This Newsletter is Twenty-One Years Old!

It’s time to get out a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. Today is a great time of celebration for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream that 21 years would be so interesting, so much fun, and so rewarding. The very first edition of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter was sent 21 years ago on January 15, 1996.

Twenty-one years has slipped by in almost the blink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday that I sent the first e-mail newsletter to about 100 people, mostly members of CompuServe’s Genealogy Forums. The last time I looked, this newsletter now has 75,000 readers tuning in everyday! If you would have told me that 21 years ago, I would have never believed you.

This little newsletter started as a way for me to help my friends to learn about new developments in genealogy, to learn about conferences and seminars, and to learn about new technologies that were useful to genealogists. I especially focused on what was then the newly-invented thing called the World Wide Web. In 1996, many people had never heard of this new-fangled thing and many more didn’t understand it.

None of the first recipients knew in advance that the newsletter would arrive; I simply mailed it to people who I thought might be interested. In 1996 nobody objected to receiving unsolicited bulk mail; the phrase “spam mail” had not yet been invented. I shudder to think if I did the same thing in today’s Internet environment.

The word “blog” also had not yet been invented in 1996 so I simply called it an “electronic newsletter.” Some things never change; I still refer to it as an “electronic newsletter” although obviously it is a blog.

Here is a quote from that first newsletter published on January 15, 1996:

Well, it’s started. This newsletter is something that I have been considering for a long time, but I finally decided to “take the plunge.” I’ve subscribed to several other electronic newsletters for some time now and have found them to be valuable. On many occasions I have said to myself, “Someone ought to do a weekly newsletter for genealogy news.” One day the light bulb went on, and I decided that perhaps I was that someone.

I hope to collect various bits of information that cross my desk and appear on my screen every week. Some of these items may be considered “news items” concerning events and happenings of interest to computer-owning genealogists. Some other items will be mini press releases about new genealogy software or other products and services that have just become available. I may write a few articles about things that are not genealogy-related but still seem to be of interest to me and probably to the readers. This may include articles about online systems, operating systems or other things that affect many of us.

You will also find editorials and my personal opinions weaving in and out of this newsletter. Hopefully I will be able to clearly identify the information that is a personal opinion.

The expected audience of this newsletter includes anyone in the genealogy business, any genealogy society officers and anyone with an interest in applying computers to help in the research of one’s ancestors.

I chose to distribute in electronic format for two reasons: (1.) it’s easy, and (2.) it’s cheap. In years past I have been an editor of other newsletters that were printed on paper and mailed in the normal manner. The “overhead” associated with that effort was excessive; I spent more time dealing with printers, maintaining addresses of subscribers, handling finances, stuffing envelopes and running to the post office than I did in the actual writing. Today’s technology allows for a much faster distribution, and it is done at almost no expense to either the producer or the subscribers. I want to spend my time writing, not running a “newsletter business.”

Since the expected readers all own computers and almost all of them use modems regularly, electronic distribution seems to be the most cost-effective route to use. It also is much lower cost than any other distribution mechanism that I know of.

The original plan has been followed rather closely in the twenty-one years since I wrote those words. The newsletter still consists of “events and happenings of interest to computer-owning genealogists,” “mini press releases about new genealogy software or other products and services,” and “a few articles about things that are not genealogy-related but still seem to be of interest to me.” I have also frequently featured “editorials and my personal opinions.”

One thing that has changed is that the newsletter was converted from a weekly publication to a daily effort about 13 years ago. I still send weekly “collections” of all the articles by e-mail to all Plus Edition subscribers as well as shorter, daily e-mails to Standard Edition subscribers who sign up to receive those messages.

I am delighted with the change to a daily format. There is a lot more flexibility when publishing daily and, of course, I can get the news out faster. Reception of the daily edition has been gratifying. The newsletter is now available on the eogn.com web site, using a professional e-publishing platform, complete with RSS news feeds and other technology, all of which make life easier for subscribers as well as myself.

