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Lack of Response from New Contacts

Discussion in 'Key features of the LostCousins site' started by Bryman, Apr 19, 2020.

  1. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    The big difference between LostCousins and other sites is that you cannot send someone a message unless they have already agreed to correspond. In other words they've not only expressed a general interest in connecting and collaborating by joining LostCousins and completing their My Ancestors page, they've specifically said that they're happy to correspond with you!

    Unless you delay writing to them the most likely reasons that they don't reply are:

    1. They didn't get the message (quite likely if they have a Hotmail, Yahoo, or Yahoo-managed email account). If they didn't respond to your initial invitation and you had to ask me to chase them, that suggests that their email set-up is sub-optimal.
    2. They find it difficult to provide a meaningful reply in a reasonable amount of time, so they put it aside

    When you establish contact with someone new always try to look at the situation from their point of view. The information on the My Contact page not only shows how you are related to the relatives you've both entered, it also shows you how your contact is related to them.

    But what it won't tell you is how long ago they were researching this part of their family tree. If they haven't looked at that part of their tree for 15 or 20 years the relevant papers might be stored away, perhaps in the attic. Or the information might be on a hard drive on their old computer.

    Whatever the reason, it doesn't mean that they don't want to hear from cousins who share that part of their tree, it just means that it's hard for them to predict how long it will take to reply. Faced with uncertainty people react in different ways - some will send a holding message, but most won't (they'll wait until they have something useful to say).
  2. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Peter, I don't disagree with anything you have said and I do appreciate that there may be all kinds of legitimate reasons why matches either don't accept the request for contact, or do accept and then don't reply to messages or emails. All of us inevitably have times when daily life has to take precedence over family history.

    However, from my point of view a non-responder is a non-responder - whatever lies behind it. Since I generally keep up to date with adding in new census entries to Lost Cousins, each new entry I add now comes after lengthy searching to identify - and confirm - those additional relatives. It is therefore satisfying each time I make a new match, and I look forward to corresponding with new cousins.

    So I guess I feel disappointed when, despite your best efforts and then mine, the weeks turn to months (and beyond) and there has been no ensuing correspondence. And when it keeps happening it starts to dampen my enthusiasm.
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    But it matters enormously what the reason is - you said you were worried that you might be harrassing your cousin. I've explained that you're not.
    You're muddling the issue. I usually only get involved when someone doesn't respond to an invitation to correspond - but we've been talking in this discussion about people who accept an invitation to correspond but then don't reply to messages.

    Because I rarely get involved in such circumstances I've no idea what percentage might be involved, but I would guess that it is very low.

    As you will know from my newsletter 90% either respond to an invitation without my intervention, or else respond after I get involved. The 10% failure rate compares very favourably indeed with my experience at other sites, and when a LostCousins member doesn't reply it's usually either because they have passed away, or because I don't have any valid contact details for them.

    Neither of those factors are likely to apply in the case of someone who has just accepted an invitation, which is another reason why it is important not to muddle them up.
  4. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I'm beginning to wish I'd never asked this question, but it doesn't seem like many - if any - others are experiencing this particular issue anyway, so it's probably not worth bothering to discuss it further.
  5. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    I understand your frustration, there is a possibility that others are not experiencing the same problem because they have far fewer matches than you.
  6. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    You may well be right, and I don't really know how the number of matches I have made compares with the average. Also, when I make a match I am almost invariably the one sending an invitation for contact - I think I have only once received an invitation.

    Unfortunately, though, however uncommon the issue of contacts not responding to emails or messages may be across all Lost Cousins members, it has become significant for me personally, increasingly so over the last 2 or 3 years. And it is discouraging to the extent that I do sometimes wonder why I bother adding any new entries - and feeling under attack for mentioning it here didn't help.

    I stand by my comment that sometimes not getting a reply may be down to a lack of interest even if the other member has clicked to accept contact, and I know this from those occasions when people who have had the courtesy to reply have said as much.

