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Writing great family history newsletters or corporate case history success stories

How do you write great family or corporate print



Books by Anne Hart


How do you write great family or corporate print, online, or video newsletters and help other people to write their outstanding annual family newsletter, the type that gets put into time capsules for future generations? Think of how many ways you can customize a family newsletter of the type that's usually sent out each year.


You can turn newsletters into board games, computer game scripts, or put them in those time capsules to be opened every new century by descendants. You may wish to check out this author's book, Creating Family Newsletters & Time Capsules: How to Publish Multimedia Genealogy Periodicals or Gift Booklets by Anne Hart (Jun 5, 2006).


Tired of only paper print annual family newsletters? Try multimedia--video with text, music, voice, and pictures. Put warmth, kindness, and inspiration into photos, video, and text to cheer up viewers and readers. The annual family video and print newsletter, handwritten newsletter template using circles for messages and squares for photos, or a photo and text calendar delivers energy through celebration of life. Use a new, dramatic viewpoint, what’s called a fresh news angle. It’s something so new that viewers learn information that can be used in a different way.


Make multimedia newsletters


It’s like discovering hidden markets or exploring new patterns and spaces. What are the unique qualities of your information? Contrast and balance the dynamic imagery.

What actions can you use? Emphasize what the family (or corporate) tradition represents. How do visionary events, change, the future, and reality contrast or compare with solidarity, energy, roots, genealogy, and tradition? How does it all work together as energy and character that provide the foundation of the family or corporation? These tips can be used both for video or print family newsletters and corporate case history success story newsletters.


  1. Children: Have each child write about what they have done or are doing on an annual basis. If the child is too young, summarize in a short paragraph any updates.
  2. Parents: Keep a separate business newsletter for updates on your business. Decide whether you want to talk about acts of kindness, promote yourself or your achievements, or ask about others. What’s left to discuss? Repairing the house? Choose a topic you want to emphasize that is universal, simple, and about values and commitment or teach a new subject to your readers with universal appeal with which they all can identify.
  3. Information: How efficient and effective is your news information? Be informative rather than directive. Present information instead of giving them directions as commands. What are you expert at? What are you beginning to study that eventually you will have acquired expertise? What do you have time to do and write about that is not overwhelming you with overwork?
  4. Shorten Text: Use large page margins on your newsletter text. Keep videos to 7 minutes before you break for another topic so viewers can pause. On videos, don’t read from a script. Talk into the camera.
  5. Charisma: Be passionate, enthusiastic, and charismatic in your writing. Use humor and jokes in good taste. Use the element of surprise for humor, not disdain. Instead of flat writing, emphasize acts of kindness you and your children have done.
  6. Kindness: What behavior helps your writing to be more animated rather than flat in tone and mood or texture? Each act of kindness measures a range of change in your growth. Emphasize the range of change as forward movement. Let your newsletter “pay it forward” as it has been said in support groups, by encouraging readers to keep passing forward the acts of kindness to others as a choice for growth, change, and vision.
  7. Balance: Each topic should be equal in length or at least balanced. Don’t write the entire newsletter about one topic and then squeeze in a paragraph on another issue.
  8. Relationships: Explain and define who each person is. Put a date on each event or photo along with the name and the relationship. Example: This is a photo of ABCD, my paternal niece taken on July 4, 2006, at the World’s Fair in EFGH, California.
  9. Scrapbooks on DVDs: Decide whether you want your newsletter in text and on a CD or DVD or in print/paper/text form with different information from an interview or life story highlights placed on DVDs or CDs that you enclose with the paper newsletter. Or would you send the newsletter as a PDF file by email? A document file? Mailed in an envelope as a paper? Or saved on DVD as text along with video, with the print edition mailed together? Provide formats such that anyone can read the dated information with or without a machine to play the disc.
  10. Time Capsules of Humor: Use uplifting, tasteful jokes, poems, art, video, writing, life story highlights, and volunteer work experiences to connect your extended family to community service which extends your family of humankind’s accomplishments even further. Create an annual time capsule from your conception of an annual family newsletter or video newsletter. The time capsule then becomes an heirloom that can be conserved and preserved for future generations cataloged by year.

What to Include


Corporate Case Histories and Success Stories or Extended Families’ News

Your family video or print newsletter can be a business that you do for other clients. Decide whether you’d like to do corporate case histories and success stories or family history and genealogy as newsletters either in print and text paper or on DVDs and CDs or all of these for all types of clients-family, corporate, or professional, educational/institutional.


