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This Newsletter is 25 Years Old!

15 Jan 2021 9:41 AM | Anonymous

Wow! A quarter-century has passed! 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 exactly 25 years ago today!

I never believed that I would ever write a Silver Anniversary edition, but you are reading that unexpected article right now.

After some discussion for several weeks, on January 15, 1996, I sent the first copy of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter to about 100 people. That's exactly 25 years ago today. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that 25 years would be so interesting, so much fun, and so rewarding.

This event happened after lots of discussion, planning, and support from Pam, the lady who immediately became the editor of this newsletter. Fortunately, she has stayed with me for 25 years and is still offering advice and encouragement.

In addition to Pam’s magnificent editing efforts, I was also fortunate when Bobbi King joined the newsletter staff almost 8 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.

Twenty-five 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 25 years ago, I would have never believed you.

This little newsletter started as a way for me to help 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 e-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 25 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 19 years ago. I now send both daily and weekly summations of all the articles by e-mail.

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, when Web servers were unknown. 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 June 1993, 5 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.

One feature that I like about the current daily web-based 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 2021 newsletter does differ from one statement I wrote 25 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 25 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 thousands of 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 e-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 hope that internet service provider has since improved the company’s email server(s)!

I also have encountered significant expenses for hardware, software, web hosting, bulk mailing services, and office expenses. Then there are the travel expenses to attend many genealogy conferences and other meetings. Admittedly, there have been almost no travel expenses this past year, the year of the pandemic. Like most of the world and the genealogy community, I have stayed at home since March but have attended many virtual (on-line) meetings and conferences.

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 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 25 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 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 25 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, single-seat, open cockpit airplane. The plane and I landed in a treetop and then fell to the ground about eighty feet below, bouncing off tree limbs as the wreckage of airplane and pilot 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.

Seven years ago, an emergency appendectomy caused me to miss one weekly mailing of the 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 55,000 newsletter articles. Someday I really do have to learn how to touch type.

Because of this newsletter, in the past 25 years I have traveled all over the U.S. as well as to Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, and 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 are too many watered-down, politically correct newsletters and blogs out there already. I plan to continue to write whatever is on my mind. If you disagree with me, please feel free to say so.

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 25 years ago still stands: suggestions about this newsletter are always welcome.


  • 15 Jan 2021 2:19 PM | Anonymous
    Congratulations, Richard! All the best for another 25 years......... GRINS.
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  • 15 Jan 2021 3:19 PM | Anonymous
    Thanks, Dick, for the many informative, interesting articles you have published over the years. I have been with you for at least 14 years. Hopefully, we'll both be around for many more. Sue
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  • 16 Jan 2021 3:13 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you for being such an excellent guide and mentor - the range of genealogical and technological wisdom you bring to us is remarkable, and always greatly appreciated.
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  • 16 Jan 2021 3:58 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations! I still have that original Newsletter on one of my old computers! I been with you from the start and even before that!
    The Original Jeanne Bunting
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    • 16 Jan 2021 1:51 PM | Anonymous
      Congratulations and Thanks Dick for all the information, Genealogy help and a long distance "friendship" for those 25 years. Here's to the next 25??
      My thanks to Pam as well as I know just how much help she has been all that time.
      I see "The original Jeanne Bunting's name - she was always a help for the years on the old Forum - miss her now.
      As well as all the Genealogy and Computer help and information, it's been like having a friend send a message every day.
      May all go well in the next 25 years and thanks from the bottom of my heart.
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      • 16 Jan 2021 4:33 PM | Anonymous
        Thank you for those few kind words. I remember you, Mary, from our Compuserve days. We had fun there as well. Remember Beryl’s ‘Pink Screen’ thread. Happy days and all thanks to Dick!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 4:24 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations Dick. You provide a great service!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 6:25 AM | Anonymous
    Thanks for all the great, INFORMATIVE years!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 6:51 AM | Anonymous
    Mazeltov! Your reports have been a valuable addition to my genealogical research and computer activity.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 16 Jan 2021 6:56 AM | Anonymous
    Great work! Keep up the outstanding work.

