Last week’s article generated a lot of email about the benefits of holiday newsletters. (Although, for the record, I should note that one reader wrote to express the view that all holiday messages should be personally written and not mass-produced.) Here are some excerpts:
From Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Londonderry, New Hampshire:
I enjoyed the story about the Christmas newsletters. For twelve years we have sent out a photo collage — a visual newsletter — of all the events of the year — birthdays, graduations, vacations and family reunions. I’ve kept all the copies, and I think I’ll have to make scrapbook to keep them in.
Dan M. Johnson of Johnson City, Tennessee, wrote:
I have written and saved holiday newsletters for many years. In addition, every December since I retired in 2006, I have prepared a family history report with separate pages for each branch I've been studying. I summarize what I've learned in the past year that might be of interest to others in the family — about thirty people. This not only satisfies my need to share, but also documents my progress, including corrections to errors made in previous reports, and provides clues for future family historians who may follow in my footsteps.
From Karl West of Walpole, Massachusetts:
When I retired I tackled four projects, one for my father's line, my mother's line, my wife's father's line, and my wife's mother’s line. Using address books that belonged to my parents and my in-laws, I wrote to extended family members, explained who I was, and asked for old photos from each person. For each person who sent me pictures, I said I would send a CD of all the photos I received. The response was wonderful. Not only did I get pictures, but many also sent notes and further information. Now, I have a more complete reference to each family.
From Priscilla Greenlees of Bainbridge Island, Washington:
I've been writing Christmas letters since 1978 — and have been both reviled and praised for doing it! But the thanks I get from people who really care about my family and friends make it worthwhile. I've saved all of newsletters; and now that I'm writing my memoirs and am still working on my genealogy, I plan to incorporate the contents all into the master copy of "my life."
Kathryn Fenton of Virginia Beach, Virginia, wrote with a poignant story:
My mother started writing a newsletter in the early 1960s, when I was just a little girl, and continues to this day. Three years ago, my mother gathered up ALL her holiday newsletters and made photocopies of them, one set for me and one for Tommy, my younger brother (and only sibling), for Christmas. My brother was particularly moved by this and spent a couple of hours that day just reading through them all, thoroughly enjoying his trip down Memory Lane and saying what a great family history they provided. Unfortunately, Tommy very unexpectedly and suddenly passed away the following year, just a few days after his fiftieth birthday. When I got the news of his passing, I was understandably shocked, but almost immediately got in my car and started the long drive from my home in Virginia Beach to his home in Orlando, where he had lived alone at the time of his death. Along the way, I contemplated how I might eulogize my baby brother at his funeral. When I finally arrived, however, I had still not come up with anything substantive to say about him and our lives together, my thoughts being in such a jumble of grief and disbelief. Then I walked into his home office, and sitting right out in plain view on his desk, was his packet of our family's Christmas letters! Somehow, Tommy had known to leave those out where I'd be sure to see them, thus providing me with all the clues I needed to write his eulogy.
So, indeed, holiday newsletters DO have a very valuable place in preserving the history of the families they chronicle, and I am very glad that my family has always written one. Further, now that Lynn Betlock has shared her excellent idea about putting her newsletters into a binder, I am planning to do the very same thing with all of ours. In that way, perhaps future generations of my family will be able to easily read them and thus perhaps get a glimpse of the magic that was the childhood my brother and I shared back in the 1960s, as well as all our other family "doings" over the years. In fact, I'm certain that my eight-year-old granddaughter will probably want to be first in line to read them!