A professional newsletter could focus on a medical or legal practice, for example, or other professional. A business newsletter can emphasize the work of a corporation, its history, or an individual business. One example would be the work of a contractor or developer, architect, or independent teacher, dentist, engineer, computer programmer, artist, musician, author, consultant, or life, job, and image coach.

Family newsletters could reach out to extended families or include alumni reunions, genealogy and DNA-driven family history and ancestry surname groups. You choose your emphasis. Include more types of newsletters, whether DVD or text.


Place these items into your video newsletter


  1. Significant events
  2. Life stories
  3. Travel photos
  4. Photos of events such as weddings, graduations, or grand openings
  5. News of births or childbirth video clips (leave out the gore)
  6. Summaries
  7. Jokes
  8. Memorabilia and trivia with useful facts, such as statistics
  9. Joy of life and fun events
  10. Wise sayings and original proverbs or quotes with source of origin
  11. Mourning and/or celebration of life events
  12. Hobbies, crafts, art, writings, poems
  13. Sports enjoyed
  14. Reading group: Start a family or corporate book club and discuss reading
  15. Old time radio clubs, public domain video, or exchanging gifts of purchased videos from stores
  16. Make your own family videos and exchange them—such as graduations and birthdays
  17. Celebrations marking rites of passage, anniversaries, cruises, or other events marking dates
  18. Scrap booking or quilting tips for those interested
  19. Poems and skits
  20. Monologues
  21. Genealogy and DNA-driven genealogy reports
  22. Food preferences or allergies
  23. Reunions and suggesting video conference reunions for those not able to travel
  24. Free courses to family members in what you are expert at doing
  25. Instruction in putting video on DVDs and CDs for family newsletters or desktop publishing tips for those who want to make their own newsletters
  26. Military experiences or war stories
  27. Survival stories
  28. Computer skill tips
  29. Making natural, non-toxic cleaning or bug repellents from household kitchen baking ingredients such as cinnamon, baking soda, vinegar, or cream of tartar
  30. Finding hidden markets for bargains of quality at better prices and activities

How Much Time to Spend on Each Newsletter

If you want to email a newsletter, use a template and follow the template’s guide. It will take you about two hours per issue for a two-page newsletter. Allow yourself an hour per page if you’ve already written the news and just need to cut and paste it from your computer file onto a newsletter template that you can email.


Other choices include writing a newsletter as a personal letter. If you use a newsletter template and print out each copy on your laser printer, it takes about six hours just to write the features for a standard newsletter of multiple pages. If your pages increase to the business type of eight-page newsletter, allow yourself at least one full day’s work. This doesn’t include the time it takes to write the articles.


That’s why putting life stories and memoirs on DVDs or CDs and including them in a little paper or plastic envelope in the newsletter, mailed in a protected, rigid mailer could allow you to summarize the events in the paper newsletter. You’d be brief, and let the speaker on the video tell the story in a half hour or even up to an hour. Remember that talking heads are difficult to pay attention to for more than seven minutes without a break or pause between files to click on.


How Many Copies


Is your annual video and text print newsletter, booklet, or time capsule destined for a small family, extended family, students and teachers, and the archives of a personal history/oral history university library or museum? If you’re sending your newsletter to dozens of people, upload it to the Web and let them download it.

Also offer it on a DVD or CD as well as in print as a document that can be emailed as a document file or as a PDF file to be read in Adobe Acrobat software. Readers can download Adobe Acrobat reader free online. The software reads PDF files. The good point about PDF files is that you can typeset them like a book or newsletter using your template or saving any document as a PDF file. Otherwise, save your newsletter as a document file.


If you only have a few people to mail to, you can also use a Web site or you can make photo newsletters using an ink jet printer or color copier and mail them as paper newsletters. Include a DVD or CD anyway with talks, life story highlights, or other events that are recorded using video or even audio.


People like to look at other people in family history newsletters


For relatives who have disabilities, use the appropriate format—video, audio, or print. For blind relatives, use the services of a Braille transcriber or save the document in a format that can be read on a computer using accessibility technology your relative already has. Ask the person what format he or she prefers in which to receive a document.


If you have too many relatives or clients for the expense of using a color copier for photos, print them out as black and white documents, or print black and white photos on flesh-colored paper. There are such conveniences as pre-printed paper, post card photos, and photos on tee shirts or mugs as gifts.


For short one-page newsletters, you can have newsletters with photos printed on tee shirts and offer them as gifts. Same can be said for framed plaques and other art objects. Poems may be framed.


Short skits and monologues may be put on newsletters ranging from one to eight pages in length. It’s all about your budget.




