How Weird Are We? #general


krausj2@...
 

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
krausj2@...


Namrita Chow
 

Yes this is a regular occurrence.... my Grandfather’s Grandfather was one of ten and so the family (originally Pick) that I am researching is big but even with solid DNA links some people don’t want to check their distant relatives while others are really excited to do so. So it all depends who the receiver of the email is! If you hit someone with a similar passion and interest its superb as if brings the past to life, and links those of us alive to eachother in a very rewarding way. 

All the best in your searches. 
Namrita Chow


Kenneth Ryesky
 

My batting average is well below .500 for people who do not have any sort of presence on genealogy websites.  And even of those on the genealogy websites there still are some non-responses.

There are exceptions both ways, of course.  But the fact is that while genealogy is a very popular thing, a majority of the population simply is not interested.

-- KHR
--
Ken Ryesky,  Petach Tikva, Israel     kenneth.ryesky@... 

Researching:
RAISKY/REISKY, ARONOV, SHKOLNIK(OV), AEROV; Gomel, Belarus
GERTZIG, BRODSKY; Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine
BRODSKY, VASILESKY; Odessa, Ukraine
IZRAELSON, ARSHENOV; Yevpatoriya, Ukraine (Crimea)


Diane Jacobs
 

I think it depends on what info you have and what they know of their own family.

I have had a lot of success meeting distant relatives in person or by telephone after tracing them.  I have been to Sydney, London, Halifax, and Tel Aviv to meet family.

I just found descendants thru Yad Vashem
testimony who welcomed me with open arms after I left phone messages.  These people are distantly related to me thru the siblings of my great grandfather who left Vilna in 1888 for
NYC.

Basically the only person who never got in touch with me but who I am very closely related to was someone very wealthy, well known and has been in the news. I actually know a tremendous amount about his family
and the other very wealthy and famous people
he is related to.

C’est la vie!

Diane Jacobs



On Mar 2, 2021, at 5:50 AM, Kenneth Ryesky <kenneth.ryesky@...> wrote:

My batting average is well below .500 for people who do not have any sort of presence on genealogy websites.  And even of those on the genealogy websites there still are some non-responses.

There are exceptions both ways, of course.  But the fact is that while genealogy is a very popular thing, a majority of the population simply is not interested.

-- KHR
--
Ken Ryesky,  Petach Tikva, Israel     kenneth.ryesky@... 

Researching:
RAISKY/REISKY, ARONOV, SHKOLNIK(OV), AEROV; Gomel, Belarus
GERTZIG, BRODSKY; Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine
BRODSKY, VASILESKY; Odessa, Ukraine
IZRAELSON, ARSHENOV; Yevpatoriya, Ukraine (Crimea)

--
Diane Jacobs, Somerset, New Jersey


Scott
 

Joe, 

I usually find there is one "Genealogy Nerd" in every branch of the tree. You just have to luck into the correct person. I always approach it by outlining the direct connection if I now it. i.e. draw a line from me to this person exactly how we're related. To the muggles who aren't into genealogy, I imagine it comes off kind of "stalkerish". I do find that it is usually worth taking the chance as I have connected with some very interesting people along the way. The more it is personalized, the less you sound like the Nigerian Prince who has left you millions of dollars. 

I would do one email address at a time, maybe trying a second one if there is no response from the first. I've never gone the snail mail route. 

Scott P. Dann
spd@...


rroth@...
 

I imagine rich people receive solicitations from would-be "friends" or "family" more often than the rest of us do, and famous ones have people to keep that sort of nonsense from reaching them. Anything you sent would probably have been caught in that net.

Robert Roth
Kingston NY


David Ziants
 

I have often tried contacting relatives or potential relatives, and each case is different.

One reason could be language, and I have a story to tell concerning this.

Possibly, my most disappointing case was when, a few decades ago before the days of Google translate, someone tried contacting my through MyHeritage in German and although I responded in English saying that I did not understand his message he never replied to this. Eventually, I revisited this message (with Google translate), and it was from the son of the husband (will call this husband "great-uncle" although am not biologically related to him) of my great-aunt, through his first marriage. Actually, after my great-aunt passed away, I and also my parents z"l (who lived in England) became relatively close to this great-uncle and when I visited England, he would often treat my brother and I for a meal at Blooms (kosher restaurant in NW London). He had asked me to try and search out any relatives of his, but he wasn't specific.

