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'Cold contacting' unknown distant cousins (not through a genealogical site)

Discussion in 'Any questions?' started by CMcC, Dec 29, 2018.

  1. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    I have tried on a number of occasions over the past 10+ years to contact families that I strongly believe are my cousins but have rarely received any response. I completely understand that not everyone is interested in their ancestors but surely a quick response such as 'sorry not interested/no idea' is just common courtesy? Obviously not :)
    I recently contacted, via facebook messenger, a second cousin once removed and then separately, their daughter (my third cousin), but again, neither responded. I am so disappointed as I think they were my last hope of finding anything more about my grandfather's family. My question is really to ask if anyone has any suggestions for the best way to word a first contact/introduction to an unknown cousin, not found through a genealogy website? Perhaps I am being too forthright in my approach or maybe I am just unlucky! Any suggestions as to what to say and methods to use to find their contact details etc most gratefully received.
  2. Margery

    Margery LostCousins Member

    I'm afraid that I don't have any answers to your dilemma. It is even more disappointing to actually make contact with someone who does acknowledge the relationship, seems interested, then drifts away. I have always made it clear that I am happy to share my discoveries.
  3. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    Perhaps offer to send them photos of the family to get them interested?
  4. BarbaraL

    BarbaraL Member

    I sometimes include a deliberate mistake, like giving the wrong child as the eldest, or the wrong mother's maiden name. Few people can resist responding with a correction. It's a slightly dishonest trick, I admit, but has its merits!
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I prefer to send a letter through the post, as online posts are more easily ignored. And if you're not someone's friend on Facebook they may never see your message anyway - as I recall they go into a sort of spam folder.

    I generally put lots of old commemorative stamps on the envelope (see tip here) and either include an SAE or my email address so that it doesn't cost them anything to reply).
  6. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    Thank you all for your replies and apologies for taking so long to respond but I have been away. A photo is a really good idea so, IF I can find an address for the person I found on facebook, I will definitely send them a letter with an SAE. Fingers crossed it gets a better response!
  7. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    I always make first contact with a letter and provide my email address and mobile number.
  8. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    Thanks Emjay. Is there a cheaper way to find an address without having to pay the 192.com prices? I've tried the Ancestry electoral role registers but they only go up to 2010. As these are all living relatives, it is quite hard finding married names for the females too. They probably married between 1990-2010 and their parents have already died so I can't go down that option.
  9. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Reading these posts I am quite amazed at someone offering advice to contact someone they find on Social Media (like Facebook) via post. Given the person they wish to contact is not known to immediate family or friends -who may or may not have their postal address, or are unwilling to divulge same (even via private messaging) - to find someone using the ridiculously expensive 'How to mint money' 192 service (which I would never use except in emergencies, and never recommend) is likely to be considered intrusive. In my opinion one would have to go to extraordinary lengths in the wording to prevent it being seen as intrusive, and it would likely give greater offence than a simple 'Hello, I believe we cousins' (or whatever) message on (say) Messenger. The simple methods are always best, and if they do not work, then perhaps get someone to message on your behalf who they at least know in the first place. Otherwise it is cold calling and we all know what offences they cause.
  10. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    Bob, your suggestion of a simple 'Hello, I believe we cousins' via Messenger could well be taken as an introductory contact from a fraudster. I would not reply!
  11. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    I usually express an interest in exchanging old family photos and information, and always name at least one common ancestor.
  12. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    Yes, it can be quite disappointing, especially when the initial response has been an enthusiastic reply. I have just this Christmas sent greetings to such cousins (who have not been back in touch over the past year).
  13. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    Bob, unfortunately, I tried via contacting both the son and daughter via messenger but got no response. At their age, they might not be the slightest bit interested but I would like to contact their mother or uncle who, being older, may well be more interested but neither appear to use fb. Using 192 seems my only option, and you never know, one of them might be delighted to see a picture of their great grandfather! (I live in hope :))
  14. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Yes you're probably right emjay, it was something 'off the top of my head" and in retrospect a little trite. What I was really trying to get across was to give thought to a simple enquiry message, that was not too intrusive. Even so, there is never a certainty people will respond to any means of communication. Of course finding someone's address and communicating by post (with the psychological enticements suggested -using commemorative stamps, a SAE (essential), enclosing photos, BMD Certificates ,etc) may tip the scales, but a response will still be down to the mindset of the individual.

