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The Daily Genealogist: Holiday Newsletters Revisited

(A Note from the Editor) Permanent link
Betlock Lynn

Lynn Betlock

The following essay has been revised since it was originally published in The Weekly Genealogist on December 21, 2011.
Although the holiday newsletters sent out to family and friends this time of year are frequently mocked, I've always enjoyed reading them. Now I also write one, and over time I've come to appreciate their more lasting value for family historians.
I never considered writing a holiday newsletter before I had kids. In my pre-parenthood days I had more time to write individual notes and I also had less information to share. My twin son and daughter were born in January of 2004, and, by the time December rolled around, I had lots of news to impart and very little time. So I wrote my first holiday newsletter and sent it out with a family photograph. I can't say how well my letter was received but I was glad I'd documented at least a few facts from that blurry first year.
After five years, I realized that I had never given any thought to keeping copies of my letters or holiday photographs. (And, yes, I've worked at the New England Historic Genealogical Society since 1995 and have been doing family history since I was about fourteen.) So I began the painful process of trying to reassemble what I'd sent out. The computer I composed the first letters on had died, and I had to ask various relatives if they had kept my letters. Fortunately, some had, and were willing to return them. Two of my early holiday photos still were "saved projects" in the Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly websites. I was pleased about this--except that I had to order ten copies of each photo so I could get the one copy of each I actually wanted. My final missing piece, the 2004 family photo, was found when I went to Minnesota and my mother let me look through my grandmother's papers. My grandmother, who died in 2007, had indeed saved that holiday photo.
The effort I put in was worth it. I purchased a nice album and inserted all the photos and letters, and for the last few years I've simply added a new photo and letter. After inserting this year's additions, I flipped through my ten years of documentation with some satisfaction. I am sorry to say that I didn't journal about my kids' early lives or fill baby books with great detail, as my mother did for me. But I am glad to have this record, which offers a yearly snapshot of our lives.

A couple of years ago, I asked my kids if they wanted me to read them the first letter, written when they were eleven months old, and they said yes. I thought they might be interested but I did not expect them to be as enthralled as they were. While I read, they laughed and blushed and asked lots of questions--and the questions continued long afterwards. Last year, my daughter prompted me to bring down the album and while I made Vermont cheddar soup, she grated cheese and read every one of the letters out loud to me. This year, she had more input into what was written--and she used a red pen to mark up my first draft so her changes could be incorporated. I expect the holiday letter will become more collaborative every year.
Historians often express concern that there will be fewer written sources to preserve from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries than in previous eras. It seems to me that the preservation of holiday newsletters, a unique source that originated and flourished during this time period, would make future genealogists very happy. I rather like the idea of a descendant getting to know me through my holiday newsletters.

The Daily Genealogist: Holiday Newsletters

(Surveys) Permanent link
Betlock Lynn

Lynn Betlock

Last week's survey asked if you have Maine ancestors. 3,979 people answered the survey. The results are:

49%, Yes
41%, No
10%, I'm not sure

This week's survey asks about holiday newsletters. Take the survey now!

The Daily Genealogist: Rhode Island Puts Trove of Historic Records Online

(Stories of Interest) Permanent link
Betlock Lynn

Lynn Betlock

Rhode Island Puts Trove of Historic Records Online
The Rhode Island State Archives has made a digital collection of "scores of historic documents, records and odds and ends" available online.

The Daily Genealogist: California and Washington Databases

(Spotlight) Permanent link

Valerie Beaudrault
Assistant Editor

Riverview Cemetery District, Brawley, California
Brawley is located in Imperial County, on California's southern border. Riverview Cemetery District was formed in 1909. To initiate your search, click "Burials on the Web" in the right-hand box. This will open a new page; click "Burials on the Web" in the text, then click "here" to open the search page. You can search the alphabetical database by name and date or browse the list page by page. The deceased's name is a link to a detailed record that may include name, date of birth, location, age, place of birth, gender, veteran, place of death, date of death, spouse name, father name, mother name, funeral director, service date, and whether cremated. You will find links to a cemetery map and photographs, if available. There is also a link to a cemetery map on the homepage.

Obituary Index, Port Angeles, Washington

The city of Port Angeles is located in northwestern Washington. It is the county seat of Clallam County. The North Olympic Library has made an obituary index available on its website. It covers the period from 1916 to the present. The database can be searched by name and limited by date range. The fields in the database are publication title, deceased's name, birth/death dates, page and column numbers, and subject.

Cemetery Database for Hoquiam, Washington
The city of Hoquiam is located in Grays Harbor, which is on the coast. The city has made an interment database containing nearly 15,000 records available on its website. Click on the Interment Records link in the contents list to download an alphabetical index to burials. Fields in the database are last name, first name, birth date and year, death date and year, burial location fields, and notes.

The Daily Genealogist: The Merchant Mariners Muster & Other Online Maritime Resources

(A Note from the Editor) Permanent link
Betlock Lynn

Lynn Betlock

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, has just launched a new online database called the Merchant Mariners Muster, "with information about common crewmembers who worked aboard Maine vessels from about 1790 to the 1920s." The material in the database was extracted from sources in the Maine Maritime Museum library collection.Two archivists spent 18 months cataloging thousands of pages of documents in 45 separate manuscript collections. The database now contains varying levels of information on nearly 10,000 mariners, and additional data will be added as resources permit.

I asked our staff genealogists which maritime databases they've found useful. David Dearborn, Alice Kane, David Lambert, Judy Lucey, and Eileen Pironti offered suggestions:   

The New Bedford [Massachusetts] Free Public Library's Whaling Archives site contains a comprehensive index of men and ships on whaling voyages from the New Bedford Customs District from 1807 through 1925. A New Bedford Whaling Museum Whaling Crew List Database contains the names of men who left New Bedford on whaling voyages from 1807 through 1927.

Mystic Seaport's Seamen's Protection Certificate Register Database includes 31,047 certificates issued between 1796 and 1871.

The Maritime History Archive at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, has a Newfoundland and Labrador Crew Lists Database, 1864-1942, as well as other digital collections and exhibits, including links to other sites with maritime-related materials.

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