The Family History Help & Product Review Newsletter 

Tools, Toys & Inspiration  for Family Historians

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Welcome to this issue of Family History Help & Product Review Newsletter.  I hope that it find you in good health and spirits. 

I apologize for the length of time, that has passed, between the last issue of this newsletter and this one. As some of you know, I spent most of the last four months in Afghanistan.  I kept very busy and didn't have much extra time, except to answer e-mails from those who wrote me.

The Afghan people are a very proud people and have suffered much over the decades. I spent my time in the northeastern part and it was, to my surprise, quite beautiful.  The mountains in Bagram Afghanistan provide a 360 degree panoramic view.  

Hoping you can help...

On another note, I have put together a quick questionnaire that I sure wish you'd take 30 seconds to complete.  I have never conducted one of these for our newsletter community and the results will be very helpful to me in compiling future editions of this newsletter.

What's really cool about it, though, is that you will be able to see the results in real time also.  Look for more information at the bottom of this newsletter or click the link below to take the will take you about 30 seconds.  


I wish to especially welcome all of our newest subscribers. I am Michael Boyter, publisher of this newsletter. Your input, feedback and suggestions are always welcome. Send them to:

I have another exciting issue for you, but....

... before you dig in -- please do your friends and family a favor and forward them a copy of this newsletter/e-mail or send them this link so they can subscribe:



Christmas Gift Recommendations

1. Create a Family Calendar complete with pictures and family dates and events.

2. Document this past year by gathering the family stories, pictures, videos and documents and put them on a Family History CD   

3. Give someone the gift of world-class journaling software with The Journal 

4, Give the gift of your lifetime memories to your children

5. Getting a new video camera? Learn to turn your home videos to DVD 


News and Happenings

"Seniors & Veterans Personal Histories" a Non-Profit Organization in Olathe Colorado to begin Helping Nursing Home Residents Preserve Their Life Story"  


Gary Burnett, his wife and others in his  local community  of Olathe Colorado have begun a new non-profit organization they call "Seniors & Veterans Personal Histories".  

After coordinating with The Library of Congress (U.S.) and the National Folklore Society, they plan to work closely with nursing homes within a thirty mile radius of their community.  Volunteers will interview seniors and transcribe their memories, providing a more permanent record of the lives lived of these individuals.

Even keeping it within a relatively small 30 mile radius, this is quite an undertaking for Gary and his organization.  I applaud his efforts and have donated copies of my life story workbook  "Memorygrabber"     to help the project get off the ground.  

Here is some of the letter that I received from Gary...     

"First of all a bit of a history about my project. I live in a small town that has a large population of older people and it has been my responsibility to call on nursing homes and visit some of them. I was saddened at some of their passing and especially coming to realization that they passed on without much a of a record of their life

Upon doing research me and several people decided to try and help them with a personal history. What we found out was most did not know much about the computer and did not feel they could write a personal history. So we offered our services and did not feel right to charge them. We are now in the process of making this a non-profit organization and calling it "Seniors & Veterans Personal Histories" with the object of offering personal histories for free. We have contacted the "Saints at War" and the Library of Congress to become affiliated with their projects."

If you live near Olathe Colorado, or if you are be interested in helping in some way, please contact Gary by CLICKING HERE


In This Issue....

New Product: Absolutely Family - a guide to editing and publishing a family newsletter  

Updated: The Family History Jumpstart e-book is updated and free to download

ArticlePersonal and Family Year in Review    

A Quick Reader Questionnaire - Win free stuff! 

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Downloads

Journaling Software - Click Here to download 

Family Picture Calendar - Click Here to download

Updated - Family History Jumpstart e-Book

The Family History Jumpstart e-book has been newly updated and converted into a format that is ALSO viewable by Mac users.  Family History Jumpstart is a collection of  inspirational and how to family history articles and tips.

Some of the sections include:

  • Attic Archaeology

  • Conducting an Oral History Interview

  • Flunking Family History

  • Family Time Capsules

  • What Your Children Will Want to Know...and more

Please pass a copy of Family History Jumpstart on to friends and family.  They will enjoy reading this inspirational e-book, designed to bring families closer together.    