    Not quite the same, but I constantly get new contact reminders on Facebook. Often I am aware of who they are - usually culled from the contact list of one of my contacts, family or friend - but 9 times out of 10, I have no desire to add them to my contact list. Of course that does mean that 1 in 10 do get added; it is all down to my mindset at the time.
  15. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Yes I know how disappointing that can be, but if it's any consolation (and probably isn't) I once recounted in this Forum my own success at finding the long lost daughter from my uncle's first marriage (he was himself well turned 80 at the time). He hadn't seen or heard of either daughter or son for over 30 years and despite having 5 children from a second marriage (3 girls and 2 boys -my cousins) and now all grown up and living within a stones throw of their parents, he craved to learn of the whereabouts of his first daughter. When I took on the task it was 2010 and the daughter (Linda) I determined was about 61/2.

    First I learned she had been adopted by her new step parents, and given their surname. I further learned on the family grapevine (and amazing how such things work) she had married. I did not know her married surname but learned she had had a son. Then by one of life's amazing coincidences learned the son had married the daughter of a son of my first cousin once removed. This came out in a chat in Messenger after recounting I was looking for the boys mother.

    Cutting to the chase -because there were many twists and turns along the way - I knew her married name and found her address via an Electoral Roll. She lived in Birmingham about 3 districts across from where my Uncle lived. (I live in Kent by the way). So time to make contact but first I had to consider my other cousins (her step siblings) and his second wife (my Aunt) did they wish me to proceed? My Aunt said she knew it was what Uncle wanted but my cousins were more circumspect because they did not want their father to be disappointed, so I was told to report back through them.

    I also had to consider whether Linda would wish to be reunited after so long a time and was her mother still alive. So I sat down and composed a letter and will truthfully admit it took some half dozen re-writes, helped by my wife, a good word smith in her own right. Then I posted the letter which included a SAE. I gave my email and my land-line number and waited on tenterhooks.

    Two days later about 4pm in the afternoon (I remember it well) Linda phoned. We chatted and she even recalled knowing me when we were both children. She said my letter had lifted an enormous weight off her shoulders and would love to make contact with her father again (Note I had not divulged any information about his current address, which had changed at least twice over the years). I brought her up to date with his family (she knew a little through her own grapevine as it turned out but not where he lived) and the biggest surprise of all her mother was still alive and mid 80's, although her step father had passed away.

    In the end I passed things over to two female cousins (her step sisters) who made contact and went to visit Linda and her husband. Having satisfied themselves they arranged for Linda to visit their father on the following Sunday and things all went swimmingly. The best bit of it was to receive a phone call from my Uncle that evening to tell me the good news that he had found Linda at long last. I heard my Aunt (in the background) shout to him it was Bobby (the name by which the family still knew me) who had made it all possible. I heard him cry and say, yes of course, thank you Bobby and I had to hold back a tear myself.

    A wonderful memory and I subsequently met Linda and her husband at a Family wedding, as she is now part of the scene. I also learned her brother (my uncle's son) lived in Scotland and had been in the army for many years. So the moral of the story is if you do have to write, remember the old saying ..."think before you ink".

    PS Both Uncle & Aunt have since passed away but Linda is still in contact with her step-siblings and we swap Christmas cards.
  16. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    What a wonderful story and a great achievement. Such a special thing to have done. I do agree, it is pertinent to tread carefully and not let the excitement of finding a long lost cousin take over! My problem is that I have absolutely no contacts or cousins on that line at the moment at all so it has been a question of going back 3 generations and then working forwards with all the various siblings lines. I managed to find another one last night and again, as no address, I have composed what I hope is, a friendly open message asking if I am correct in my findings and offering information, with just one request that if I am wrong they let me know. Fingers crossed it works this time!
  17. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, Findmypast have had the modern electoral register for as long as I can remember, and it has recently been updated to the latest version. I believe they license it from 192.com

    But remember that nearly half of people opt out. However as the Findmypast database goes back to 2002 - when there was no opt-out - and people don't move so often these days - I can almost always find them.

    However, before writing always check whether the property has been sold - put the postcode into Google and click the RightMove link (which is normally the top result). Do not use other sites - they are inferior for this purpose.
  18. CMcC

    CMcC LostCousins Member

    That is very helpful, thanks Peter. I checked them on Ancestry but not FMP. I should have remembered that, I think it was in one of your Newsletters. ...and bingo, I've just found an address! :)
  19. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Yes, that I recall that was theme of my own letter. Even though fairly certain I had the right person, I still suggested I may have got it wrong, and if so offered my sincere apologies, and would it be too much to ask they let me know by using the SAE or phone.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  20. Fern49

    Fern49 LostCousins Star

    I 'found' 2 relatives on Lost Cousins,before Xmas, made email contact and neither has replied. I am not pushy in my contact, just let them know I'd like to hear from them and share any photos or the like. Why bother to be on Lost Cousins if you're not interested in finding anyone.?!
    • Agree Agree x 5

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