This Newsletter is 24 Years Old!

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

Wow! I have been publishing this newsletter for nearly a quarter century. 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 24 years ago today!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream that 24 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-four 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 24 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 24 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 18 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.

Another thing that has changed is the delivery method. In 1996, this newsletter was delivered to readers only by email. The reason was simple: most computer owners in those days didn’t use the World Wide Web. In fact, most of them didn’t even know what the World Wide Web was.

Tim Berners-Lee proposed a new service of hypertext inter-connected pages on different computers in 1991 but by January 1993 there were fifty Web servers across the world. A web browser was available at that time but only for the NeXT operating system. Web browsers for Windows and Macintosh systems were not available until in June 1993, five months AFTER I published the first newsletter. Even then, the World Wide Web did not become popular with the general public until the dot-com boom of 1999 to 2001.

Prior to the dot-com boom of 1999 to 2001, email was the best method of sending information to others.

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 2020 newsletter does differ from one statement I wrote 24 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 24 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 24 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 7 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 24 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.

Six 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 45,000 newsletter articles. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past 24 years I have traveled all over the U.S. as well as to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Ireland, and have made multiple trips each to Canada, England, Scotland, Mexico, China, 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 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 24 years ago still stands: suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome.

52 Comments

Along with congratulations, I must add big thanks for all the advice and fun pieces too. Raise a glass of something to the next 20+ years:-))

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Congrats Dick/ I read like it was “gospel” since almost the beginning. You even highlighted an article about me years ago to connect an actual picture to a person being written about with the Macovo Community Grant. Now at 86, I, too, had to put my newsletter and genealogy teaching to bed while I still had the guts to do so and the ability to do so smoothly. But keep it coming! I am grateful for such a far-thinker. Carl

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    Reading the comments, I noticed many were time stamped yesterday morning, I just received this edition during today’s early morning hours. I looked at a few previous newsletters and saw the same thing. Does your bulk email service send each edition in multiple batches on different days? Not an issue really, more of a curiosity. And, I do love your newsletters and look forward to each issue; keep up the good work!

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    —> Does your bulk email service send each edition in multiple batches on different days?

    There are several bulk mail services, operated by different companies, that send out daily reports of all the new articles posted in this newsletter. They all have different methods of bundling and mailing the articles. I don’t know which such service you are referring to.

    You can look at the sender’s email address in the daily email message you receive to see which company sent it. Also, if you see advertisements in the email messages you receive for non-genealogy products, the message did not come from FeedBlitz. Such companies never contacted me and never asked for permission to republish my articles. Unfortunately, several companies do that.

    The only “approved” service is FeedBlitz. That company is “approved” by me. I pay money to FeedBlitz and that company allows me to configure the format of the email messages, specify the time they are to be sent, and they do not include extra advertisements. The other companies all do whatever they do without my permission. I can talk about FeedBlitz but don’t know much about the other 4 or 5 companies.

    FeedBlitz takes a “snapshot” of all new articles around midnight Eastern U.S. time, bundles the articles of the previous 24 hours together into one email, and queues them up to be mailed. FeedBlitz does the same for thousands of other web sites so it may take an hour or two for all the email messages in the queue to be delivered. I seem to receive my copy around1 AM to 3 AM Eastern U.S. time. FeedBlitz seems to be very reliable, making those “snapshots” at close to the same time every day.

    I have no idea what the other companies do.

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    Same thing here for me – my issue of the newsletter always arrives the day after issue. Never get one on a Monday morning but the last one of the week arrives on Saturday morning.
    That said, congrats Dick we started way back with you 24 years ago and I too would like to know where the last 24 years have gone!

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Congratulations Dick!! You do a tremendous service to the genealogical community!! Thank you for all you do!!

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Congratulations Dick. I was with you on Compuserve and like to think I was one of the very early subscribers to this newsletter (although possibly with a different email address) although I can’t be positive about it of course. Well done, and thanks for providing me with 24 years of interesting daily (almost) reading. Hope to see you again at RootsTech, and perhaps you will find time this year to make it to the Ontario Ancestors Conference and Family History Show in Hamilton, Ontario June 5-7.

David

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Congratulations on a wonderful publication. Really enjoy reading the very different articles.

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Delbert A Ritchhart January 15, 2020 at 9:26 am

Congratulation on a major accomplishment. I have been a subscriber for over ten years and have picked up a lot of valuable tips about genealogical research; but also about technological developments. We have met and chatted a couple times at Jamboree in Burbank; but I know you’ve met thousands of your subscribers over the years. Thanks for all you do for genealogy and ON TO 25 YEARS!