Another feature that I like about the current daily publication is that each article has an attached discussion board where readers can offer comments, corrections, and supplemental information. The result is a much more interactive newsletter that benefits from readers’ expertise. The newsletter originally was a one-way publication: I pushed the data out. Today’s version is a two-way publication with immediate feedback from readers.

The 2017 newsletter does differ from one statement I wrote twenty-one years ago: “Today’s technology allows for a much faster distribution, and it is done at almost no expense to either the producer or the subscribers.” If I were to re-write that sentence today, I wouldn’t use the phrase, “at almost no expense.” I would write, “…at lower expense than publishing on paper.”

Since I wrote the original words twenty-one years ago, I have received an education in the financial implications of sending bulk e-mails and maintaining web sites, complete with controls of who can access which documents. I now know that it costs thousands of dollars a year to send more than 175,000 e-mail messages every week. There are technical problems as well. Someday I may write an article about “how to get your account canceled when you repeatedly crash your Internet Service Provider’s mail server.”

The truth is I did crash mail servers a number of times in the early days of this newsletter. And, yes, I got my account canceled one day by an irate Internet service provider. I was abruptly left with no e-mail service at all. The Internet service provider discovered that their mail server crashed every week when I mailed this newsletter, so they canceled my account with no warning. I now use a professional bulk email service to send those messages. I also have encountered significant expenses for hardware, software, web hosting, bulk mailing services, and office expenses. In order to carry on the effort without breaking the piggy bank, I split this newsletter into two versions: a free Standard Edition and a for-pay Plus Edition. At least the newsletter now pays for itself, including paying for a professional grade bulk email service.

I was amused a couple of years while ago when someone sent a message to me that started with the words, “I hope someone on your staff will forward this message to you.” After twenty-one years, my staff remains almost the same as when I started: myself plus one very talented lady who edits this newsletter every week. I do the up-front work; she then converts my written words into real English. She also functions as a business adviser, confidante, and good friend. She has done this for nearly every newsletter since the very first edition.

Pam has edited this newsletter since the very first edition. She has done that despite the travel schedules of both of us; sometimes we both have been in hotel rooms but in different countries.

As a computer professional, Pam’s travel schedule used to be at least as hectic as mine although she travels less these days. She and I have passed the proposed newsletter articles back and forth by e-mail time and again.

Thanks, Pam. I couldn’t do it without you.

In addition to Pam’s magnificent editing efforts, I was also fortunate when Bobbi King joined the newsletter staff almost four years ago. Bobbi writes most of the book reviews published in the newsletter and she, too, has contributed much to the success of this publication.

In the third issue of this newsletter, I answered questions that a number of people had asked. I wrote:

I hope to issue this [newsletter] every week. … I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice. Also, the first three issues have all been much longer than I originally envisioned. I expect that the average size of the newsletter within a few weeks will be about one half what the first three issues have been. Do not be surprised when you see it shrink in size.

Well, I was wrong. The first three issues averaged about 19,000 bytes of text. The newsletter never did shrink. Instead, the average size of the newsletters continued to grow. The weekly e-mail Plus Edition newsletters of the past few years have averaged more than 500,000 bytes each, more than twenty-five times the average size of the first three issues. In fact, each weekly newsletter today is bigger than the first ten weekly issues combined!

So much for my prognostication!

In fact, you receive more genealogy-related articles in this newsletter than in any printed magazine. Subscriptions for the Plus Edition of this newsletter also remain less expensive than subscriptions to any of the leading printed genealogy magazines.

In twenty-one years I have missed only ten weekly editions for vacations, genealogy cruises, broken arms, hospital stays, one airplane accident (yes, I was the pilot), and family emergencies. I broke both arms one day and still missed only one newsletter as a result! I found typing on a keyboard to be difficult with two arms in casts. The following week I wrote an article about speech input devices as I dictated that week’s newsletter into a microphone connected to my PC. Several months later, I suffered bruises and wrenched my neck severely when I landed my tiny, open cockpit airplane upside down in a treetop and then fell to the ground eighty feet below. Yet I missed only one issue as a result of that mishap even though it was written while wearing a neck brace and swallowing pain pills that made me higher than that airplane ever flew. Three years ago, an emergency appendectomy caused me to miss one weekly mailing of the Plus Edition newsletter. I have rarely taken time off for vacations.