    And over the next 25 years ...
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  • 16 Jan 2021 7:48 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations! Thank you for your excellent, informative, enjoyable newsletter.
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    • 16 Jan 2021 8:54 AM | Anonymous
      Congratulations! I haven't read it the entire 25 years but for quite a few. Always good information.
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      • 16 Jan 2021 9:12 AM | Anonymous
        Congratulations. That is quite an achievement. Not sure how long I have subscribed; but probably about 15 years. I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter and have learned a lot from you. Keep up the great work!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 9:31 AM | Anonymous
    Congrats! I am a plus member and have enjoyed your work for many of the 25 years! Kudos for a great job!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 9:52 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you Dick for the many years of computer/genealogy knowledge you have passed on to so many. I may have been in that first 100 since we’ve had computers since 1988, and I think Fred found CompuServe soon after. In the mid-1990s our retirement lives took a different tack, and we traveled all over the country, never failing to keep your newsletters coming, even while stretching phone lines across the desert floor to pay phones for dial up service. Innovative connections on both our parts. What fun it was (?). It’s been quite a journey. Thanks!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 10:04 AM | Anonymous
    Thanks for your help over the last 20 years that I have been a subscriber and look forward to your continued success in the future.
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  • 16 Jan 2021 10:14 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you, Dick, for so many years of great, informative information and just plain terrific reads. And thanks, too, for being so caring and a true mensch. Looking forward to another 25 wonderful years with you.
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  • 16 Jan 2021 10:16 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations, Dick!! Don't think I got your original mailing but have been following you for most of the last 25 years. You've certainly taught me a lot about genealogy since I started out and look forward to receiving the EOGN updates regularly and joining our weekly chats every Tuesday.
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  • 16 Jan 2021 10:20 AM | Anonymous
    Your newsletter content, expertise at genealogy and computers, and your fine heart for others I have welcomed--for many, but not 25, years. Congratulations for sticking at it!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 11:15 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations! Having done newsletters for several organizations, I know what kind of time it takes to do a good job like you do. Thank you for all you do!
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    • 16 Jan 2021 12:52 PM | Anonymous member
      Thanks Dick for your 25 years of faithfulness. Too soon I got old and too late I found the newsletter but you and the newsletter have opened new opportunities in attempting to assemble the history of my family. Again THANK YOU!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 1:21 PM | Anonymous
    Thanks for your contributions over the years. We have been with you most of the way, if not all. You have helped us with our personal research needs and provided material that we have used in our Family History Center responsibilities. We wish you well for the future. Phil and Peggy
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  • 16 Jan 2021 3:48 PM | Anonymous
    Congratulations on a great 25 years! I haven't been with from the beginning, and now I don't remember when I discovered "eogn." But your email is a daily treat. I've learned a lot from you, and I particularly appreciate the "not genealogy-related" articles. They are very helpful to someone who wasn't a computer nerd before retiring. I also enjoyed reading this statement and learning about the history of the newsletter. Congratulations again to you, Pam and Bobbi. Here's to many more years! June
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  • 16 Jan 2021 4:38 PM | Anonymous
    I think I was one of those first 100! Good ole Compuserve.
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  • 16 Jan 2021 5:30 PM | Anonymous
    Thanks, Dick, for your tireless work on this newsletter. I have benefitted from it greatly. I appreciate your generosity and direct and candid advice on doing genealogy research. I look forward to many more years!
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  • 16 Jan 2021 6:35 PM | Anonymous
    This must be a world record, is it not so? I find I always want to pronounce EOGN; Oh Gin.

    Thanks for all those great tips. I had forgotten about Compuserve ! Cheers jon
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  • 17 Jan 2021 10:59 AM | Anonymous
    Congratulations on 25 years. I haven't read your newsletter for 25 years, but I do remember Compuserve and might even have some special messages in my file cabinet from those times. I have one tiny suggestion, though. Use a black font. As a person who is almost 85 years old, I find the contrast is necessary. Also, make sure red works for color blind people. I once was showing a customer a program and he asked whether there was anything on the screen. He was colorblind and couldn't see anything as he stood behind me.
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  • 18 Jan 2021 11:55 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you so much; have learned so much from you especially about backups. Not 25 years but many, many years
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  • 18 Jan 2021 11:55 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you so much; have learned so much from you especially about backups. Not 25 years but many, many years
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  • 19 Jan 2021 11:00 PM | Anonymous
    Adding my thanks and congratulations. Not sure I was one of the very first, but was on the Compuserve distribution list very early. Keep up the flow of good information!
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