    I don't know if people can actually reject a request for contact, or if the only options are to do nothing or accept it. If people do nothing and then get a reminder they may decide it's simpler to just accept the request even if they are not particularly interested in corresponding.
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It sounds like strange behaviour to me. Were those people actually cousins, or only related by marriage?

    Perhaps when you say a 'lack of interest' what you really mean is a lack of common interests? It's not always obvious at the outset whether you're cousins or not - which is why the My Contact page reads as it does. Sometimes it takes one or two messages to establish whether there is a useful overlap or not, and even where there isn't the connection can still be useful - as Bryman and others have pointed out in the past, further research might establish that the two people who married were cousins.
    If they're not interested, period, they could simply reply to the email and say so - this would be far easier than digging out their password, logging-in to their LostCousins account, going to their My Cousins page, looking in the My Contacts section, then accepting an invitation from someone they don't want to correspond with.

    People who are researching their tree have different objectives. If someone doesn't perceive that there is a useful overlap between your past and future research and theirs, and you are unable to persuade them otherwise, then there is no point in further correspondence at that point - LostCousins is not a social network. Of course, in the future one of you might come up with some information that is very relevant to the other, and that's where the connection becomes valuable. I sometimes find myself emailing contacts I haven't corresponded with for 5, 10, or even 15 years to tell them about a new discovery that I believe will be of interest to them.
  8. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Off the top of my head (without actually going through old correspondence) I think mostly, but not invariably, related only by marriage.

    Maybe part of it is that I am almost always the one to make the first contact, and as I mentioned earlier in this thread, in my first email/message I generally include a brief outline of my connection to the person we have matched on, so perhaps that is what decides the other member they are not particularly interested in corresponding.
    Is it clear from the email that this is an option? And how would that appear on my 'My Cousins' page?
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I don't think it needs to be explicitly stated - nobody has ever suggested that it should be.
    On the few occasions when someone has written to me it has been because they've realised that they have entered someone who isn't a relative of theirs. In that situation I ask them to delete the incorrect entry, and explain to the other member what has happened. I then remove the match.

    In the event that there was some other reason I would deal with it appropriately, but if something hasn't happened after 16 years and tens of thousands of matches it's probably not going to happen at all.
  10. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    Sorry, I should have been paying more attention to this discussion and contributing earlier. I have been in a similar situation to Pauline.

    Checking My Cousins page, with the modification that Peter made that started this discussion, I see that I have 15 replies that I am waiting for with initial contact requests sent between 2015 and 2019. Only 1 involves a cousin (4C2R), who is based in UK. 13 of the others are related by marriage and 1 by employment, across 5 countries (UK, Australia, NZ, Canada, Germany). I can understand that connections by marriage are less appealing than one with a blood relative but as mentioned earlier, relationships can change as further research is completed.

    I think that I have probably asked Peter to send reminders to each, except possibly that for employment, but I cannot be certain as there is no indication on My Cousins page and I do not record that in the notes. The change in sort sequence that Peter made at the start of this discussion has been very useful to help me keep on top of this situation.

    Like Pauline, I find it very frustrating when matched individuals do not reply but that is up to them and I try not to worry about that too much. I do have one LC member that responded to my request and has agreed to exchange of email address but has not replied since. That could be for any number of reasons so I shall just have to sit and wait, and hope. Peter's suggestion that a reminder may be appropriate after 2 weeks initially sounds about right but not repeatedly.
  11. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    Yes, you have to be patient. But instead of just waiting and hoping, why not try dropping them another email?

    Several months ago, I discovered a new contact who shared a large number of relatives with me (including a direct ancestor) who agreed to exchange email addresses but did not reply to my initial message nor my follow-up email a few weeks later. After reading this discussion, I decided to re-send my email one more time before giving up. I promptly received a very positive reply, saying that he'd done an auto upload of all his census details to LostCousins a few months ago, since when he'd been inundated with messages from potential 'lost cousins' and had only just got round to responding to them all. We have now started a fruitful exchange of information.