Over the years I hopefully have become more cautious: I stopped flying tiny airplanes, and I now spend my winters in Florida in order to avoid the ice. I also have published more than 30,000 newsletter articles. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past twenty years I have traveled all over the U.S. as well as to Singapore, Israel, Ireland, and have made multiple trips to Canada, England, Scotland, Mexico, New Zealand, and to several Caribbean islands. Later this year, I will be traveling to Iceland, Denmark, England (again), New Zealand (again), and to Australia. Because of this newsletter, I have met many enthusiastic genealogists. Because of this newsletter, I have had the opportunity to use great software, to view many excellent web sites, and to use lots of new gadgets. Because of this newsletter, I have discovered a number of ancestors. I am indeed fortunate and have truly been blessed.

I’ve always tried to make this newsletter REAL and from the heart. I don’t pull any punches. I talk about what’s on my mind. And if that offends some people, then so be it. I don’t expect everyone to agree with all of my opinions. There is plenty of room in this world for disagreements and differing viewpoints amongst friends. There’s too many watered-down, politically correct newsletters and blogs out there already. I plan to continue to write whatever is on my mind.

To each person reading today’s edition, I want to say one thing: From the bottom of my heart, thank you for tuning in each day and reading what I have to say.

Also, one other sentence I wrote twenty-one years ago still stands: suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome.

57 Comments

Congratulations! You were a pioneer in the field – 21 years is a long time in internet time. I love reading all your news articles.

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Congratulations, Dick! Your newsletter has always been indispensable to anyone following the Genealogy biz. We wish you twenty-one more :o)

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Congratulations, Dick.
If not for your blog I would still be in a genealogy morass. Were it not for the articles you have published I would have thrown all the unorganized,” ’round-to-it” mounds of sticky notes, printed articles, old photos, clues, hints, hopes…into the trash … never having achieved the appreciation and gratitude of my “kin” for shedding light on our family lines. Not only that but now I can spell genealogy! Many kudos to Pam as well.

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Congratulations!! Keep up the great work!

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Bill Lyons in Smyrna GA January 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Congratulations and Thank you for all you have done for so many. Unfortunately I do not get to the meetings where you speak anymore, but the newsletters are a good substitute.

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Your newsletter has been so helpful in enhancing our genealogical and historical research. Thank you for your dedication in producing this newsletter for so many years! We appreciate all of your efforts! Congratulations!

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You mean to say that I have been reading your musings for over 21 years since those days when one needed a compuserve account to access the web. Either your readers need a reward for sticking with you, or you must be congratulated for coming up with something fresh and new and interesting for us for all that time.

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What an awesome milestone to celebrate. I don’t remember exactly when I started reading your column – I think some where around 1998-99. I know we had corresponded around that time about the Eastman family. Congratulations Dick!

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Congratulations Dick, Pam and Bobbi- it is a heroic effort, appreciated by all who benefit from your dedication, vast knowledge and generosity of spirit.

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It’s been 21 glorious years of information, suggestions, reminders, news, sources, ‘new’ stuff and laughs at times. Thank you so much for all your work and help. We all have learned more about you, Genealogy and ourselves thanks to this newsletter. It is the MUST READ FIRST on my daily log in and I have missed those few times you weren’t able to get it out! Many thanks to Pam – I appreciate her input and miss her those times she hasn’t been there! [Sorry Dick!]
Congratulations on the wonderful job you have undertaken and my wishes for many, many more years of Newsletter to enjoy and learn from.

