I have recently been thinking about an interesting collection in the NEHGS library: our collection of family association newsletters and publications. We have more than 700 different family publications ranging in date from the late 1800s to the present. For some titles, we have just one issue; for others, we have more than 50 years’ worth.
I was first drawn to the collection by some amusingly clever titles, like Blackburn Beginnings, Chilson Chatter, Collier Collator, Cooley Communiqué, Harlow Happenings, Harris Hunters, Jones Journeys, Kernfield Kernals, and Lay of the Land. I smile at the thought of a group of family members coming up with these names.
What’s in these publications? There is quite a variety of information in the newsletters: a family Christmas cookie recipe in the October 2016 issue of Calkins World; an “Ahnentafel between Michael Alan Rice and Silas Rice” in the Fall 2016 Edmund Rice (1638) Association Newsletter; an article on “The Distaff Side, and a Line of Descent from Allen the Third,” from the 1930 report of the Breed Family Association; and a report on the “Robert Royce DNA Ancestry Project” from the Fall 2016 Royce Quarterly, just to give a few examples. We also find notifications of reunions, meetings, lectures, and new publications, as well as a plethora of announcements of births, marriages, and deaths in the families, along with lists of association members.
“We also find notifications of reunions, meetings, lectures, and new publications…”
A number of the publications have an index for some or all of the years, which have names, places, subjects, and events. For many of them, however, the reader will need to look through the issues for news or information of interest.
How do you find these publications? Finding information on them is not always the easiest thing to do. The first step is to search our online library catalog to find out if we have a publication for the family that interests you. Search the catalog by subject for the family name, followed by the word “family,” and choose the item for periodicals, as in the example below.
Family association publications are also found online. Older issues can be found on sites such as Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and the Family History Library. Here is where you can find issues of the Fox Family News, to which we provide a link in our online catalog. These sites are great for finding older, generally out-of-copyright materials.
To find more current news and information from a family association, searching the internet is recommended. You can also look at some lists of family associations such as those found on Cyndi’s List or FamilySearch.
Scores of family associations have websites or Facebook pages. Some have an archive of their publications available for downloading in PDF format, and some will even have a searchable index to the publication. The Facebook option is much less structured, with information and queries put out as they come up. Email is another vehicle for distribution with current issues sent to members of the association.
[Collecting at NEHGS]
Historically, NEHGS received most of our collection of family publications as gifts, either as a subscription to receive issues as they are published, or as a one-time donation of a collection of issues. The current trend is that these arrangements are ending. Organizations indicate that they no longer have the time or resources to print and mail newsletters. Most have switched to an electronic format, and this is where the challenge in collecting and preserving this information will lie. We can add links to the family websites, but checking some of the newsletters we have, I find that many no longer exist. We can print out the issues, but this is time consuming and costly, and unless they are in a pdf format they may not be suitable for printing.
From a collecting and preservation point of view we are looking at ways to add some of these electronic newsletters to our Digital Collections repository so they can be preserved in that format and available to members offsite. This project is still in the planning stages for now and will involve getting permissions from associations and then loading each issue as we receive it.
If you are publishing a newsletter or involved in a family organization, how you will preserve your information for future generations. Is someone keeping a printed copy? A digital archive? Are you aware of format changes that may prevent access to issues stored in an older format? And what about Facebook? How will that record of interactions and information be preserved, and should it be? There are many resources that talk about this including this linked publication from the Library of Congress on Personal Digital Archiving.
These family newsletters are a great resource for genealogical researchers to explore. If you have a family publication you would like to donate to the NEHGS library, please let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.