So, it was approx. half a year after this great-uncle passed away that this message was received, but I only understood what it was about many years later when it was too late.

It is true that most people are not interested in their roots, and in general, they do not want to be bothered if it is not family they know. I did manage to find a third cousin who is happy to stay in contact with me socially but has a hard time with accepting we are cousins because all the evidence comes from the "paper trail", and he trusts this less than I do. Neither of our families on the mutual ancestry talked about their family.


--
David Ziants

Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


mkarina@...
 

Dear Joe and Namrita and Kenneth,

You've perfectly articulated my own "weirdness." Like you, I come from large families scattered around the world. My Ancestry "shared DNA" has bajillion distant relatives with trace amounts in common. Unfortunately, the four people with supposedly second and third cousin connection have not replied to my (twice) repeated requests for information. Ditto on this site and J-Roots and Facebook Messenger posts. However, I did make two major scores with people who responded. One gave access to his extensive research about my great-grandfather's family, but our personal communication went nowhere. Another connection was made with a tentative Facebook private message that was almost instantaneously acknowledged. Although this very distant cousin in St. Peterburg couldn't provide any information about his grandfather, he and I formed a bond with frequent email correspondence. I write in English and he responds in Russian -- sometimes relying on Google Translate to decipher my expressions.

Like Joe wrote, in spite of the maudlin Ancestry.com and 23andMe commercials, I don't think most people are interested in ancient family history. Certainly no one in my immediate family. Plus Soviet families carry a lot of trauma and secrets. But interestingly, the Russian-language J-Roots has A LOT of researchers looking for their families. It's also a goldmine of Jewish wedding, birth, and some death registries, where I can make my way through the gorgeous calligraphy with my third-grade Soviet education. One of the most fascinating and rewarding discoveries were Kiev city directories from the early 1900s. If reading the proverbial phone is your idea of excitement, you'll find a snapshot of a city in a superbly organized publication.

Be well,

Mikhailina Karina

 

 


Diane Jacobs
 

Yes I would agree with you about reach people. But this person was the closest to my family and his other relatives knew about my interest,
heard from him and had met me and still he would not respond.

Diane Jacobs




On Mar 2, 2021, at 10:50 AM, rroth@... wrote:

I imagine rich people receive solicitations from would-be "friends" or "family" more often than the rest of us do, and famous ones have people to keep that sort of nonsense from reaching them. Anything you sent would probably have been caught in that net.

Robert Roth
Kingston NY

--
Diane Jacobs, Somerset, New Jersey


YaleZuss@...
 

The probability of a response depends on how likely the recipient is to believe your message has utility for them.  That's why people researching rare surnames are more likely to get a response than those researching common ones.  For example, if I received a message from someone who was trying to find descendants of a Jacob Cohen, I might not even open it because the odds that his Jacob Cohen and mine were the same person are fairly low.
 
By contrast, I have the good fortune to be researching fairly rare surnames; I'll list them here in case a reader is looking for them as well: AINGOR(E)N, AKABAS, CRISS, EISENDORFF, FIZYK, KARDONSKY, SWIG, and ZUSSELMAN/ZISSELMAN.  Finding these people takes work, but when I find someone who has one of them, they are usually aware that these names are rare and recognize the odds of a breakthrough for them are fairly high, and thus get replies.
 
To avoid the "Geni" problem of concatenating unconnected trees, I usually leave out something that I know and would likely be known by someone who actually was a relative.  Early on, I wrote to a potential CRISS cousin and included a sequence of fathers and sons.  I got an answer, that the sequence agreed with her father-in-law's family, but back in Ukraine, the family had been known as ZISSELMAN.  My reply to her began, "Dear Cousin."  In response, she sent a photo of her husband's father with his employer; the employer was my grandfather.  Case closed.
 
Yale Zussman
Framingham, MA


m_tobiasiewicz@...
 

Phooey!
I have FIRST cousins who  have absolutely no interest in genealogy and think that I'm the nut that fell from the tree!
I always get excited and respond to someone who tries to connect. Stay positive! Weird or not, we are still out there building the trees!
--
Maryellen Tobiasiewicz
m_tobiasiewicz@...
family from: Bielsko-Biala powiat Poland
Gorlice powiat Poland
Lviv Oblast Ukraine


jbonline1111@...
 

