This Newsletter is Twenty-Two Years Old!

Wow! Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I decided to start writing a genealogy newsletter for a few of my friends and acquaintances. Well, it wasn’t yesterday… it was 22 years ago today!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream that 22 years would be so interesting, so much fun, and so rewarding. The very first edition of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter was sent on January 15, 1996.

Twenty-two 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 tens of thousands of readers tuning in every day! If you would have told me that 22 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 the World Wide Web 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-two 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 14 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 2018 newsletter does differ from one statement I wrote twenty-two 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-two 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-two 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 five 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-two years I have missed only eleven 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 by slipping on an icy walkway 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, bouncing off tree limbs as the wreckage of the airplane and I fell to the ground. 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. Four 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 35,000 newsletter articles. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past twenty-two years I have traveled all over the U.S. as well as to Singapore, China, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, Israel, Ireland, and have made multiple trips to Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, and to several Caribbean islands. 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-two years ago still stands: suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome.

46 Comments

Thanks again for all the information and pleasure I have had for at least the past 21 years since I discovered you on CompuServe and then your wonderful newsletter! Yours is the first email I check each morning and it is rare that I don’t learn something by reading it!
I admire your dedication to your readers and always hope that you won’t decide to retire just yet!
Congratulations and please do celebrate this anniversary – you have inspired many, many people to be better genealogists with the “how to’s” and the “what not to do’s” in your personal comments. I was thrilled and delighted to meet you on a Caribbean cruise and found that you were just as personable in life as in your Newsletter!
Good luck and good health in the future – I’ll be a subscriber until I can’t use the computer any more!

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Congratulations, Dick!

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Congratulations on sending all of your readers current information concerning genealogy and technology. I don’t know how many years I have been a subscriber, but in that time I’ve gained much knowledge about those two items which are of great interest to me. I appreciate your sharing your expertise with all of us!

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And some of us have been with you every step of this journey and are still around to celebrate it with you!

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Your dedication and never-ending striving for high quality genealogical and technical news is a great gift to all who have learned so much as we journey with you. May you enjoy many more years of productive, happy and healthy life as you guide us through the maze!

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Still another Compuserve customer. Thanks a bunch for your years of dedicated service. You also nnounced part of my coming into the genealogy and archival field. Carl

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22 Years – WOW! Thank you for being there with advice and information. I was lucky enought to be on the list of receipients from the beginning and I appreciate your efforts and dedication! Again, Thank You!

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Thank you very much for your dedication. Have enjoyed it for the past 10+ years.

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Oh my gosh! I’m getting so much older! I remember reading Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter when it wasn’t ONLINE. I got it in the mail! Congratulations Dick and thank you so much for all the information. Almost every issue is something which I can use in my own family history and genealogy.

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Thank you so much for your dedication to the genealogy community all these years! I look forward to reading the newsletter each and every week and always learn something new. Often, it’s the only place that I’ve heard the news, so I appreciate your diligence in getting the most up-to-date genealogy information out to those of us in the genealogy world. Thank you

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Congratulations Dick! It has been wonderful.

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Dick, As best I remember, I did not get that first newsletter, but I did get the second. It was so very exciting! I’ve learned so much from reading all these editions since then. I don’t think I’ve missed another one. Thanks for all the time you put in on it and for keeping us up to date.

….Betty

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Dick thanks for all you do – also congratulations on reaching the 22 year anniversary.

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Many thanks for the newsletter, which I have been getting for about 10 years! May you publish it for many more years, and may I be around to read it and benefit from it!
Bill Wilson

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Congrats Dick.
I found you on Compuserve longer than 22 years ago. I was just putting my toe into genealogy. You, and your advice, were a key reason I decided to jump all the way in.
Your thoughts, suggestions and encouragement have helped me tell my family’s history to current generations, and leave a complete story of our 1100-year journey for generations to come.
You’ve brought a lot to our field, and we appreciate it.
Thanks.
Donn

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Congratulations on 22 Years Dick.

In honour of this amazing achievement I just today (belatedly) renewed my Plus subscription.

Roger

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Thank you, Dick, for the always interesting news items you share, both those on strictly genealogical subjects and those in which you share your experiences with various hardware and software. Because of you I have a Republic Wireless cell phone plan with which i am very satisfied. Because of you i have learned to travel very light and appreciate the flexibility that allows. Because of you i Backup My Genealogy Files on the first of every month. And because of you i have been introduced to new websites and unfamiliar data sources that have helped me find elusive ancestors. Again, many thanks. I hope you will keep the newsletter going for many more years!

Ellen

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Dick, you have inspired me than I can say. You are a wonderful person and May God Bless You. You are very special to a lot of folks!

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Congratulations Dick, and thank you!!! The Newsletter does a great service for the genealogical community, by keeping us all well informed. Finally, I can’t say I remember when I started reading the Newsletter, but I do know that from the time I first started (about 20 years ago) I have read every one!