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Congratulations Dick. No small feat to keep up the pace that you have over the years. I often think back to early days on Compuserve and the evolution of technology since, which enabled easier access to family history research records and networking for millions of people who are interested in knowing their roots. Best wishes to you for many more years of leadership in the genealogy community. — Rick Roberts, Global Genealogy.

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I’m another of the first timers, I think. If not then very soon after. Always enjoyed them, even though the downloads were tough sometimes via dial-up; many times in remote places as we traveled extensively in our RV. But i always managed to get your newsletter. Always keeping me informed of the latest technology and gadgets to help keep us current on methods to connect. I’ve enjoyed them since, and though I’m not as involved in research as I was then, I still dabble and try to keep up. Thanks a lot for your dedicated work.

Daisy Thomas

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Congratulations on a wonderful gift to all of us who follow your newsletter. I’m another of the CompuServe forum people and enjoyed your comments before the newsletter started!
I’ve learned so much from your advice and suggestions, laughed at some of the comments, had dinner with you on one of the cruises and read your news first thing when I get to the computer – couldn’t start my day without you. Oh, yes, and I’ve learned a lot about genealogy, technology and your sense of humor!
May the next 24 years be equally as fun, entertaining and helpful to us all.
Mary Holland

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Congratulations Dick. I’ve been a reader for quite a few years and love all the non-typical news items you tell us about. 24 years is a huge accomplishment!

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Congratulations Dick! Little did you know 24 years ago how valuable you would become.to the Genealogical Community. Your name and your newsletter are a household name in the field. I am a newsletter editor for one of the local Chapters of Ohio Genealogical Society and read your articles religiously to help keep my members up to date on items of interest. On another note, I truly appreciate how easy you make it to save your articles or pass them forward. Keep up the good work and hope to read your newsletters for another 24 years….well, maybe not me !!!

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Congratulation on 24 Years Dick. Next year 25. Almost as long as Lisa and I have been married – we’ll be 25 years in 5 months from now.

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Congratulations and thank you, Dick. Been reading you since CompuServe and dial-up. I’ve finally come around to your recommendation of cloud storage, although it’s still not dependable in northern Minnesota.

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Congratulations from an antipodean follower

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Wow 24 years Congrats! Everyday I look forward to reading your newsletter and not only do I love your articles about genealogy but, I also enjoy reading others esp. computer, software, windows & reviewing products. Please let Pam & Bobbi know I appreciate all the work they do too! So hope you enjoyed a lot of champagne today you deserve it!

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Your loyal followers are infinitely grateful for the thoughtful, informative (and sometimes quirky) treasures you share with us. My sincere congratulations Dick!

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Congratulations, Dick! I have been a subscriber in one email guide or another, for most if not all of those 24 years. It’s always been a wonderful publication.

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Congrats Dick, it’s always a great read. I’m looking forward to the next 24 years of your blog!

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Thanks for the enjoyment and knowledge you have given me through your blog during the many changes that have taken place both in the genealogy world and computers over the decades! I have learned a lot and appreciate your hard work.
Jan Nelson Cole

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Congratulations. Those were the CompuServe days when I dialled up from UK. A whole world of genealogy was opened up.

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Congratulations Dick what a milestone – I am fairly certain I have read all 24years worth of newsletters

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Your 25-year journey of perseverance made me smile. Quite admirable! I appreciate all that you have taught me, informed me, and had me laughing out loud. Thank you. I bless you and the day your newsletter crossed my path. It’s been years!

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Dick, replying to your answer to my
“Does your bulk email service send each edition in multiple batches on different days?” comment: I think the answer is that many people subscribe to get your blog posts immediately after you post them (and then comment) rather than reading the bundled posts sent out by FeedBlitz as I do.

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    The only ways of getting the articles shortly after they are posted (that I know of) is either (1.) Open a web browser and go to the web site or (2.) Use an RSS newsreader. I have been using RSS newsreaders for years to read lots of blogs, news sites, eBay, weather forecasts, financial news sites, and other web sites that interest me.

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Congratulations Dick. I welcome your daily dose of wise advice and you have been a great help with dilemmas that I sometimes did not realise I was having!!!!

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Congratulations and thank you. I must have been a really early subscriber. We had dial-up AOL. I was able to get a trial subscription to Compuserve and would do that occasionally because AOL had no genealogy boards. I would have subscribed to your newsletter when you first offered it to those on the boards. Best wishes for continued success.Jan

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Wow, congratulations! I’m a relative newcomer given the long history here. I deeply appreciate your letter as well as your ongoing commitment. I’ve found treasures of advice from you as a beginning family amateur genealogist. Thank you!!

