Topics

Improving the Odds of a Reply When Contacting Someone by E-Mail #general


Ralph Baer
 

Twenty or thirty or more years ago, I would write to a distant relative who didn’t know me, and that person would answer my questions just based upon my statement that I was compiling a family tree. Now with people being concerned with the protection of personal information, it is getting very difficult to get a reply, let alone answers, even about people who are no longer living. 
 
I certainly understand people’s concern. Every time I contact a company by phone and they ask for my mother’s maiden name to “prove” that is me, I cringe considering how easy it is to find that information on line. (I know someone once posted that one should make up a phony maiden name for this purpose.)
 
Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to approach people to improve the chances of getting assistance? 
 
I was going to explain why I am asking this question at this time, but the I decided that it probably distracted from the question.
--
Ralph N. Baer        RalphNBaer@...       Washington, DC


Kenneth Ryesky
 

I have not been keeping score, but my batting average is definitely better when I send out via snail mail (unless I am responding to a posting on the Internet, as in "Off-Topic:  Your great-grandfather Isaac was the brother of my great-great-grandmother Sara; I would be pleased to compare notes with you).

--
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)


Bob Silverstein
 

We all have that problem and the problem behind the problem is that we do not know what the other person likes to see in an email or letter or her or his interest in the family tree.  I suspect most people already know how interested they are in helping as soon as they read your note.  It simply will not persuade them.  For those who cooperate, you do not know how much information they want to see or can even understand.  That is why my messages have a two pronged approach.  Three or four sentences about why I am writing, the potential relationship, and asking for their help.  And then I include the data which have the matching names.  This is two create a record of why I am contacting the person and to establish my creditability and legitimacy.   

Even with all this, I get about one out of ten to respond and very, very few relatives who traditional genealogy can confirm.

Good luck and keep writing those letters.
--
Bob Silverstein
bobsilverstein@...
Elk Grove Village, IL

Researching Kaplan (Krynki, Poland) Tzipershteyn (Logishin, Pinsk, Belarus), Friedson/Fridzon (Motol, Cuba, Massachusetts), Israel and Goodman (Mishnitz, Warsaw, Manchester).


meirr@...
 

If you've already published some family tree information (my heritage, ancestry, etc.) you should add a link to your family page. This will prove your authenticity and entice the other person to cooperate and join your effort.
--
Meir Razy
meir.razy@...
Searching:
Kisfajn / Sfard / Rothenberg / Ruttenberg / Rojtenberg in Rovno,Volhynia
Ross in Dubno,Volhynia


m_tobiasiewicz@...
 

Hi Ralph,
Twenty or thirty or more years ago, I wrote to a cousin who DID know me and did not respond. About 5 years ago she died, her son found the letter and contacted me. 
I would say 1 out of 10 is great odds. Mine were not that good. 
Not everyone in the family is interested in the family tree.
A bigger annoyance: cousins who are working on the same family and will not answer emails or work with you! I have better luck with complete strangers.
--
Maryellen Tobiasiewicz
family from: Bielsko-Biala powiat Poland
Gorlice powiat Poland
Lviv Oblast Ukraine


Deborah Wiener
 

This is an interesting question. Years ago when I started genealogical trawling I wrote snail mail and also sent faxes(remember them?) to those I thought were relatives as I was able to find those via online telephone books. It was prior to Ancestry etc. I received I think 100 per cent success rate. Possibly due to the fact that the relationship was quite close(g grandfathers were brothers) and I was able to demonstrate it. Also, I have received and sent messages via jewish gen family finder and found people helpful, but I suspect that in the latter case one is pushing through an open door anyway.  These days it is harder as on Geni for instance you get a message that you have a smart match and it turns out to be a cousin’s bother’s sister’s aunt’s inlaw or something incomprehensible like that. I always reply but a lot of people don’t. Maybe they are just suspicious of it all, maybe afraid of being hacked, maybe a time factor, ie they intend to but just forget. My guess is the more information you can offer up the more likely you are to get a reply.  And some people just aren’t interested in new/more relatives.

 

Debbie Wiener

dwiener@...

Melbourne, Australia


YaleZuss@...
 

When I send those messages, whether by email or snail mail, I always leave out some detail that the recipient will almost certainly know, and mention, if they are the intended target.  This provides a way for that recipient to demonstrate that they are who I though they might be and not just someone with whom they shared a name.
 
This technique has sometimes been extraordinarily effective.  Some decades ago, while researching my grandfather's uncle's family, I mentioned the sequence from great-grandfather's brother, to his son and then to a grandson, without mentioning the surname back in the old country.  The reply was that the sequence matched the respondent's husband's family, but that in the old country, the surname had been different.  The surname she cited was what my grandfather used in Europe.  She also sent along a photo of her father-in-law with his unknown employer.  The "employer" was my grandfather.  These two details convinced me there was no possibility this was the wrong person.
 
Yale Zussman


The Becker's Email
 

I  believe in snail mail vs. email.  I just sent a letter to a distantly related family member of my husband's and provided my relationship, the relationship of the parties involved etc.  In full disclosure, I didn't have an email address but wouldn't have used it as one can never be sure whether the email will end up in spam and not be seen.  I always give my home address and an email and sometimes a phone  number for response.
Johanna Becker
Newport, RI


lesliekel18@...
 

I have found that sharing a photograph, that links both families, significantly improves the chances of a productive response, whether email, snail mail or meeting in person

Leslie Kelman, Toronto, Canada

KELMANSKY, WEINERMAN Zhitomir and Pogrebishche
WOLFSON Latvia (Jaunjelgava previously known as Friedrichstadt)
MEK Lithuania and Latvia
RZHEMIANSKI Lithuania (Seirijai)


Diane Jacobs
 

I agree totally but one trick I learned if I am able to make contact with a possible relative who does not know me is to give them some information they might not know and then they usually respond and provide me with information.

I have made contact with family over the years and with some friendships.  I have
visited family in Sydney. London, Halifax NS, Los Angeles, Miami Beach, and Tel Aviv.

Diane Jacobs
Diane

Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: m_tobiasiewicz@...
Date: 11/17/20 2:12 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] Improving the Odds of a Reply When Contacting Someone by E-Mail #general

Hi Ralph,
Twenty or thirty or more years ago, I wrote to a cousin who DID know me and did not respond. About 5 years ago she died, her son found the letter and contacted me. 
I would say 1 out of 10 is great odds. Mine were not that good. 
Not everyone in the family is interested in the family tree.
A bigger annoyance: cousins who are working on the same family and will not answer emails or work with you! I have better luck with complete strangers.
--
Maryellen Tobiasiewicz
family from: Bielsko-Biala powiat Poland
Gorlice powiat Poland
Lviv Oblast Ukraine


--
Diane Jacobs, Somerset, New Jersey