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Contacting a Biological relative

Discussion in 'Ask Peter' started by SLJ, Aug 14, 2022.

  1. SLJ

    SLJ LostCousins Member

    HI Peter, with your years of experience contacting lost cousins, how would you approach word a message to a DNA contact that probably doesn't even know of you or your parentage? It could come as a great shock to find out they have an unknown relative.
  2. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I'm assuming that in this case you're talking about a very close relative - closer than 2nd cousin - since it wouldn't be a surprise, let alone a shock, to discover someone more distant.

    Whenever you're communicating with someone always try to look at what you're writing from their point of view. Why would they want to hear from you? Why would they want to reply to you? How can they help you? How can you help them?

    Obviously you'll want to take into account whether they're researching their family tree, and if so how long they've been doing it. Clearly they only tested their DNA recently, otherwise the match would have popped up earlier, so you might well be the first person to contact them.

    Consider all the possible reasons why they might have taken a DNA test - are they looking for answers, or was it just a 'fun' birthday present. Either way, they didn't test because they wanted to get bombarded with questions!

    Also consider the implied morality of the supposed relationship - might they feel that you are in some way disparaging them or their family? Try to present it the other way round so that, if anything, it's your ancestor who is perceived as the naughty boy/girl. If you can't do that, don't mention it at all.

    Make sure you tell them enough about yourself that they'll feel comfortable replying to a stranger. Never allow the other person to get the idea that you're chasing an inheritance or trying to right a wrong.
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  3. Tim

    Tim Megastar and Moderator Staff Member

    You should also take some screenshots of shared matches etc., as sometimes people remove themselves or stop sharing data so that they don't have to answer awkward questions or accept that something untoward has occurred.
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  4. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It has never happened to me, but it certainly doesn't do any harm to take those precautions. The information might also change as a result of alterations in Ancestry's procedures and thresholds.
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  5. MickM

    MickM New Member

    The question of how to approach someone has also been on my mind. My wife and I recently tested with Ancestry and, of course, have lots of matches to wade through. In my wife's family there's an unknown paternal grandfather, and we wondered whether it might be possible to narrow down an identity. We were, of course, aware that this would rely on us being able to identify potential descendants from the matches and then to work out how to approach those descendants.

    Now, following the introduction of SideView a couple of potential close (2nd or 3rd) cousins on the paternal side have been identified and of course they don't have online trees and haven't looked at their Ancestry account for nearly a year. There are a couple of more distant matches who we could approach.

    There is, I suppose, the chance that they are related to another paternal grandfather who was born somewhere in London in 1876-ish and, although he married the grandmother in 1901 in Poole, is conveniently missing from that year's census.
  6. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    You won't necessarily need to contact your matches.
    The fact that your closest matches don't have trees might not be a problem - there's a good chance that some of the matches you share with them do have trees.
    There can only be one paternal grandfather, though there may be multiple candidates.
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    And add the rest of your wife's relatives from 1881 to her My Ancestors page - it's the first step in the Masterclass. Making connections with documented cousins, especially those who have already tested their DNA, as the majority of active LostCousins members have, is key to knocking down 'brick walls'.
  8. MickM

    MickM New Member

    Yes, there are some shared matches with trees so we'll try that approach.

    It's the paternal grandfather who's the big mystery; I should have said great-grandfather for the chap missing from the census. How embarrassing to get that one wrong!
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    If she has a brother then a Y-DNA test is something to consider - the surname of the unknown ancestor could well show up amongst the matches. But see how you get on with Ancestry DNA for now.

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