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Congratulations Dick. I truly believe that your blog is one that is a must-read for everyone. Congrats on 21 years, that’s a spectacular effort, and here’s to the next 21!

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Wow, 21years!!! Congratulations. It was a fellow genealogist from way down Under in OZ (Australia) who first told me here in Miami about your free newsletter back around 1997or 1998. How far reaching you were even then as a relatively new newsletter.. And I’ve subscribed every since and later signed signed up for the Plus edition. You and your staff have provided such wonderful information and increased my knowledge beyond measure. Thank you for all you have done for genealogy (and for the information I gained). To quote one of my favorites, Mr. Spock, “Live long and prosper.”
Joan Parker
Past President
JGS of Greater Miami, Inc.

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Dick, I think I’ve read every one of your newsletters all these years. Actually, I don’t recall for sure whether I got the first one or had to wait for the second, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Thanks so much!

Betty

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    —> I don’t recall for sure whether I got the first one or had to wait for the second

    Betty. I believe you were on the mailing list for the first one. Thanks for being there all these years!

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    Hi Betty,

    I was thinking the same thing, and contemplating where I would find emails from back then to check for myself.

    Thanks, Dick, for sharing your knowledge with your readers. I especially appreciate your inclusion of Macintosh products and your detailed reviews of products and services. I have been recommending your EOGN to others for years.

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Congratulations from England Dick. I must have been reading your musings for some 20 yrs now, and particularly enjoy your informed technological tips. Best Wishes.

Chris Wallage

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Wow! Has it really been that long? But thinking about it, I seem to remember yours being the first on-line newsletter I subscribed to way back when the big news was that it might soon become possible for websites to display graphics. Thanks for all your hard work and all that great information conveyed in such an entertaining way.

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Congratulations and thank you!

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Although residing in Japan for nearly 40 years, I have received your newsletters since the initial issue and congratulate you on this milestone Anniversary, also thank you for the devoted service you provide the worldwide genealogical community. Don Houk in Tokyo

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Congratulations, Dick! This is the first newsletter I subscribed to when I started doing genealogy and still my “go to” source for information. Here’s hoping there are at least 21 more years to come!

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21 years! Congratulations!
I remember the Compuserve days and how I was almost giddy when I discovered a whole group of people out there who were also interested in this stuff.
Thanks for everything! Here’s to the next 21!
…jo

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Moltes felicitats!!!
Espero cada dia el seu butlletí, per estar al dia de les eines informàtiques i accés a bases de dates, que em poden ajudar en la tasca de la recerca.

Gràcies i felicitats.

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Just to echo what others have said here Dick. Thanks for your relentless hard work and determination. Keeping up a weekly or daily (sometimes it seems hourly) writing schedule is a massive undertaking, and to have done that for a year or two is difficult, but 21 years…. hats off to you my man. And since I’ve been reading you, probably only for about 10 of those, the quality of what you do is what keeps me coming back. There are so many blogs that seem to say the same thing, time after time; or are just self-promoting ego puffing exercises. Your integrity and honest approach to news and reviews is what makes your blog different, and why you are so many people’s first goto genealogy news spot. Thanks. May you find the strength to continue for a long time into the future.

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Kudos and Congrats Dick, Pam, and Bobbi! Twenty one years is the lifetime of some people…, and in internet time it’s the Paleolithic age to jet planes!

I don’t remember when I joined your newsletter, but it was after I made contact with researchers I hadn’t heard from in ages who had computers before I got mine in the fall of ’01 and we began corresponding regularly (much more info is online now than even ten years ago). Two who are part of that great genealogy library in the sky are sorely missed, both dear people and excellent researchers, and one looked up info at the Maine State Archives for us (there used to be several of us who were working on the same lines). She got your newsletter and passed on a link about a site that had transcriptions of colonial New England records, sent it to me, and I joined at that time. It’s been an adventure!

Here’s to 21 more years! 🙂
Genealogy-Done Never

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I have been reading your newsletter since day one. Even though we have never met, I feel like we are old friends. Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this newsletter. You have helped fan the flames of my genealogy passion and always given me something new to think about. I really appreciate you and your contribution to family history.