Email won’t cost you if you’re sending to many people, unless your email service provider charges for bulk email. Send the email one at a time to relatives or clients if you’re using the relatively ‘free’ email you normally use to send memos. Send the email from home, not from work, unless you work for yourself at home.

Post cards would only cost about $20 or less to design, but you’d have to print them out from a computer or send photos to a film developing or digital photography processing company to put on the postcards. It costs about $35 to write a black and white newsletter and print it out to send to a few relatives. Count on about $75 for pre-printed stationary with color print. Talk to printers who do discount or print-on-demand publishing of newsletters. Take a course in desktop publishing at a local adult education center.


Four-page newsletters, the standard in business for corporate case history success stories cost $100 to $200 to prepare. You also need to fold them for mailing with pre-printed stamps or places for stamps to be pasted, and envelopes. If you’re doing an eight-page newsletter, it will cost you more than double because first class postage is limited to one ounce.


Online family newsletters save postage expenses or time when addresses change


Be sure to check with your post office for current newsletter mailing rates. It might be less expensive to put audio or video clips on a CD or DVD. Save the audio as MP3 files to get more talk on one disc. Photos, video, and text can go on any one DVD.

Or, with less information, photos, video, and text can be placed on a CD. With DVDs costing only a dollar or so per disc, you might make frequent use of your camcorder by producing an annual newsletter on a DVD or CD in multimedia. Defined, multimedia means photos, video, audio, text, and sounds such as music or talking all can be saved and played on one DVD or CD.


You can play the disc on any computer or save it to the type of file that may be played on usual DVD players that play video. CDs with audio and photos also can be sent as a newsletter along with text saved on the CD or mailed as print or both. If the person doesn’t have a computer at the other end, use paper, but if they have a DVD player, video brings people to life along with text. And video can be played generations after the relatives are gone. That’s why multimedia is a great time capsule. You can capture video, art, photos, text, music, voices, textures, tones, and moods.


Corporate, Educational, or Family Newsletters Are Visual Anthropology: Scrap booking Photos to Video Newsletters


When you crop, size, or edit photos, you trim them on your computer to fit your print or video newsletter template. Don’t waste space in your newsletter with tiny photos that can’t be seen when printed. Print fewer, but larger photos, and don’t make them so large that you can see the grains. It’s best to use your photo digital imaging software to correct red eye or cut off an object above a head.


A photo also can be cut with a scissors and pasted on a sheet of paper, then scanned to get rid of plants growing out of a person’s head or other intrusive objects. Use two photos to tell a story. Edit out of a picture too much sky and crop the photo about a quarter inch over everyone’s head and below their feet. It saves space in your newsletter.


Family reunions and handwritten or multimedia newsletters


Choose your location before gathering the whole family reunion. Have the lighting in place before the people congregate. Don’t keep children waiting while you’re setting up. You can put a short newsletter on reunion tee shirts and photograph the entire group in the same uniform or dress color or historic costume.


For effect, if your ancestors arrived in prehistoric times, 1632, or today, you might photograph an entire reunion group of current descendants in costumes of those eras you choose to emphasize if each can afford to make historical wear—or plan unique food and modern dress.


Staging and photographing family or corporate reunions is a hobby or home-based business that may be done for a variety of clients. Photo scrapbooks may be turned into video, slide, and multimedia productions using templates you can buy from a store that sells software and craft or hobby items related to scrap booking or desktop publishing and digital video production.


Whatever you do for family newsletters, the same may be done for owners of pets who want to share in clubs or animal care. An example would be a club for a certain breed of dogs or cat fancier societies


What’s important with print newsletters, is selecting the weight and feel of the paper. Talk to your local printer about types of paper used in newsletters. You want to communicate also using a type of paper—color, weight, and texture. Choose bright colors or delicate lace watermarks to convey the emotional tone of the newsletter.

Keep the paper light enough to have contrasting letters easy to see. Don’t let the color of the paper distract the reader from the photos and text. Postcards should be heavy enough to pass through the postal machines without tearing.


To send photos with a few paragraphs of news, use a fold over postcard sealed with a tape sticker. Never staple the card. It rips in the postal machinery. Keep the background paper light enough in color to show off the photos and text.


Collect templates


Some templates allow you to handwrite news and photocopy the handwritten messages in templates such as squares or circles placed decoratively on graphic art. Some look like cartoon bubbles for writing dialogue captions.

Some circles let you write one sentence by hand in each circle. You can write six sentences on a page. Or you can reduce the font size and type a sentence in the template then cut and paste the text within the confines of a square or circle.