Family History Jumpstart costs you nothing and can be downloaded by clicking HERE

To view Family History Jumpstart you need the fre* Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you need this program, you can get it at this link:


"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

Theodore Hesburgh   

Product Highlight  

Absolutely Family           

A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter 

Note from Michael: It was more than a year ago that I first came across Jeanne Nelson's book "Absolute Family".  I read it through during one sit down.  It was that informative and easy to read! I give Absolutely Family an A+.  

Be sure to fill out the questionnaire near the end of this newsletter to have a chance of winning a free copy of Absolutely Family

CLICK HERE to Read a Sample Chapter

Family History is usually about picking up clues from the past, but keeping a family newsletter is about capturing family history right as it happens!  

Family newsletters are also one of the greatest ways for family lore to be passed down from the older generation to the younger.

I asked Jeanne Nelson to tell you a bit more about Absolutely Family - A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter.    What follows is a brief interview that I conducted with Jeanne a few weeks ago.  Don't miss it! 


To begin, Jeanne, would you tell a little bit about yourself, background, business and how long you've been helping others with their family newsletters?

Well, Michael, I am trained as and worked for many years as a social worker. Then, for many more years, I was a mom. I have spent over 20 years researching my family history in Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Scotland and England. My latest incarnation has been as a writer and speaker on genealogy topics. 

You might think that there is quite a disparity between a career as a social worker and that of a genealogy writer, but social work emphasizes the importance of understanding your own background and family dynamics and it facilitates good family communication, all of which are important in the study of genealogy. I have been writing and speaking on the topic of family newsletters since 1998.

You are the author of the very impressive book, Absolutely Family. If you would, tell a little about that book and what it was designed to do?  

I have published a family newsletter for my own family for many years. I started it mainly to keep my extended family in touch, but I had a lot of genealogy information that I wanted to get out to family and this was a great medium for doing so. I soon discovered, however, that a family newsletter was much, much more than that. It was a fantastic way to gather, disseminate, and preserve family history information, as well as a way to build extended family relationships. 

I found that very little had been written on the use of family newsletters in the genealogy literature, so I decided to write a book on the topic. I hoped that ABSOLUTELY FAMILY!--A GUIDE TO EDITING AND PUBLISHING A FAMILY NEWSLETTER would serve to advocate for the use of family newsletters by genealogists, as well as give people a non-technical blueprint for what works in family publishing. I included a lot of ideas of neat things to include in one’s own family newsletter. 

Many of these ideas were suggested to me by my own creative extended family. I also wanted to impart some secrets about organizing a family newsletter that make publishing a family newsletter easier.

How can a family newsletter bring families closer together?

Two of the most important ways are (1) to keep family abreast of the details of each others’ lives and (2) to educate us and remind us of the many things we hold in common, including our shared family history and our family pride.

It is often hard to feel close with a family member if you don’t know what is going on in his life—the big ups and downs, as well as the small ones. We share those details with each other in our family news section, as well as family photos and creative projects such as poetry and drawings by family members.

The family history section is a place for family members (often the elders in the family) to share their memories of a person, place, or event in our family’s history. For example, because of these articles, my whole family now knows what my great-grandfather’s personality was like, even though most of us have never met him. 

I include historical articles that set a context for understanding the struggles our ancestors must have faced, such as a description of the conditions that our immigrant ancestors faced on a passenger ship in their crossing of the Atlantic from Sweden. It is sometimes easy to loose sight of the fact that we aren’t the only ones who have faced hardship in our lives, and stories about our ancestors put it all into perspective. 

We can come away from reading about them with a shared family pride. As a matter of fact, I received a note from a cousin of mine who said that when “…I read our family newsletter, I have a tremendously warm feeling of closeness for the entire family. If pride is a sin, I’m guilty as H____”

With today's technology, do you still recommend publishing a paper newsletter (versus digital)?  Pro and con of each method?