    So there can be lots of reasons why people don't reply immediately. It sounds like this person's experience is a particularly good example of LostCousins' success in matching people!
  12. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I do not normally send reminders when there is no family connection. The main exception is when the person running a One-Name Study fails to reply as this is a breach of the conditions.
    You should: not only at LostCousins but also at other sites that provide a Notes section - like Ancestry. LostCousins was the first with a Notes section - it has been there since LostCousins began.
    The 14 day interval was implemented to cut down the number of matches referred to me, and was based on the length of time that people typically go on holiday. In those days most people didn't have access to their email when they were away from home.

    If your contact isn't receiving your messages it doesn't matter how often you send them. If you have exchanged email addresses beware of anyone with a Hotmail, Yahoo, or Yahoo-managed email address (such as BT or Sky in the UK and many others around the world).
  13. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    Are you suggesting that those with such email addresses should only be contacted via messages on the LostCousins website? The contact I mentioned in post 31 has a hotmail address, and my email reached him.
  14. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    That is what I did but the speed of response is not under my control so then I have to wait. Interestingly, that email address is with Hotmail so I will resend in a few weeks, possibly with duplication via the LC site in case it got mis-directed down a black hole.

    I do use the Notes section for all matches at LC but not currently for that information. Perhaps I should and will consider how best to do that.
  15. Sue_3

    Sue_3 LostCousins Member

    Re emails going astray, I was never very aware of this happening to me until recently, when I joined a new website (nothing to do with genealogy) using my BT email address. Several messages that were sent to me from that website simply did not arrive. They were not in my junk / spam box anywhere and I was lucky in that I knew the person running the site and was thus aware that the messages had been sent. After some head scratching on both sides I gave them my gmail address instead and thereafter all was well.

    I then remembered an incident a couple of years ago when a relative tried to email something to me and it just vanished into the ether. Again, my gmail address was used to solve the problem.

    I know that I ought to consider switching to using gmail as my main email address, but it can be a gargantuan task to change your main email address. Last time I did so, which must be 20 years ago, it took me YEARS to gradually inform everyone and I STILL have some websites where I have to use that ancient address as my username, because they don't have an option to change your username (ScotlandsPeople is one of them).

    Moreover, I set up the gmail account for something specific and don't really want all of my other emails crowding out the ones that 'should' be there. It also has a silly name, which I wouldn't chose to use for my 'official' correspondence.

    I am also that person with thousands of emails on my mail server and no easy way to put the useful and essential ones anywhere else ... so that's another cause of inertia, and perhaps the biggest issue for me.

    So, maybe I am sometimes the person that doesn't respond because they haven't received the email and, even though I now know that can happen, I am very reluctant to make the change that would solve the problem!
  16. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    That happened to me yesterday, and I had to change a wife I'd entered from the 1841 census from 'Marriage' to 'Blood relative'. I had finally managed to track down their marriage and discovered the two were first cousins (both previously married & widowed).
  17. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Since I joined in 2004, I have always initiated contact with fellow members and on the rare occasion when they managed to contact me first, I have always replied.
    To date I have made contact with:
    13 cousins, 3 of which have withheld email addresses.
    19 relatives, 3 of which have withheld email addresses.
    I have 6 new contacts, range 2012-2017, where I'm waiting for a response.

    A little frustrated with the lack of response, I started an experiment. If the match was classed as a 1 or greater then I made contact. If the match was less than 1 then I didn't initiate contact. I was interested to see if they would reach out to me.
    I now have 10 contacts with people who haven't tried to make contact with me. I know we're only related by marriage but I would have thought some of them would have been keen to make contact?
  18. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    Perhaps they are not subscribers so cannot initiate contact except at certain times, which they may miss. I suggest that you initiate contact after a couple of free periods, especially if the relationship is not expected by you to be distant.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    They might not be aware of the match. If they haven't logged-in, or haven't clicked the Search button, or haven't checked their My Cousins page recently they probably won't know the match exists.

    They may also have assumed that as you haven't tried to make contact, you're not interested.
    • Agree Agree x 1

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