This Newsletter is Twenty-Three Years Old!

It’s time to raise a glass of bubbly and celebrate! Yes, I am celebrating this newsletter’s twenty-third anniversary.

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 23 years ago today!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream that 23 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-three 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. (Do you remember CompuServe?) 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 23 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 most people 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-three 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 15 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 TWO web sites: https://eogn.com for the Standard Edition and a new web site just for Plus Edition subscribers at https://eognplus.com. Both web sites use a professional e-publishing platform, complete with RSS news feeds and other technology, all of which makes 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 2019 newsletter does differ from one statement I wrote twenty-three 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-three 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 250,000 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 (paid) 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-three 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 six 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-three years I have missed only twelve 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 had an engine failure in my tiny, open cockpit airplane. The plane and I landed 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 together. I landed upside down with the wreckage of the airplane on top of me. Remember… this was an open-cockpit aircraft. Yet I missed only one issue as a result of that mishap even though the following issue was written while wearing a neck brace and swallowing pain pills that made me higher than that airplane ever flew.

Five 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 40,000 newsletter articles. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past twenty-three years I have traveled all over the U.S. as well as to Singapore, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Ireland, and have made multiple trips each to Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, China, and to several Caribbean islands. Tomorrow I am flying to Bangkok, Thailand.

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 write about whatever is 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-three years ago still stands: suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome.

41 Comments

Dick/ Congrats – quite a milestone. Mine is only 10 years old/ a baby. chb

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Love you dearly! PS: Don’t take up skiing, please.

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Congratulations!

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RoseMary N Starling January 15, 2019 at 8:31 am

Thank you!

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Congratulations! 👍🏻

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I was one of the lucky 100 people to receive your first newsletter via Compuserve and I am still enjoying today as much as I did back then. Can it possibly be 23 years???? In so many ways I miss the old forum format. We seemed like family back then. Keep on writing it Dick and I’ll keep on reading it until I can’t see anymore.

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Congratulations! Your newsletter is quite an accomplishment. Keep it coming.

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Congratulations and Happy Birthday to EOGN

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Congratulations Dick! You continue to do a great job! We depend on your for the latest news!

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Congrats.Can subscribers ask questions also?

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    —>? Can subscribers ask questions also?

    Absolutely! I rely upon such questions. Indeed, many of the best ideas for articles in this newsletter come from readers’ questions and suggestions.

    If you have a question about some particular article already published, I would suggest you post the question in the comments section at the end of the article. I will see the question and many other newsletter readers will see it also. That greatly increases the odds of receiving an answer from me or from knowledgeable newsletter readers. There are many people reading articles and messages here who are far greater experts than I am on various genealogy and technology-related topics. The more people who read your question, the greater the chances of receiving a knowledgeable answer.

    If you have a suggestion for a FUTURE article, I would suggest contacting me directly by using the “Contact Dick Eastman” link shown in the “Important Links” menus along the right side of almost every page of this newsletter. If you prefer, you also can go directly to the contact form at: https://blog.eogn.com/contact-dick-eastman/

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Congratulations, Dick and EOGN! This is always the first post I open each morning and often I don’t get to the others until I’ve read, documented for myself and even checked out other sites that are mentioned. I don’t remember if I got the first edition, but certainly had one very soon after – good old CompuServe!! I miss that format and the friends I made there. Still keep in touch with a few of them too.
Thank you so much for all the information, knowledge, and friendship for the past 23 years. Thanks also to Pam and Bobbi for adding to the newsletter.

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Quite a list of admirable (and death defying) accomplishments! Congratulations, Dick!

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Congrats.  Looking forward to many more years.  Best in 2019Donn

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Congratulations and thank you. I, too, had to move with from CompuServe.

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My sincere congratulations, and my gratitude for the consistent quality and rich resources you provide.

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Thank you Mr. Eastman for your reply back to my question.

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Congratulations on your 23rd Anniversary!
I look forward to seeing it regularly! Please keep up the great work!

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Through thick and thin your hard work and wisdom are much appreciated. Looking forward to #24. Slainte!

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23 YEARS! How rewarding that must be – CONGRATULATIONS!

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Awesome achievement, Dick.

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Congratulations on a long run
Look forward each day to reading the newsletter

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Is the man in the Army outfit Mr. Eastman?

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Congratulations

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Congratulations Dick. What an awesome milestone to be celebrated. Looking forward to many more fabulous & honest reporting from you.

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Congratulations and to many more healthy years. My family newsletter began in 1999 not far behind you.

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Congratulations!! I recall reading your newsletter occasionally on Compuserve. 90 % of my research is in Ireland, so in those early days, I couldn’t find much online.

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Congratulations on reaching this milestone. I enjoy reading your newsletter first thing every morning, and I hope that we are both doing the same 23 years from now.

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Dick, Congratulations on 23 years of interesting articles on genealogy, technology and events to come. I started using Evernote after your presentation at the Connecticut Society of Genealogists on that topic.

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Congratulations on 23 years of interesting articles on genealogy, technology and upcoming events.

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I think I printed out an article (might still have it) when I was using the DOS version of America Online. Thanks for 23 years of information. I never would have learned about Office Libre without you.

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Congratulations on attaining 23 publishing years.
Thanks –
1) for taking a leap and going with your idea to begin a “weekly” newsletter.
2) for keeping some of us not so new at this anymore updated with info and insights
we may not have access to, heard about or seen in any other source.
3) for doing all this for so very many you’ll probably never meet or speak with but you’ve touched us all for the genealogy better.
4) to Pam (especially – proofing is not usually an exciting or fun thing to do) and Bobbi for their work to make this a great newsletter.
5) just plain ole everyday THANKS. I as one of many really appreciate and look forward to hearing from you no matter where you might be at the time or what you may be doing.

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Congratulations, Dick! I remember when I first discovered your newsletter so many years ago and how impressed I was with the abundance of information and the professional way it was presented. Your work only continues to share so much and shine a light on many things going on in the field that otherwise might get missed. All your technical and privacy blog posts are also appreciated. I am grateful for all you do. Well done, Richard! All good wishes for this anniversary and many more to come.

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Congratulations, Dick. I don’t remember if I was part of the “100”, but I suspect I was. I often recommend the newsletter to others and pass on some tidbits to the staff at my local Family History Center. Proud of our friendship and to have known you when. Glad we had a chance to catch up in Orlando.

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Thank-you, Dick, for all your insights and information. I’ve learned so much from your newsletter–and all for free! (Well, free to me anyway.)

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Dianne Ekberg Arnold January 21, 2019 at 2:08 pm

Congratulations, Dick, on 23 years of genealogy news and adventure! I was one of those who found you on CompuServe and greatly appreciated the forum there. Don’t remember if I got the first newsletter, but I’ve been a Plus subscriber since the beginning and consider it to be some of the best money I spend in the Genealogy space. All the best for the next 23 years to you and Pam and Bobbi…………

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Thank you for your newsletter that has been wonderful to read and learn from all these years!

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Congradulations

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Congratulations! I have learned a lot from your newsletter. I think I have been receiving your newsletter since soon after I started my family genealogy, about 16 years ago. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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