There are some real advantages to publishing a family newsletter electronically, either on a web site or by sending it via email. The two biggest advantages are (1) the savings to you in the time it takes to produce and mail the newsletter and (2) the savings in money to copy and mail it. Postage and copying costs are the biggest expenses in producing a paper family newsletter.

That said, I am a very strong advocate of publishing a paper newsletter for a number or reasons. (1) Not everyone in the family is as computer-savvy as you, and may not even own a computer, let alone have a connection to the Internet. 

This is particularly true of the older members of the family, key sources of information for your family history articles. (2) A quality newsletter produced on quality paper will last for generations. What you are producing, even in the “current news” section of your newsletter, is a running account of your family’s history, recent though it may be. 

Fifty or 100 years from now, family descendants can refer to your family’s newsletter and know precisely in what city Cousin Joe was married and refer to those county records to confirm their information or what your daily life was like. How I would have loved to have had that kind of information on my great-grandparents' lives! 

You want this information to last for posterity. I am told that electronic data on a floppy disk or CD will not last more than 10 or 20 years. Members of my family are collecting our newsletters in binders for their children and their children’s children. I know of family newsletter publishers who deposit copies of their family newsletters in libraries or historical societies in communities where their family is centered, so that future researchers will be able to find them.  

Could you tell about a rewarding moment you've experienced because of your own family's newsletter?

It’s hard to focus on only one rewarding moment—there have been so many! Each time a family member calls to ask why they haven’t received their latest issue yet is a reward. They’re telling me that they’re really looking forward to reading it and can’t wait! Each time a family member says “I didn’t know that!” about something they have learned about our family history, I am rewarded. It’s working! 

Perhaps one of the most graphic moments that I have been thankful for in publishing our family newsletter was after I published several articles about my uncle’s recollections of his service in the military during World War II. I learned that he was about to have surgery, so I called him to wish him well and we made plans for further articles about his experiences. 

I received a call a few days later that he had died on the operating table. Though I regretted that we would not be able to learn more about his experiences, I was so thankful that we were able to preserve those stories of his that we had while he was still alive.

My family has been very supportive in providing me with material and helpful feedback for all our family newsletters, which is a reward in itself.

For someone interested in starting their own family newsletter, how can they get started?

I would suggest that they decide on a branch of the family on which they would like to focus their publication and contact family members to see if there is an interest. They should try to involve as many family members as possible in the writing of the material, not only to make the workload easier, but to provide a richer, more multifaceted publication. 

There are a number of books on family newsletter publishing, including my own, that one can study. However, the important thing is not that they wait to become an expert on the topic before beginning publication. You learn by doing, so after doing a little reading on the topic, dig in and start publishing. You won’t regret it!

 How does someone order a copy of your book, Absolutely Family?

 My book is available in both e-book and paperback versions at our web site at . The paperback version can also be ordered through , as well as at a number of smaller genealogy book stores. And of course, if your public library does not carry it, you can always ask them to order it! ;o)

CLICK HERE if you have a question for Jeanne or wish to contact her


"In the midst of change we find the seeds for the future."

Personal and Family Year in Review

By Michael R. Boyter 

As another year draws to an end, it is time to reflect and preserve the individual and family memories of the past year.   

Things not written down or recorded are often forgotten.  This is a fact. 

Keeping family memories and stories alive is very important to aid in the cohesiveness of family and it can be a very rewarding experience to look back to see where we were and how we’ve grown over the past year. (Important Note: Its not necessary to record everything, of course  What you choose to record is totally up to you.)  

Ideally we’d all keep a daily, weekly or monthly journal throughout the year, but often times, we don’t keep up with one. So its time for a little catch up work. Here are some quick ideas and tips for reviewing the events in your life from the past year.     

Begin by…  

Breaking down the year by month, season or major milestones and/or events.  


Health:  What big changes in your health occurred this year? If this category doesn’t jog your memory; it is probably a good thing.  