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Congratulations and Happy Anniversary! I so enjoy your daily columns! I often wonder how you manage to come up with a daily idea or more. I won’t be around for 24 more years, Dick, but whatever the number, I will enjoy your prognostications! You are a great part of the genealogical world! Thank you!

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Your newsletter is a delight! Accurate, timely, concise, imminently readable (Thanks Pam & Bobbi), and almost as eclectic as Bill Bryson. My sole regret is having only discovered you these past 2 years. Our genealogy interests parallel, but mine a a stutterstart pace, given a career in International Logistics,, including covering 35 African countries. I recall my first Genealogy software, Roots I on a CP/M Osborne, when “Genealogical Computing” hardcopy Newsletter was the latest, and this brand new company, Ancestry, had something to offer. Dialing up compuserve on an external modem and ‘dirty line’ from Zambia at 300 baud was WORK!. You, and your team, do a great service Dick. It’s always interesting, useful, and well presented. Congratulations.

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Congratulations and thanks for all the info, help AND time which has been much appreciated.

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I have been addicted to genealogy for over 30 years. And, believe I subscribed to your newsletter over 20 years ago. I always find something to follow up on and look forward to receiving it each week. Thanks so much for the time and effort you spend on publishing this.

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I appreciate your newsletter every day I receive it. It always has something of interest for me. Thanks for continuing writing and publishing it. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Congrats, Dick. A LOT of amateur genealogists here in Canada are very glad you took that plunge 24 years ago. Best wishes for many more!

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Many congratulations and a thousand thanks for your great newsletter and generous sharing to the genealogy community over all these years. Yours is a ‘don’t miss’ gift to us all. I look forward to each interesting and helpful post. Thank you, Dick!

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Congratulations Dick! I don’t recall when I first subscribed to this newsletter – 20 years ago, at least. I must confess that I look forward to your newsletter not only for the excellent and very helpful genealogy articles, but also the “hi-tech” computer information. Both have been important and useful to me and I thank you very much!

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NICE WORK Dick!!!! I look to your newsletter as I struggle with learning the art of blogging and the WordPress platform with my Chicago cemetery site. You inspire me!
Thanks for what you do

Barry Fleig

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Congratulations, Dick! Not being in the workplace any longer, I appreciate your updates about the latest technology and services. As the newsletter editor for the Roots Users Group (RUG), I thank you for your generosity making it easy to share your articles with our members.

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Congratulations, Dick. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the information you provide in real language that I understand. You have saved me many times. Stay well.

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Congratulations and many thanks! i only found you a few years ago, but I always appreciate the info. There’s always something new and interesting in there!

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Have had such wonderful knowledge given to me as I travel thru my quest to complete my family history. You are always spot-on as far as information you impart. Your newsletters are always full of data that allows me to continue my research. I judge you as the “Jeopardy Host of Genealogy” and wish you many long years of assisting us as we travel the road of learning more about our ancestors. And when there’s something humorous to add, you keep us smiling. Thank you for YOU!!!!

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Congratulations! and thanks for sharing the story of your newsletter. The EOGN is one of my most welcome pieces of email. I hope you keep going for many more years.

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Dick, thanks for your dedication and sharing your experiences. I was one of those Compuserve.com readers 24 years ago. Is it possible. Thank you very much.

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CONGRATULATIONS! That’s just about right! I signed up for the Newsletter in just about 1996. I don’t know if you have a listing of your first subscribers, but I should be on it – or maybe 1997-8. I look forward to receiving the Newsletter every week. I have learned many tricks of genealogy (really, “finding your family history” since no one really does “genealogy”) Thanks for you huge effort, Richard!

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Congratulations, I very much enjoy reading your newsletter I signed up about 3 years ago when I was starting the road of Genealogy. So thank you for all the great information!!

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Dick,
Congratulations on 24 years! Thank you for taking that leap of faith and sticking with it. Please thank Pam and Bobbi for all they do that adds to the newsletter.
I discovered EOGN a number of years ago and I’m very appreciative of what you’ve done, found, shared and written to help us in our own genealogy journey and learning.
Thank you for faithfully keeping at it through your own ups and downs in your life and be a blessing to so many.

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Congratulations on 24 years of publication. You and your publication are greatly appreciated.

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From the bottom of my heart, that you for the great news you provide. Your newsletter is my “go to” for the latest and greatest since I don’t have time to spend surfing for top genealogy news. Your articles have been interesting and very helpful to my research. Sorry to hear about your accidents, but I am impressed by your fortitude and dedication in continuing to provide almost continuous service to your fan base.

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