The templates for handwritten news usually look like a greeting card with art in the center and circles or squares for you to write one sentence inside the dialogue boxes


Templates for handwritten newsletters usually resemble greeting cards or coloring books. Stationary supply, scrap booking stores, and craft shops sell these types of templates for handwritten news. For mailing newsletters, they also can be folded into origami shapes and mailed in round or unusual shaped mailers that conform to postal regulations for mailing. One example would be tube mailers for calendars and posters or round DVD and CD mailers for video newsletters.


Teachers and Students: Children and the Family Newsletter in the Schools


Illustrate your newsletters and DVDs with art made by children. If you don’t have children, you can ask to obtain written permission of a school or summer camp to let the class draw pictures of artwork on the theme of family and choose those to illustrate your newsletters or DVDs, including the covers for your DVD inserts.

You might want to visit classrooms or camps and talk to school assemblies on how to put together a family newsletter made by children ranging in grades from elementary through high school on the subject of intergenerational writing and illustration or family reunions and newsletter or DVD video design.


Children can make use of desktop publishing software, camcorders, or handwritten templates for family newsletters and greetings. Talk to local parent and teachers associations or the coordinator of authors in the schools projects in case you want to visit a school to give a talk. Have the children interview one another to create a family newsletter section for children.


Ask for the use of children’s art for illustrating and producing annual family newsletters


The outcome of this as a fresh news angle is that it promotes children’s participation in their own family or extended family traditions by helping them create a family newsletter.


These products can be as simple as using a template for handwritten newsletters to producing a newsletter on computers or using camcorders to create video DVDs of family newsletters for high school or community college students’ projects in digital imaging and desktop publishing. The same may be applied to classes for older adults in genealogy for adult education programs. Use home schooling projects for creating annual family newsletters or digital video time capsules as newsletters.


To help children answer questions for newsletters, hand them a list of questions or ask the questions verbally and give them time to think of answers. Then record the spontaneous answers on audio tape or digitally. Save the answers and then move to doing the same on video after the children have decided what to say and how to answer the questions. Give them time to think of answers they want to see on video. Work with teachers if you want to visit a classroom. Or write easy to understand questions with the help of your own children at home.


Record voices on video and audio. Put the clips into a time capsule which may contain many annual video and print family newsletters. Keep them and save them to your computer and to discs. They can be played when the children are older, provided that you transfer the recordings to more evolved technology as the children grow and the old technology becomes obsolete. Example: phonograph players versus DVD and CD players.


Create newsletters to showcase graduation photos and other school pictures. Use themes and events such as presenting the seasons changes through the eyes of children and older adults. Also see chapter 4 on how to make extended family pop-up newsletters, reports, greeting cards, and books.


Writing biographies, eulogies, and celebrations of life media in newsletters and other formats: From onomastics to prosopography and demography

Is prosopography a fancy name for collective, individual biography? Or is it a hidden market for genealogy journalists? Prosopography is an independent science of social history embracing genealogy, onomastics and demography.


Onomastics is defined by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language as "the study of the origins and forms of proper names, the study of the origins and forms of terms used in specialized fields, and/or "the system that underlies the formation and use of proper names or terms used in specialized fields."

To uncover hidden markets for your writing, freelance and staff journalists might explore how prosopography and onomastics are used in genealogy journalism and in writing articles for social history-related publications. For links and articles on how to be a personal history journalist-prosopographist, check out the site with the definition and origins of prosopography.


Prosopography associated with collective, individual biography is an excellent field for writers of memoirs and autobiography to explore for possible articles or books of a biographical nature


Writing biography can vary from books on historical figures or social history to finding the maiden surnames of ancestors. Or on writing articles or children's books on the first female astronaut, ethnic astronaut, such as Hispanic or any other group, or the first woman or man to graduate medical school, or any other aspect of biographical writing set in a specific time period.


Click on the links there to various articles and book excerpts. For further information, you might enjoy my book titled, Writing, Financing, & Producing Documentaries (Creating Salable Reality Video). The ISBN is 0-595-36633-3. Non-fiction writers may also be interested in writing the background for documentaries, editorials, and monologues. Check out the Prosopography Portal. Also, you may want to see the Foundation Medieval Genealogy website.


When discussing family history in your newsletter or article, you may have noticed that in some areas, women’s maiden names that never had been recorded on death certificates may show up in wills, notary records, and a wide variety of court, medical, and religious records. Social history encompasses women’s and family studies as well as genealogy journalism.