Family publications change with the times
by Jeff Perso

More and more reunions are producing newsletters, books and family histories. Some are simple and inexpensive; others are elaborate, costly affairs. But no matter what the cost or effort involved, they all play an important part in creating a successful family reunion.

Over the years, newsletters have become an indispensable tool for reunion organizers. Not only do they keep kin abreast of important family birthdays, anniversaries, noteworthy accomplishments and upcoming reunion dates, through subscriptions they can serve as reunion fundraisers.

As they’ve grown in importance, newsletters have also grown in content and style. With the advent of desktop publishing, many newsletters have evolved from mimeographed or Xeroxed copies to well thought-out, professional looking family communications. With the Internet, some newsletters are even distributed electronically.

Recognizing the growth of newsletters, publishers have been quick to offer helpful resources to reunion organizers. Creating Family Newsletters by Elaine Floyd (1998, 122 pages, paperback, $19.99; Newsletter Resources, 314-647-0400) includes over 100 ideas for newsletter editors. Tips range from uses of photography to generating story ideas to using e-mail and web sites to transmit family news. Newsletter templates provide help with design and production.

What would a newsletter be without pictures? Pretty boring. But not to worry. Clip art books are available for $6.99 from North Light Books, 1507 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati Oh 45207; 800-289-0963. These books contain hundreds of copyright-free illustrations, all ready to use. The art is cleanly produced in black and white and can enliven brochures, flyers and posters, too.

As you might guess, we receive lots of newsletters at Reunions magazine from our readers and reunion planners. Some are simply typed on white or colored paper. The Ploski Family, Milleville, New Jersey, for example, produced a newsletter printed on sky blue stationary enlivened with puffy cumulus clouds.

The Utley Reunion Update, edited by Jackie Utley, Jackson, Tennessee, takes advantage of desktop publishing to produce a clean, easy to read bi-monthy publication. Stapled, with lots of white space, pull-quotes and color graphics, The Utley Reunion Update is a fine example of what computer-generated newsletters can be.

Memory books, cookbooks and family histories occupy the high-end of family publications. While most newsletters are stapled, these books are spiral- or perfect-bound, with laminated or cardboard covers. They feature photographs, family trees and well-researched biographies and histories. Depending on production costs, these books can sell from a few dollars to as high as $85.

The Woodworth family (Canada and California) produced four publications, each serving a different purpose. One is a spiral-bound, laminated-cover memory book, This Is Your Life, Les Pettit, written for the Woodworth Reunion by Paulene Van Der Volgen. It is organized in two parts, the first all double spaced text, no graphics. The second half contains black-and-white family photos, with name and family position identifying those pictured. The Leaves of Our Family Tree and The Woodworth Family Cookbook, both spiral-bound, utilize graphics and decorative borders to add visual flair. The most elaborate of the four publications is The Alonzo Woodworth Family History Book which has sold over 200 copies in the soft-cover version. In 1992 the book was published hardbound, in red leather with gold trim and sold for $85.

The Willis Connection includes a birthday calendar in their publications. Spiral-bound, the laminated cover lists the ten ancestors on the outside with symbols accompanying birthdays listed throughout the year. The inside front cover, also laminated, is a large family portrait from their last reunion.

An example of a perfect bound (glued) family publication is the Parker Family Reunion book. With a yellow cover, black-and-white photographs, the book contains 127 pages. Text includes recipes, poems and memorials.

One of the more elaborately produced books to come our way is The History of the Busse Family: 150 years in America, 1848-1998. Hard bound, with stitched binding, printed on glossy enamel paper, this is a professionally published history, like something you’d find in a bookstore. At 310 pages, the book sells for $35.

Of course, your budget and your available time will go a long way toward determining what kind of publication your family reunion can produce. But with a little effort, and with today’s resources and technology, a memorable newsletter or book can be ready for your next reunion. And you won’t have to break the bank to do it.

About the Author
Jeff Perso is a former assistant editor of Reunions magazine.

Does your reunion have a newsletter? We read all those that reach us and would be very interested in seeing yours. Send to Reunions magazine, PO Box 11727, Milwaukee WI 53211-0727; or if it’s an electronic newsletter, e-mail us.

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