Monday, February 10, 2014

Christmas newsletters … Love ‘em or hate ‘em but keep them

Two Schools of thought on Christmas Newsletters...
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Christmas newsletters.  The first is those that loathe them.  These people think the letter is a narcissistic exercise by people that they barely know to further selectively gloat about about the past year.  This is a valid argument, you rarely read “after Jimmy got home from prison he announced that he and Jaxsee were going to get married.”  They think the letter is a chore to read especially if they are from someone they barely know  If they do know the people then they would hopefully know all these events already.

The other school of thought (especially by the people who send these them)  is that they are a way to keep people up to date with what has happened to their family especially if they don’t get to see each other as often.  They think that this gives a collective “update” without having to go through the whole process of getting together.  

From a genealogy perspective no matter what camp you fall into you should find a means to keep these for prosperity.   The Christmas newsletter is historically a reversion to the old school letter as opposed to the traditional Christmas card.  But it also contains valuable genealogy information.  They contain vital information (“Judy got married in September”, “we lost Great Uncle Ed in the Spring”) as well as other “meta data” which doesn’t fit the Birth Marriage Death(BMD) vital date information but still contributes to the overall genealogy “story”.  This type of info contributes to understanding the person for future generations (“Jill graduated with honors from Ohio State”, “Justin started his law internship in Toledo”).  This provided valuable information about knowing the person.

From a historical perspective can you imagine if you had a Christmas newsletter from your great- great- grandmother about how the family was doing during the civil war.  The letter probably wouldn’t mention the war unless someone was deployed but it would tell about everyday life at the time with births and milestones.  So just think you are saving these things for your great great grandchildren to read in the year 2174.  No one thinks that far ahead but if you get rid of the newsletters nobody will have access to them in 2020 let alone 2174.  

So how do you save these things... 
The old adage “you can’t save everything” applies to this.  You could go out and get a file cabinet and put these newsletters in folders for each family.  My grandfather actually does this with his genealogy.  The question that he and everyone else realize is what is going to happens to all those files when he goes.  Most people don’t have the room for another file cabinet(or four) of inherited stuff that only quasi relates to your immediate family.  My grandfather is acutely aware of this because he inherited two file cabinets from his father.  There has to be a better way.

Christmas newsletter are not “official documents” so if you don’t have the room, I would suggest getting a good electronic legible copy and putting it on your hard drive (which you back up frequently locally and to “the cloud”) and linked in your genealogy software of choice.  Whether you do this via scanner or high quality picture matters not.  But having it so it can be accessed and read by future generations can provide a glimpse into a particular year of a particular family in time.  This may seem mundane to you living at this time in history but two or three generations hearing that we all sat around the television watching an event might be the equivalent of “we all sat around the Victrola and sang”  to give a historic perspective to the times and give more story to the people.    

This also might give you perspective if you write a Christmas newsletter, that you are night writing to your family and the neighbor down the street, you are writing for generations to come to see how a year in your life in the early 2000’s happened. 

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