I suspect that with the proliferation of phishing and other scams, many people are leery of strangers who claim to be "family."  It may be better to call or snail mail and it may help to mention right away that you are a genealogy enthusiast who simply wants to contact relatives found through your research.  Even then, there will be folks who are not interested or only marginally interested. I ran into one, a second cousin through the uncle for whom my father is named. She suggested meeting but never followed through, after her son contacted me. It happens.
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


sharon yampell
 

I have found, especially with how “upside down” the world has been with the Corona Virus Pandemic lingering on for now about a year, I start my messages with how I am writing in hopes of finding a family connection and that  I am hoping they and their family  are doing well, despite the craziness of the past year.  I then go on to explain how I feel we might be related, making sure to include enough information that gives them something to go on.  I always look for a tree and if they have one, I always make sure that what I give them, could point to a location or possible person they are researching.

 

When I found my 5th cousin once removed, I was able to share with her how I kept seeing her great grandmother’s and great great uncle’s names through my research over the years and wondered if they could be family.  I hit a huge jackpot with my father’s mother’s father’s line a year and a half ago when someone reached out to a cousin of mine who in turn had me look over the stuff to see if it seemed correct.  During the transferring of information, I came across the names of the people I just had mentioned…through researching both lines, I reached out to my now (genealogy) partner in crime.  She lives on the other side of the United States from me but we talk and email throughout the week and work together on many searches, even those that are not part of the overall family are in.  If I see someone who has last names she is looking for or if she finds names I am looking for, we let the other one know.

 

That is why I am a huge advocate for having a research buddy because two sets of eyes, especially with many of us having such huge families to research, can be beneficial!

 

Sharon F. Yampell

Voorhees, New Jersey

 

From: jbonline1111@...
Sent: Tuesday, March 2, 2021 12:55 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] How Weird Are We? #general

 

I suspect that with the proliferation of phishing and other scams, many people are leery of strangers who claim to be "family."  It may be better to call or snail mail and it may help to mention right away that you are a genealogy enthusiast who simply wants to contact relatives found through your research.  Even then, there will be folks who are not interested or only marginally interested. I ran into one, a second cousin through the uncle for whom my father is named. She suggested meeting but never followed through, after her son contacted me. It happens.
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC

 


Linda Higgins
 

it's normal for people not to answer.  Sometimes I look for them on Facebook and send them a message.  I have gotten more responses that way than any other.  Only one person has responded to my message through DNA companies.  I wonder why they take the test if they aren't going to answer.  It's very frustrating but you can't do any more about it.

Linda Gordon Higgins
Spring, TX


Michele Lock
 

From my Ancestry DNA matches, I sent out about 20 Ancestry messages. I did hear back from about 8 of them. In my messages out, I tell them what surnames are in my family, the towns we come from in the old country, and the towns/cities that my forebears moved to in the US. I also tell them about my public tree on Ancestry.

Of the 8 who answered back, only two actually had good enough trees that they and I could figure out how we were related. And for 4-5 who did not answer back, I was still able to glean enough info from the trees that they had posted, to figure out the family connections. 

I have also twice sent out real letters, to persons that I was especially interested in hearing from. I included all the above info, plus to whet the recipient's appetite, a copy of an interesting document, like a Russian/Hebrew marriage record. That has worked well.

The only downside - I am now being honored with more family lore tales, invariably of how our forebears are descended from rabbinical families, Sephardic Jews, or fantastically wealthy factory owners who married Russian nobility and moved to St. Petersburg (and these are just the ones I've heard in the past two months). There is an inexhaustible supply of these tales.

I do not approach people more than once or twice, especially persons who I do not know at all. Most people who take DNA tests are not interested in genealogy and finding distant relatives, they just want to know their ethnicity. Plus, I've been annoyed by people on Ancestry who send me messages of the sort: We are 4-6th cousins. Can you tell me how we are related? Invariably these are persons who have no family trees, have surnames like Levy and Goldberg, and expect me to do all the research. No thanks.
--
Michele Lock

Lock/Lak/Lok and Kalon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lewin/Levin in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus


mandy.molava@...
 

I spent the first year wondering why some replied, some didn't and then I thought about it again and realised that I'd evolved into this at a speed I wasn't able to fathom myself! After getting a DNA test to see where my ancestors came from. I had no idea I'd be messaging people nor be 'a dog with a bone' English phrase not sure about anywhere else. I think I read somewhere that 1 in 5 were into Genealogy?

