Family Newsletter News  

vFamily Newsletter Newsv

"To Encourage Family Connections Through the Family Newsletter..."


     This newsletter, for and about family newsletters (and  their publishers), was established to support the family publisher who wants to help maintain family connections with their publications. We welcome articles from folks who'd like to share their ideas with the rest of us about what has worked in their publications and what hasn't, so that we can learn from their experience. We are interested in ideas about both the printed word and electronic newsletters. We will periodically be adding new information to this page, so check back regularly. To contribute to Family Newsletter News, email your article to <[email protected]>   We welcome all questions and suggestions.

With best regards,
Jeanne Nelson, Editor
Family Newsletter News

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Publishing Pointers

Puzzles. A fun way to incorporate family history into your newsletter is to present it in the form of a puzzle. Here is a web site that helps you build a puzzle for your next issue...

Click here...


Scanning Objects. Of course, we scan photos into our newsletters all the time, but have you thought of scanning objects into your newsletter? 
     Linda Robertson of South Tyneside, England has suggested creating pictures for your newsletter by scanning family keepsakes. These could include items such as a relative's war medals, a favorite doll, flowers from a wedding cake-whatever goes with the theme of your issue. Linda says that she recently scanned her teenage son's matinee coat, which was crocheted by her late grandmother. 
      Pat Jackson of Guasti, California concurs and has scanned a hand stitched quilt, embroidery, and needle point for an issue on activities of women in her family. She suggests that  you can also scan Great Aunt Bea's  treasured lock of hair, or Grandfathers favorite old tie--the sky's the limit.


To share your Publishing Pointers with other family newsletter publishers, send them to 


Next Issue...

In our next issue we will be covering "Children and the Family Newsletter." To share ideas about how you have involved you family's children in your family newsletter, either in the production of the newsletter or in its content, send them to Jeanne Nelson at


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Family History Tool"
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© Copyright 2000 Jeanne Nelson
Contents of this web page may only be reproduced with the permission of 
Jeanne Nelson


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Design Consultant: Maren Nelson


Illustrations on this page from 
J. O. D.'s Old Fashioned Clip Art 

This is a Genealogy Site


Publisher Profiles:   J. Paul Turner 
Interview By Jeanne Nelson

        This man knows what he's doing! Shortly after a review of my book about publishing a family newsletter appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper, I received a copy of J. Paul Turner's family newsletter, TURNER INK, in the mail. I was extremely impressed with it. The layouts were sophisticated, the content was fascinating--it was just a lovely publication any way you cut it. I was very clear that I wanted to pick this man's brain. As I communicated more with J. Paul, I found that we shared quite a number of thoughts about what a family newsletter should and can be for a family. And so I thought it best if he told us all something about his publishing experience.

Name: J. Paul Turner
Location: Olathe, KS
Occupation: Religious writer, editor, and product development specialist
Title of publication: TURNER INK
Number of years publishing: 20 years
Number of people receiving (or subscribed to) your newsletter: 89 families

Q:  What got you started publishing your family newsletter?
J. Paul Turner
(To see an example of TURNER INK newsletter, click on
Mr. Turner's photo)

A:  As I approached my 40th birthday, I began to ask questions of my parents that took me on a fascinating journey of family stories. From that quest, my parents and other members began giving me family documents, photos, and artifacts. I'm not sure what prompted me to start asking questions at age 40, but it was probably from my historical DNA that just started kicking in at that age. I wish it had been age thirty!

Q:  What factors have kept you going in your efforts to publish for the family?
A:  I have a core of family historical evangelists who cheer me on. It would be very difficult if I didn't have the enthusiasm of these people.

Q:  What are three things that you enjoy most about family newsletter publishing?
A:  First, I don't believe I've ever published an issue that I didn't learn something new from our family. This is the most exciting. Secondly, I really like the research required putting an issue together, and third, the act of creating an issue that will be different from all others, and yet it will have a common design.

Q:  What are three things that you enjoy least about family newsletter publishing?
A:  Well, vocationally I live in a world of deadlines, and to generate another self-imposed deadline isn't the most enjoyable thing for me. Also, I struggle with the more shy and reticent family members who seem to have an overdose of privitism. They have some incredible stories locked up in their hearts. Third, I don't look forward to licking 89 envelopes four times a year!

Q:  What has been one of your biggest stumbling blocks to getting your newsletter out?
A:  No question about this one, time! Second, it's that old bug-a-boo called designer's block. I can have everything I need sitting in front of me (text, photos, etc.) and nothing really clicks. Usually I have to just start, whether I like it or not. And once I've started, I gather a certain design momentum, and things begin to roll, as they say. There is a certain frustration I feel if I have to put the project on "hold" and come back to it a week later. This doesn't help my momentum!

Q:  What seems to have helped deal with that stumbling block?
A:  I've discovered it helps if I'm rested. Also, it helps if I've snooped around for design ideas and have placed them in a folder for reference. Of course, all this is assumed that the family members have met the publishing deadline and I have everything I need sitting in front of me. Our members are pretty good at getting me copy. With 37 families of the 89 on line, this has really helped. 

Q:  What aspect of your newsletter do you feel best about? How did you accomplish that?
A:  I feel real good about involving the family kids. I make sure every issue has one or more photos and brief bio featuring a preteen child or younger. I got some help from our church kids writing a survey sheet that would address questions kids would understand and enjoy responding to. I send the surveys out; they fill in the blanks and return it with a current school photo.
        It's rather easy to get the older folks to read and enjoy the newsletter, but you really have to work at getting the kids involved. Their parents are a great help in prompting them along in order to meet a deadline.

