How Weird Are We? #general


I’m curious to know other people’s experiences with reaching out to distant relatives about a family connection.


I have a tree that goes back to a married couple in the late 18th Century. They had roughly ten children, and most of those their children and grandchildren had large families, too. By the start of the 20th Century, that left 150-200 individuals, many of whom have 50+ descendants today. While it’s difficult to trace genealogy backwards in time, it’s comparatively easy to move forward, so I've made a lot of discoveries. For me – as I imagine for many of you here – it’s become a giant puzzle, and it feels like a breakthrough every time I can add someone else. I have a sense of large, unfolding story.


When I’m able to tell people about it, they seem generally to like discovering their part in that story. Some nod and say thanks, some ask questions, and a few want to join in the search. Few, if any, have suggested they aren’t interested at all.


When I reach out to complete strangers, though – sending an email that starts something like, “Hi, I’ve been working on a giant family tree, and I think you’re related to it through your great-great-grandmother,” I get surprisingly few responses.


I imagine that some of my no-replies are because of the wrong email address or a respondent who hasn’t checked the messages at Ancestry or MyHeritage since opening an account there. I imagine there are also some who don’t quite trust it, who figure it’s a scam of some sort. I worry there may be some who are offended, wondering, “Who is this stranger who claims to know things about my family that even I don’t know?”


I know I’m thrilled when someone reaches out, and I imagine most of you reading this are as well. My question, then, is exactly how weird are we? Do you get the sense that most people welcome this sort of a connection?



As a corollary to that, is it a good strategy to write to prospective relatives at multiple email addresses, or even to send a snail mail letter since it’s relatively easy to find home addresses? Or does that suggest a bit of the stalker?

Joe Kraus

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