended
family and, at the same time, it could allow those of us who are researchers
to gather and share information about our ancestors.
After setting as my goals, 1) maintaining family ties; 2) gathering the
family's history and 3) making the family history known, I considered
how to capture the readership of this diverse group of people.
- Identify as a Family: Different interests, different occupations,
different locales our one link is ancestry. Recognizing this
connection and establishing identity as an extended family will be crucial.
Implementation: The chosen surname is a part of the publication's
title. That is the tie that binds its readers together. The Brixey
Bulletin. Use inclusive pronouns frequently: we, our
family; your branch of our family tree. Repeat the surname
within the newsletter. Announce births in a column titled "Brixey Babies";
weddings as "Brixey Brides"; queries as "Bygone Brixeys". Repetition
of the surname reinforces the connection to all who descend from one
- Provide a service that is helpful to the family:
Implementation: Make significant events, such as weddings, births,
and deaths, known to the rest of the family. Announce address changes.
Request the current address of the relative whose Christmas card came
back marked "forwarding order expired". Provide information about upcoming
family reunions. Publish photographs taken at family reunions.
- Every family member is important to the family (and to its one-family
Implementation: In some way, mention as many family members as
possible in each issue. Recognize milestone events such as special awards,
50+ year wedding anniversaries, and 70+ birthdays (Establishing a threshold
for noting anniversaries and birthdays will recognize several relatives
but prevent this column from becoming too large.) Identify the person
who answered a query, wrote the article, or sent the photograph or document.
Include a photograph of today's owner with the article about a family
heirloom. Publish four-generation and family reunion photos.
- Relate the Present to the Past: Show each person's location
on the family tree and make him or her known to other family members.
Implementation: List the direct line ancestors of the individual
the article features. Accompany ancestor charts and family group sheets
with a brief biography of the family member who submitted it for publication.
Highlight interests and experiences that may forge bonds between cousins
who've never met face to face. Develop ongoing projects that mingle
today's family with past family. For instance, sharing recipes passed
down from earlier generations or compiling information about military
service that includes firsthand accounts from living veterans as well
as ancestor's pension records.
- Solicit Help From Family: Encourage all readers to actively
participate. This will both lighten the editor's load and give more
people a vested interest in their family newsletter.
Implementation: Ask readers to share their family stories, photocopies
of documents, photographs of ancestors and family memorabilia with the
rest of the family via our one-family newsletter and say "Thank
you" when they do. Include some tasks for those who don't want to write
articles, such as transcribing family tombstones from a nearby cemetery.
Publish photos taken at earlier family gatherings and ask readers to
identify each individual.
After Seven Years, How are We Doing?
Since publishing the first issue of The Brixey Bulletin in January
1991, my database of Brixeys and allied families has grown from about 250
to nearly 3,000. We've found and shared photographs of many 19th century
ancestors. We've identified many Brixey burial sites and published their
locations with maps or directions to those graves. We've recorded first-person
accounts of some World War II and Korean Conflict veterans as well as service
records of ancestors. Several keepsakes and their stories
have been featured. We've reconnected cousins who had lost contact and become
friends with cousins we'd never known before. Just as we derive our identity
and sense of belonging first from our immediate family, our one-family
newsletter has drawn the extended family closer while drawing it larger
large enough to encompass all the descendants of our immigrant ancestors.
As we've done this, family members, even those who are not themselves
genealogists or historians, have become more sensitive to preserving the
history of an ordinary family such as ours. Most people have absorbed
far more family history than they realize because they have known two,
three, maybe even four, generations. They remember their grandparents
and the elderly aunt who wore funny hats. They often own a keepsake passed
from earlier generations and the story that goes with it. Each
memory that is shared triggers other memories of other people and other
events. This, too, is our family history. Each family member owns a
part. No one owns the whole. With our one-family periodical,
compiling yesterday's family history, recording today's family history,
and preserving both for tomorrow's family, has truly become a family affair.
Before You Start, Suggestions for Editors of One-Family Periodicals
Publishing a genealogical periodical has many rewards. Making money is not
one of them. Most editors try to break even with a subscription rate of
$15 to $20 per year. The Brixey Bulletin is a quarterly and I try
to publish at least sixty pages in a calendar year. Others find that an
annual or semiannual publication fits into their schedule better.
Traditionally, family newsletters have been distributed in hard copy,
making reproduction and postage the greatest expense. Investigate both
offset printing and photocopying. In most cases, offset printing will
be considerably more expensive but prices vary. Comparison shop. At one
time, the photocopying process produced paper that yellowed and crumbled
in just a few years. Copiers now produce more durable copies. Two questions
that need to be answered before determining the method of reproduction:
1) At what point is there a quantity discount? 2) How many pages does
the printer make from one sheet of paper? Printers use huge sheets of
paper which they cut into many pages. It's like buying wallpaper. If you
use any part of another sheet, you must pay for all of it. Not only will
you pay for it, you will have blank pages if you don't plan carefully
because the machine does the cutting and folding as a part of the printing
In publishing, there's a new kid on the block. You're looking at it:
Electronic publishing. Using E-mail, a home page, or a commercial service
such as Everton's Family Letter, you can eliminate reproduction expense,
mailing expense and time consumed making articles fit into the allotted
space. Trouble is, not all of your relatives are computer literate and
have on-line access. However, it's a growing trend and may work for some
Bulk mailing permits offer a hefty savings in postage. The minimum number
of copies per mailing is two hundred. If your mailing list comes close
to that number, giving free subscriptions to several libraries or to deserving
relatives may save money by bringing your count up to the minimum. Check
with the postal service for instructions on making and bar coding labels
and sorting by zip code.