Prescriptions: Anything newly prescribed to you this year?   What was it for?  Again, this is only a suggestion to spark your memory of things that happened over the past year.  Some will consider this too private and that is fine.

Occupation:  Write about changes and highlights in your career.  Tell about awards won, promotions received or interesting happenings around the office or on the job.  

History:  Write about “This time a year ago…”  

Births:  Any newborns this year?  

Those that have passed away:  Write about those who’ve passed away this year.  Include family, friends and, if there was a well-known individual (someone famous) that also passed, tell about them as well if that person meant anything to you.  

Travel and Residences:  Where did you travel to this year?  Who did you travel to see? Who in the family moved closer or farther away?  Why did they or you move this year?  

List your major purchases throughout the year.  What prompted these purchases? Take a look in your wallet or purse to dig up old receipts.  Use copies of old checks, or an onlinebank ledger/statement to remind you of where you went and what you did.

Children: Don’t forget your children.  What were some of the milestones in their lives this past year?  

Scan young children’s drawings and art projects – They draw so many and it is hard to keep them all…and even harder to throw them away.  Select the best and scan them and save them digitally.  

Review your pictures taken and video shot during the last year. Describe the events seen in the pictures and events. For example, birthday parties, events at school with the kids etc..

Look for scribbled-in writing on your wall or desk calendar.  Don’t throw it away until you check to see what you’ve written on it.  

Get with other members of your family.  See what they remember. Don't think you have to do it all by yourself.   These are just ideas and suggestions.  Use them to jog your memory and tailor them to your individual circumstance. Having a record of each year will, in the end, prove to be a very valuable compilation of family happenings and history. 

If  you can't remember what you had for breakfast 7 days ago, how will you remember what you and the family did 20 years ago? 

You will cherish looking back at the years…but only if you put the effort in now to preserve the memories.

Time marches on and the years blur together. Time is no friend to the procrastinating historian!

~~~~~~ You are granted permission to use the above article in your online or offline publications and/or web site.  You must however include the following byline.

Copyright 2004 - Michael R. Boyter runs the website and is the creator of the fill-in-the-blank life story workbook Memorygrabber.  "Tools and Toys for the Family Historian in Us All". 

Reader Questionnaire

CLICK HERE to take my real quick reader survey!

Why you want to take this quick survey:

1. You have a chance to win one of three free copies of Jeanne's Absolutely Family e-book on publishing a family newsletter

2. It will take you only 30 seconds

3. It will really help me in publishing future issues of this newsletter

4. You will get to see the RESULTS. See how others have answered and who your fellow subscribers are!

Click Here to begin the 30 second questionnaire



Tools & Toys for the Family Historian

There is more than one way to preserve your family history/stories. At, I am continually adding new "tools and toys" to help you get the job done.  My objective is to make the information gathering process easier, quicker and much more enjoyable!

Family History CD  Compile all of your family history documents into an easy to create family history CD... great for distributing to family and friends. 

The Journal Considered, by many, to be the best journal writing software available anywhere. Combine your typed text, family pictures, sound to a highly organized way to gather together your personal and family memories. Try it F*ree for 45 days!   Memorygrabber is built-in to this newest version!.   

Memorygrabber - An unrivaled fill-in-the-answer life story workbook and life story interview "script". Nearly 900 memory prompts, lists, activities and web resources. Trial Download 

Home Video DVD Cookbook - Turn those dusty family video tapes into a brilliant family DVD library. Trial Download

Family Picture Calendar - Get rid of those generic calendars on your wall and replace it with your "official" family calendar. Distribute to family via e-mail. Trial Download 

All They'll Need to Know - Record and preserve vital information your family will need to know, when you aren't there to give it to them.

Well, that's all for this issue of the newsletter. Please submit comments, feedback and suggestion to

Until next time, keep preserving those memories, because it's work that needs to be done, it's enjoyable and above all else, it's worth it!

I wish you and your family the best.


Best Regards,

Michael R. Boyter,

P.S. Please remember to forward this e-mail to anyone you know that values the family and the memories we create.


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