I have given a lot of my life to my hobby and quest. At RootsTech a speaker made me laugh out loud and actually everyone else in the room when he said 'stalk them', to get results, he was magical. All I can say is, keep trying, sit and think about how to write the best message you can to get results - anything rushed can sound a bit too desperate, anything too wordy and full on can also be a put off for the person trying to read it and understand what you are saying. Sometimes you have to leave someone alone for a while, you don't know their journeys they may be frantically going through records and actually in contact with many leads that you don't know about. Sometimes they may work 24/7 and just using it when they can. Some may have just got their DNA test taken for a reason other than trees and Ancestry work. I have spent a lot time analysing the rude ones who read your message and never reply 😃, but relax and let it happen and just put out as many as you can and pray at least one juicy one will come back.

Mandy Molava 
Researching Brest Belarus Galacia.... and now Kyiv   


Jill Whitehead
 

I once tracked down the descendants of a great uncle who had emigrated a 2nd time from Liverpool to USA in 1904-5, with his four grown up Liverpool born children and 2nd wife. This particular one had moved from USA to Canada. I was told by this person he and his family were not interested in their ancestry (I am not sure they realised they were Jewish). Then low and behold several years later his brother had posted the research I sent him on Ancestry, without informing me and without acknowledging the research was mine.   I was astonished at the (pretty negative) lack of interest at first, and then the free use of info they said they were not interested in.    It takes all sorts.

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


mkarina@...
 

Michele,

You write about the downside of all the family lore about interesting characters. I think you're so fortunate to attach stories to people, to see their role (large or small) in history. If you can substantiate these tales with archival documents, then you'll leave your family a valuable document. I envy you. My own interest started because I heard a few stories about Bosheviks and I wanted to know more and more and more. The rest is history.

Mikhailina Karina
Shrifteilik (Starokonstantinov, Odessa, everywhere)
Boyarskiy (Kiev, Lida)
Raikher (Kiev)


Karen Gwynn
 

I've been reading the responses to Joe's post and find them very interesting. I'd like to offer an observation from "the other side."

I've been research my family on and off for over 30 years (yikes!). There are times I am deeply into the hunt and spend hours and hours on nothing except genealogy. Then I have down times, where I lurk on message boards but not much else.

In my own research, I have very specific goals: I am interested mainly in direct line ancestry and branches that do not go too deep. So, I while I have information on my grandparent's siblings I have even less on their descendants. That is a choice I made long ago and feel that I have plenty of work to do to keep me busy. Given those parameters, if a 3rd or 4th cousin from one of these distant branches were to contact me, I would respond with whatever I might or might not know about how we are related, but I am not apt to engage beyond the initial back and forth emails to understand our potential connection. I understand that searching a learning about far distant relatives, while interesting and can, I know, lead to discoveries about "closer" relations, that is not my primary interest.

Another example. I have a distant connection to a gentleman who is related to some of my second cousins not by our shared ancestor, but though theirs. In speaking with this individual several months ago, I was kind of interested in trying to prove our relationship (he actually has two connections to my tree: one possibly to my 2nd great grandfather, the other is through marriage to a branch from a different great grandfather -- that is the branch I am not researching). So, I setup a "research tree" in Ancestry with just enough names, etc. to start searching for hints and documents to prove this connection and I shared this tree with this "cousin." While he did give me good information, he also keeps telling me about relatives that are beyond the scope of my research (spouses, their parents and their children and children's spouses, etc.). I listen to/read his feedback and thank him for the information, and leave it at that.

I am offering this to this thread only to shed some light on why you may not hear back from your supposed 3rd cousin twice removed. They may be wonderful people who are dedicated to their research. However, their research goals and interests may not (currently) intersect with yours.

So, please write to everyone you want to connect with. Take the wonderful advise given here about how to craft your emails. Just be aware that if you are casting a wide net, you may reach folks who do not share your research interests even if you do share some distant ancestor.
--
Karen Weinstock Gwynn

WEINSTOCK, PASS/PESIS, NUSBAUM
LURYE, GILBERT, BALANOV/BALANOVA/BALANOFF/BAILIN, LANSKY


Carol Sage-Silverstein
 

I reached out to one person with a strong DNA connection (both CentiMorgans and longest block)  who doesn't seem interested in connecting.  For some reason he has his great grandmother's maiden name as different than me (I have documentation however).  The DNA is irrefutable yet he still won't believe it.  Go figure