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Thank you very much. You have been quite helpful to all of us who take the time to read the newsletter. Not every article but those I have an interest in.

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Congratulations Dick & Pam,
Your knowledge & dedicated writing has given your readers the ability to be better historians & genealogists. You’ve helped readers, societies & libraries throughout the world preserve genealogical information through technology for years beyond our comprehension. Thanks Pam for your dedication in reaching this milestone.
21 years! WOW! Time to open the bubbly 💐
Happy 21st!
Barbara

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Congratulations! I look forward to reading your blog every day and then read the information again in the weekly one. I always enjoy what you have written…..so helpful, so informational, so stimulating.

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Congratulations! This newsletter is the first email I open. There is always something new to learn. It is obviously written by a person who truly enjoys genealogy and technology and shares that with the readers. Thank you!!

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I’ve been following the Newsletter since the early days, at least the late 90s. For a time, I saved every one but changes in computers, and dead hard drives took those. Now I frequently quote articles in the bi-monthly Newsletter of the Boyle County Genealogical and Historical Society, here in Danville, KY. It always has been, and remains my best source of genealogical information, and I still save many of the articles.
Since the Newsletter is now 21, I’d suggest you buy it a drink!

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Thank you! We all enjoy your insight amid your HUMOR! Please keep both of them in the future!
Janice P.S. Thanks for coming to our IRGS meeting in Vero Beach recently!

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Congratulations on the 21st anniversary of the EOGN! It’s one of the best things you can have with a morning coffee! Thanks to you and Pam for all the hard work you do in putting this together.

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Congratulations, Dick. As soon as I get to my computer in the morning, I look at the weather forecast. Then, I read your newsletter. Thank you for all the information you have brought me over the years. My family tree has benefitted as has my wallet, thanks to all your cutting edge articles on computer technology. I wish you a long, happy and healthy life and look forward to many more years of your newsletter.

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Dick,
21 years ago I had a PC which I used strictly for word processing. It wasn’t capable of connecting to the web. I knew there was something called that, but not what it was–and I’d spent 15 years teaching university staff, faculty, and grad students how to use mainframes and upgrade them to PCs. Then I got interested in genealogy. My brother, who was in charge of computers for his company, did upgrades of their PCs. So he took one that they were going to dump, cleaned its hard drive, brought it over, and taught me how to use the web and email. This was about the time you started your blog. It took another 10 years before several of the genealogy elists I was on began to rave about this Dick Eastman guy and his free blog. I’ve never looked back. It’s fun, I’ve learned a great deal about my family lines, sometimes disagreed with your opinions, but never been bored with what you write. I started out as an English major, so I have to praise your writing skills too. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that your privacy blog, which you spun off a few years ago, is a great addition. Because of a medical condition, I can’t drink the bubbly, but please do on my behalf!

Congratulations!
Doris

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Congratulations! Love reading your email!

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Congrats Dick & Pam! The “CompuServe” comments made me laugh as I too was one of those. Many thanks for everything you have done and contributed to the world of genealogy. I can only echo many of the comments already written. When others ask where to get started in genealogy, I always suggest they subscribe to your newsletter. Thanks again as we all look forward to each and every one. Cheers!

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Add my CONGRATULATIONS to all of the others! Your newsletter is a great source of helpful genealogy and technology information, and…not to forget, the various other uncategorized subjects.
Continued success…

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve printed an exciting new source to investigate. You, Pam
and Bobbi are gems. Thank you so much!
P.S. Glad you’ve given up tiny airplanes!

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Thank you!!

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‘Hart felt’ thank you! So many times we have heard it here first and/or understood it here first.
P.S. My email address is several years older 🙂

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Dick: kudos to you and Pam and Bobbi. I’ve been enjoying your newsletter as well as our on-line chats since the days of CompuServe. You’ve taught me all that I know about Genealogy. Can’t believe that I’ve been at it for so many years. Keep up the good work!

