What to Say When You Contact a Newfound Cousin for the First Time

What to Say When You Contact a Newfound Cousin for the First Time

Now that you’ve found a distant cousin, what’s the best way to get his or her attention? I’ve reached out to thousands of cousins as part of my mission to help build the biggest family tree in history and throw the Global Family Reunion in New York...

Now that you’ve found a distant cousin, what’s the best way to get his or her attention? I’ve reached out to thousands of cousins as part of my mission to help build the biggest family tree in history and throw the Global Family Reunion in New York City June 6 (oh, and you’re invited—get the details here). Try these tips on how (and how not to) make that initial cousin connection:

  • The best way to contact is via email. But if you can’t find the address, try Facebook or the messaging system of your genealogy service, such as MyHeritage, Geni or WikiTree.
  • Admit that emailing a stranger to say you’re long-lost cousins is kind of weird. “I know this is surprising—it was to me as well—but I discovered through the FamilySearch website that I’m your fourth cousin.”
  • Ask specific questions. For instance, “Are you related to the Charles Jacobs line?” Or “did you have any relatives that came from Krakow?” You’re more likely to get a response than with a generic “Hey, how you doing cuz?”
  • Include a photo of your family or a potential common ancestor. People are much more likely to engage if they can see you. It humanizes you.
  • If you don’t hear back on one channel (such as Facebook), you can try another. But that’s it. Two is the maximum. After that, you’re in stalker territory.
  • Be sure to include your PayPal account info when you ask for money. Just kidding. Don’t ask for money.
From the May/June 2015 Family Tree Magazine

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