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Projects: Updating and Embellishment of the Phinizy Family Database & Mailing List


Thoughts on the Phinizy Family Database and Email List – April 4, 2015


The progeny of Ferdinand Phinizy (the First) have really been busy.  There are more than 1,700 of his descendants in our Genealogical Database, and that doesn’t count all the babies, children, teenagers, and young adults who are probably not yet accounted for in the Database.


This large number of people has made it quite a challenge to keep up with and update.  My father, Dr. Ferdinand Phinizy Calhoun, Jr. first created this list through years of book and courthouse research, cemetery visits, phone calls, and letters.  All with just his yellow legal pad, pencil, and note cards.  All this information was eventually compiled, computerized and published in his 1991 “Grandmother Was a Phinizy: A Registry of Phinizy Descendants and Allied Families”.


But this information was computerized as a word processing file, and not a database file with separate fields.  I believe I remember somehow converting all this data to a database program or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.


After a few years, the Excel file grew so large and the updating so time-consuming, that I relinquished control and passed the file to Marcus Malone, of Newnan, Georgia, who was very computer savvy and apparently had the resources to maintain the file.  And after a few years, if I remember correctly, Marcus had to give up his guardianship of the file because of his other responsibilities.


I believe then that the Database file passed on to the general members of the Family – Clay Boardman, John Spalding, and me – with no one person specifically responsible for its maintenance.  And then, I believe it was Clay or someone from Augusta, found the professional genealogy researcher, Rebecca Dozier.  Becky has done an incredible, and thankless, job of updating this gigantic Database/Spreadsheet.  I can tell from the updated entries that she must have made a lot of phone calls, emails, and letters to fill in some of the blanks in the data – deaths, births, divorces, name changes, mailing address changes, and email addresses.  We all have much for which to thank Becky.  And she is not even related to Ferdinand Phinizy I -- yet we did make her an “Honorary Phinizy”!


I see all this data and information in two parts:


     (1) the Genealogical Information – all this information about births, deaths, mothers, fathers, children, and how one person is related to another is all very interesting.  That is why “Grandmother Was a Phinizy” was so popular with family members – people wanted a copy to have and pass on to their descendants.  A long term dream of mine is to somehow turn all the updated data into a “Revised Edition” of “Grandmother Was a Phinizy” or perhaps a second volume, or better yet, an online database that could be accessed and updated through a password.  If you know of any Phinizys that have the computer skills and experience to accomplish something like this, please let me know.


     (2) the Email/Mailing List – this is perhaps the most important and pressing use of this data. Our ability to communicate with each other in a timely and effective way is, obviously, paramount.  In “the old days” when Dr. Phinizy Spalding wanted to announce the next Ferdinand Phinizy Lecture or gathering, he and the Committee made the plans, composed the letter, and had someone in the History Department print out stick-on mailing labels and attach to envelopes for the U. S. mail.  That was for a list of approximately 100 people and was a manageable size.


Today, the list contains about 300 – 500 people.  So thanks to email, that paper and labor intensive job has been lessened.  But there is a problem.  For example, John Spalding sending an email to a small number of recipients from his personal or work email account is no problem.  But when an individual, say John Spalding or Becky Dozier, sends an email to over 100 people, many Internet Service Providers (ISP),( for example, Comcast, Earthlink, AT&T, Charter, AOL, etc.) flag this email as “Spam” and block it from ever being seen by the intended recipient.  And the sender (John or Becky) would never know that the recipient never received the email.  Also, the very long “TO:” list with actual email addresses only, makes it very hard to decipher exactly who (what real name) the email went to.


There has to be a better way to handle an email list with a larger number of people.  And there is.  Over the past few years, a new business category has evolved called “Email Marketing Companies”.  It is mainly used to market or advertise commercial products or services.  But it can also be used for our purposes.  There are several companies in this business – the leaders are “Constant Comment” and “MailChimp”. is based in Atlanta and is the one I have chosen to learn and use.  It keeps one’s emails “legal”, that is, in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (enforced by the Federal Trade Commission).  Among other items, it requires including in the email footer the physical address of the sender and an “unsubscribe” link for those who do not wish to receive further emails.


MailChimp, for our relatively small number of recipients, is free!  It keeps a “list of subscribers” with their real names, as well as their email addresses.  It offers many informative reports on each email sent or “email campaign”.  It shows exactly who received and opened the email, and if they still wish to be on the list.  If the email has a problem with their spam filters, MailChimp will indicate this and suggest a way to resolve the problem.  MailChimp is a relatively straight forward Internet-based software program, but it does have a learning curve.  I am currently learning to use it.  Besides list management, it offers professional looking graphic content design tools.  I would be glad to share my User Name and Password with John Spalding, Becky Dozier, or anyone else interested in working with the program.


All in all, this is what I’m proposing to do – to migrate the Phinizy Family Email List – and our main source of communication to a professional email marketing company – MailChimp.  We still have complete control over the content of our emails and to whom and when we want to send emails.  It will ensure that we are reaching the largest number of Phinizy Family descendants.


Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  Thank you.


          F. Phinizy Calhoun III

          (205) 305-5600 (cell)

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