Q: How do you handle the costs of publishing a family newsletter?
A: I mentioned earlier "the core" of family members who are "evangelists" for our family history. These are the people who contribute to its production. We have no subscription or cost per issue that's passed along. I've never had to go "begging" for money to publish. They just seem to come through when it's needed. I like to have enough money in the bank equivalent to the cost of publishing one issue. And this is the way it has been for quite a few years.

Q: What are some secrets that you can share with us about controlling (a) printing costs, and (b) mailing costs?
A: (a) Printing costs: If you're starting from scratch with a word processor, produce only one sheet, duplicated on a copy machine. You can make this look reasonably nice and crisp--nothing of which you would be ashamed.  Don't try to go too big too soon, i.e. high-end stock, offset printing, photos stripped in as negatives, etc. That comes later.
   (b) Mailing costs: This is a pretty set figure unless you have enough to meet the 200 minimum of a mailing permit. Here again, the advice is go small and make sure your first issue is so delightful that the family will want to jump in with at least financial help let alone help with submitting more copy. If the first issue hooks the family you'll be able to eventually progress to more pages, thus you'll be more inclined to receive more money for postage. Your family knows what it costs to mail something, and chances are, they will be receptive to helping you. I suggest you spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that first issue is a good one!

Q: What direction(s) do you see your family newsletter taking in the future?
A: In the last year, the number of our family members getting on-line has tripled. I see us eventually putting the best of Turner Ink on line. I don't expect to eliminate the print version any time soon, if ever. Secondly, I expect some of our clans to begin generating their own newsletters. I would welcome this and be available to shepherd them in the process. I anticipate Turner Ink eventually being a parent publication to several more that have a specific family focus.

Q: What words of advice would you give to folks who are currently publishing a family newsletter?
A: On the negative side, just when you think you're "about to give up on this family," don't be surprised if someone out-of-the-blue lets you know what a great job you're doing. Advice? Soak in all the strokes you get say "thanks," from your heart, and keep going.
        On the positive side, look for ways to innovate and stretch your publication in terms of special features, and fresh design.

Q: What words of advice would you give to folks who are contemplating publishing a family newsletter?
A: It's one thing to publish one issue, it's totally another in gathering enough information to publish subsequent issues, and to educate the family that you intend to do this indefinitely. Once you decide, do it. No looking back! Even if your family seems fragmented by distance, divorce, and relational difficulties. The family that has distanced itself; the family that is divorce-ridden; the family that has a history of relational difficulties needs the catalyst of a newsletter (although they may not realize it) to begin that laborious, but very rewarding task of moving closer together. You could be that person. 
        You'll not be sorry! So don't quit, once you have started!

(J. Paul has graciously told us that a free back issue sample of his newsletter is available upon request, as long as supplies last. You can contact him at <[email protected]>.)

7 March 2000

Every Reason in the World...
By Jeanne Nelson

        It pains me at times, when I think about the wonderful family stories we are losing every day as our older generation passes away. For hundreds, even thousands of years, families had a connection with their past in the oral traditions passed down from generation to generation. They told stories as they worked together, or hunted together, or as they sat around the campfire or the fireplace. In some small way, I had that as a child, too, when I attended the extended family gatherings we had for holidays. After a satisfying meal around my grandmother's large dinner table, my grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles told stories and laughed until the tears flowed. 

        We don't do that anymore. The distances are too great; our lives are too busy, too complicated. So the older folk keep hundreds of stories inside, stories about what people were like, people we will never know; what the times were like of days we have never seen; what the stories were, the stories that their older folk told them. Now our elders keep their stories and carry them to the grave or lose them in the mists of a clouded memory. How sad! No one will know what Grandpa Johnnie’s grandfather was like, his twinkling eyes, his droll sense of humor, his fiery temper. No one will know because no one is there to listen to the stories. 

        Our family had that wonderful communication for many years, but lost it as we went our separate ways and lived our separate lives. We still loved each other, but time and distance made it hard to share with each other frequently. We finally decided to start a family newsletter and have found a new world of stories with each issue that comes out. Not only do we keep up on each other's daily lives, but we are able to share our stories. And, not only can we share them, but they are down in black and white where we can read them over and over, and our children can read them and learn about their past. 

       The most enthusiastic supporters of my family's newsletter have been our older generation. When asked, they enthusiastically produced some fascinating articles about their memories of times gone by. One of our best newsletter issues was focused on the experiences of our elders during World War II. We learned for the first time about the loneliness and tedium of the daily life of the soldier, periodically punctuated by the terrifying violence of war, or the fascinating and confusing exoticness of new and distant places. We learned about the all-out effort at home, the sacrifices and inconveniences, the worry as the family waited for word of their soldiers. And, though we had read about that war many times in the history books, it took on a whole new perspective as we saw it through our loved ones’ eyes. 

        I have written a book on how to edit and publish a family newsletter, and I sell it at genealogy workshops and meetings. As people come by my table, they often stop to look, but then sigh that they just don't have enough time for such a project. “That's a lot of work!” they say. I point out that there are ways to publish a newsletter in which the whole family shares in the effort, making less of a workload on any one person. It is a lot of work to put out a family newsletter. But what you end up with is a family treasure. Something that is worthwhile usually does require an effort. This is definitely worthwhile and the treasure far outweighs the effort. 

        The teacher of one of my genealogy classes pointed out to us that it is very exciting to see how we are related to King George. But the records to prove this have been there for three hundred years and will probably be there for three hundred more. The stories that our older folk have to tell us won't be here long—they could be gone tomorrow. Better that we focus on our elders and help them tell their stories now. We can go back to our musty books and records when the stories are saved for posterity. 

4 February, 2000

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