Weigh your paper and, if you use an envelope, weigh that with the paper
to find out when adding one more sheet of paper will add another 23¢ to
the cost of mailing each copy.
If you have software designed specifically for desktop publishing, fine.
If you don't, that's fine too. I fuss and fret the entire time I'm learning
new software so I stick with the multipurpose word processing program
I use for other tasks. Before I owned a scanner, I used copy screens to
reproduce photographs. It wasn't ideal but it was better than having no
images at all.
Don't be dazzled by an array of fancy fonts. Select a simple one that
is easy to read and use it in a point size large enough that rounded letters
don't fuzz into blobs. Remember that some of your readers have diminished
Consult a respected style guide, such as The
Chicago Manual of Style. It will answer many of your punctuation
and formatting questions. The style of a one-family periodical
will be less formal than a scholarly journal such as the NGSQ and
the NEHG Register because it's a letter to your family, but genealogical
standards must not be sacrificed.
Distinguish between proven facts and guesses:
Although the date and place of Rachel's marriage to John is
unknown, it is believed to have occurred about 1778 in Burke County, North
Carolina, because John (either their second or third child) recorded 1781
as his year of birth.
Citations may be woven into the narrative when other information
normally supplied by a source citation has been established within the
Fannie Brixey Clifton recalls, "Grandpa had a store at Bell
Springs and Aunt Axie helped him run it. He lived in a little log house
between the store and the creek."
A brief citation may be embedded using brackets when other elements of
the citation have been supplied within the article.
On 4 May 1898, James M. Brixey stated in a questionnaire
from the Bureau of Pensions in Washington, D. C. that his first wife,
Hannah Susan, died 23 July 1872 [Pension No. 759389 for Civil War service].
At times, a formal footnote at the bottom of the page or an endnote at
the end of the article is needed:
1Howard L. Conard. Encyclopedia
of the History of Missouri, Vol. V (New York: Southern History Company
Edit that's what editors do, but make sure you retain the voice
of the writer. Your family knows the writer. They know his speech patterns.
They will know when you edited out his words and put in your own. If they
think you didn't honor that writer's effort, they won't risk submitting
their own writing. On the other hand, I have a standing offer to take
notes or tape recordings sent to me, write the article and send it back
for approval before publishing. Sometimes I combine material from several
different readers into one article, giving credit to each of them.
Find someone to do proofreading for you. It is embarrassing to find typographical
errors when it's too late to correct them.
Take advantage of no-cost or low-cost publicity. Both Heritage
Quest and Everton's Genealogical
Helper will list your family periodical if you ask them to and
send them one copy. The Association of One-Name Studies has a Web site.
Add to your mailing list the Family History Library, the Allen County
Library, and libraries in areas where your family lives or lived. Each
time I mail an issue, I mail complimentary copies to a few people on my
list of potential subscribers. If your surname is common, the nationwide
data bases will be unwieldy. Instead, start with your Christmas card list
and those of other relatives. Post on-line queries for descendants of
your chosen ancestor. Take extra copies of your one-family newsletter
to family reunions and scatter them around. Happy readers are your best
advertising. They buy gift subscriptions and recommend the family's newsletter
As the children's story "Stone Soup" taught us, some endeavors reach
full flavor only when many have added what they have into the stew kettle.
Think of a one-family newsletter as the stew kettle and the editor
as the one who starts the fire. Others will contribute to the pot, help
stir the soup, and maintain the fire but you must first strike the spark.
I'm sold on one-family newsletters. I think most genealogists would
find one helpful. I'm convinced their family would.
For Further Reading on This Subject
- "A Look at The Braden Bulletin," NGS Newsletter 23:4 (July/August
- Mason, Marguerite Bowen, "So You Want to Start a Surname Newsletter,"
Heritage Quest #53, (Sept.-Oct. 1994): 35-36
- Scott, Craig Roberts, CARS, "Creating and Maintaining a Family Newsletter
or Periodical," Presentation to the 1994 National
Genealogical Society Conference in the States, 2 June 1994. Syllabus
171-173. Extra copies of the syllabus are sold until the supply is exhausted.
Also available on cassette tape from Repeat
- Terry, Shirley Seems, "Publishing Family Newsletters," Stirpes
35:4 (December 1995) 24-29
- Wylie, Barbara Brixey, "Ties That Bind," Heritage Quest #62
(March-April 1996): 19-20
- Wylie, Barbara Brixey, "One-family Periodicals: Ties That Bind", Presentation
to the 1997 Conference of the Federation
of Genealogical Societies, 6 September 1997. Syllabus 449-452. Extra
copies of the syllabus are sold until the supply is exhausted. Also
available on cassette tape from Repeat Performance.