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The earliest newsletter I have stored on my computer is May 2001. I may have earlier issues in my backups, but I haven’t checked. If they are on floppy disks then I have no hope of checking any more! Thanks Dick for all the information and help you have given me over the last 22 years when I discovered the Compuserve Genealogy Forum.

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I just want to thank you for your years of hard work and dedication. I have learned a lot from reading your newsletter – not only about genealogy, but about technology as well. Thank you so much!

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In 1999, I was a new genealogy librarian and had been away from genealogy for some time. A patron, who was a much more experienced, had one piece of advice: you must subscribe to Dick Eastman’s Newsletter. That patron has joined his ancestors, I’ve retired, and I’m still reading your newsletter. Thank you.

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Congratulations Dickinson Eastman! I’ve been with you for many years and still reading every word. I actually have copies I made early on because your words of wisdom meant so much to me. Thank you for your dedication. Jean Fight Simon

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And what a valuable daily trip it has been. I still have printouts of some of the early messages—dial up was expensive then so it was better to print the message and read it later. Your help led us all to new new paths in discovering our family history.
Jackie

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Congrats Dick and thanks for all you do! This has been my favorite source for genealogy news for many years.

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Congratulations Dick. It is good to see so many familiar names from those who were there in the early years. I remember receiving your letters via dial-up as we traveled around the country. Thanks for the great articles that have served me well all those years. I have learned so much through them.

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I look forward each day to receiving this valuable newsletter. Thanks for your dedication!

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Just, Thank You!

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Anne Kaufman, Ph.D. January 16, 2018 at 9:39 am

Dick, Kudos and Congrats on your 22nd anniversary! As a “newbie” everywhere I turned people were recommending your newsletter/blog to me. I now look forward to each weekly article and have saved so many for my archives. Thanks for your dedication. Here’s to another productive year!

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congratulations. Here’s to another 22 years or more.

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Good stuff all the time! BTW, Fun Stuff for Genealogists, Inc. turns 20 years old in February!

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Congratulations, Dick. I was one of your early birds. Cannot remember exactly when I joined but it was close to the beginning. Thanks for all you have done for the genealogy community.
Honey

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Congratulations. Quite an achievement! Please avoid hazardous situations and keep healthy. You are not a spring chicken any more. I’m 77 and I hope your newsletter outlives me.

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    —> I’m 77 and I hope your newsletter outlives me.

    Thank you for the kind words. I must admit it has been fun.

    Of course, I am looking forward to the next 22 years of newsletters! (smile)

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Dick
Thanks alot for your years of keeping novices like us informed!

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I used to read your newsletter using my 286 computer with a 20 mb hard drive and a whopping 2 mb of Ram (anything after 640 k was expanded memory) and the dos version of AOL. Thank you for all the work you do.

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Janet Hildred Harman January 16, 2018 at 10:51 am

Congratulations and good wishes for the future. You amaze me with all of the great information you supply on so many subjects of interest to us genealogists.

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I was a member of the CompuServe Genealogy Forum and received you first newsletter and all since then. I saw it grow and change. Congratulations, and thanks for keeping the newsletter up.

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Happy Birthday EOGN! A many more successful years of sharing and educating those of us who wait eagerly each day for the new edition. Thank you, Dick Eastman. Did you ever think this newletter would become a worldwide phenomenon? Keep up the great work! Jayne ( one of your many Harmon cousins)

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Congratulations, Dick! Hope to see your newsletter around for the next 22 years! Can’t believe I never looked for a genealogy forum in all the years I was on Compuserve. I did, however, spend a great deal of time on a model train forum (a bit unusual place for a female, but I love steam trains!) and eventually married a very nice man I met on the forum. We’ve been married now for nearly 20 years, so really great things happened for me using CS!

I truly enjoy your daily messages and have learned a great deal from you and the other readers. Keep up the wonderful work!

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Rather than repeat everything that’s been said already I’ll just say ditto!!! I’ve been reading your newsletter for 20 years – hard to believe!!

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Thank you for all you have taught me … from research sources to Internet security … not having a 15 year old boy living nearby, I rely on your newsletter to help keep me closer to up to date on security, etc.

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Congratulations!

I was a recipient of your newsletter back in the early days and after some years away from genealogy to raise my family, I’m back to both researching family history and subscribing to your newsletter! Thank you for all that you do.

Debi

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I’m echoing the thanks of others. I got into genealogy about 14 years ago, after retirement from an all-consuming job. Your information and news has been invaluable in helping me learn “how to do it.” Here’s to 22 and more years!

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Dick, you’ve made me smile, you’ve made me grin, you’ve made me shake my head (not at you but at other humans), but above all, you’ve helped me learn. Thank you for touching upon the life’s of myself and others! Thank you for sharing and caring!

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Congrats and thanks for your work.

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