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Dick, Congratulations on 21 great years. I remember when the original CompuServe newsletters would come in you could read them on the screen as they downloaded. What a difference the years have made in download speed. Thank you for keeping me informed. John

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I used to chat in the Compuserve Dick Eastman genealogy room. Before that I used BBS boards for genealogy help. What year(s) was it that the Compuserve genealogy chat was active ? Seems a very long time ago. I don’t know how long I’ve been receiving the email newsletters but that also seems a long time. They are very much appreciated… thank you, Dick Eastman !

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Congratulations, Dick! Quite an achievement! I haven’t been with you from the beginning — I started my genealogical obsession after retiring from an academic job that had nothing to do with history, although I did know how to do searches. I’ve probably only been reading your enewsletter for about a dozen years, but it is my favorite and most useful newsletter. Look forward to it every day. You and your small crew, Pam and Bobbi, have earned eternal thanks from all of us.

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To Heroes Dick and Pam,
Thanks for all you do for all of us in the cyber genealogy community.
You are our constant! Your information and tips are precious gifts to all of us! Thanks for all your hard work-it and you are very much appreciated! Thanks too for organizing all those dinners-lots of fun memories😀
You are the jewels in the genealogy crown! Thank you forever!
Betty Schulz in FL

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I am delighted to have had your site show me the way to find my History from the Rev. War ..through the unsettled lands of what became our eastern states.. into a Civil War which produced files of men who served their country… letters of ancestors concerned about living thru blizzards.. and now I am pleased to have visited many of the places I discovered from being able to use your information. Thank you very much from a reader in the middle of Wisconsin.

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You have always done a wonderful job, Dick. I’m glad I’ve been along for the ride and hope you continue for many more years.

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Seems like it was just yesterday when you wrote that you were celebrating the 20th anniversary of EOG Newsletter. Time sure does fly! Thanks so much for all the wonderful articles over the years. My best to you, Pam and Bobbi.

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Dick:

Congratulations & best wishes for continued success!

One of the 75,000,
George

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Dick,
I’m sure I speak for all of us in commending and congratulating you and your “staff” (!) for the wonderful articles, stories, reviews, advice…the list goes on…that you’ve given us over the years. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve relished and look forward to reading even the articles that are not relevant to my personal genealogy. Thank you for all you do. And here’s to the next 21 years!

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Congratulations, Dick. You are a true pioneer! From your friend and long time reader, Paul.

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Congratulations, where has the 21 years gone? Thank you for this daily genealogy and tech support.

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Hey Dick – Good job – I tell our genealogy society every time I get a chance – “If you are not reading Dick Eastman, then you are not doing you self any favors – want to keep up? READ his newsletter every day!!”
Another 21 years will be just great. Thanks for it all!!

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Congratulations, Dick! I have learned a ton of invaluable information about genealogy and lots of other interesting things from reading your newsletters. I am always telling folks about you and how generous you are with sharing information. Stay healthy and keep up the excellent work. I really do appreciate it!

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I have no idea how long I’ve been reading your newsletter, but it’s been a very long time!! I was told about it (more than once) by a friend who I used to go on research trips with – before we stopped living in the same area. I look forward to it every day, and I couldn’t begin to count how many great ideas I’ve gotten from the newsletter. Thank you so much and keep up the good work!!

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Dick–thank you so much for your newsletter! I do not remember where I first heard of them but it was probably when the publication was in its infancy. I retired in mid-1996 and by the end of the year was learning all I could about being a competent genealogist. I have learned more from your newsletter about genealogy than most of the other journals combined that I have taken. An added perk, for me, is all the hardware, software, etc. info you share. I started out as a person with minimal computer skills beyond calling the “IT” guy when I had proboems at work. I look forward to reading your EOGN compilations every week and always find something new and challenging. Again, my thanks–looking forward to the next 20!

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