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No Replies from Ancestry Contacts

Discussion in 'DNA Questions and Answers' started by Andrew Lloyd, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd LostCousins Star

    My apologies if this question has been asked before on this forum, but if it has, I can't find it.

    Last September I took a DNA test with Ancestry. My wife also took a test and I manage her results.

    Since that time, I have sent 17 messages to different matches for both my wife and myself, but only 5 have replied. Also in that time I have only received one unsolicited message regarding one of our DNA results.

    All but a couple of messages I have sent are where I had found where the common ancestor was, and I thought I could be effectively breaking down one of their brick walls (but judging by the response rate, clearly not!).

    Most of the matches had been active on Ancestry or taken a DNA test within the month before I had attempted to contact them.

    My question therefore is: is this a typical response rate?, or have I just been unlucky?
  2. IanL

    IanL LostCousins Superstar

    I don't know whether it's typical but your experience is very similar to mine. I took the test last April. Since then I've had 4 unsolicited contacts and I've attempted to contact 12. In 11 cases I had determined in advance who our common ancestor was. The 12th message went to a potential third cousin who kept appearing as a shared match but he had a hidden tree and I hadn't been able to make any progress on determining how we are connected.

    To date I've only had 5 responses. Those have been excellent but I thinks it's a poor return. As a result I've avoided sending speculative messages as it appears it would be a waste of time.

    The usual explanation is that these individuals are only interested in their ethnicity. However, I've concentrated on individuals with quite reasonable sized Ancestry trees - so I don't believe that can explain the failure to respond. Even when I get a response it doesn't always lead to a proper dialogue. I had one individual with the same surname as me and I was quickly able to determine our common ancestor. He didn't respond to my email. Then a month later he emailed me, completely ignoring my previous email. He asked for access to my tree which I gave him but over a month later he's still not accepted the offer.

    I did read an article, possibly in Family Tree magazine, about the best way to word an initial contact, and I must admit I've probably made some of the mistakes the article said to avoid, e.g. in one I pointed out differences in our trees.

    I regularly go back to Peter's master class to see if I can spot new connections, but the lack of much feedback from these individuals makes the whole experience somewhat frustrating. However, I intend to carry on as I still hope to break down at least one of my brick walls.
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  3. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd LostCousins Star

    Thanks IanL. Its good to know I am not alone in experiencing this. Like yourself I have tried to concentrate on those matches that I consider most likely to get a response from, i.e. those who appear to be updating their trees regularly and who have recently logged on to Ancestry. It does rather put you off trying those contacts where there is less likelihood of a response. However like yourself I shall not give up. A couple of the responses I have had have been quite fruitful, so its better than nothing. I did wonder if the reason may be because many people are taking the test just to get an ethnicity estimate - such a shame as the other reason can be much more rewarding.
  4. Tim

    Tim Megastar and Moderator Staff Member

    It does beg the question, are your messgaes getting through to these people?
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Probably not. Depending on the email provider emails from Ancestry might end up in a spam folder, or a block hole. Often I only get a reply when the user concerned logs-in at Ancestry.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  6. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd LostCousins Star

    I was thinking of leaving a polite message on their trees (for those that have public trees), but I guess that also depends on an email from Ancestry getting through.
  7. IanL

    IanL LostCousins Superstar

    A number of people use their Ancestry user name on other sites. In a few cases in trying to establish our connection I've come across their proper email address on other sites. However, I don't feel comfortable emailing them when they haven't responded on Ancestry. I don't know what the proper etiquette would be in this situation.
  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    If it's a cousin of yours then it would surely be poor etiquette not to email them? But if it's someone who isn't a cousin then you might want to think twice.
  9. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    Since my husband and I got our Ancestry DNA results 18 months ago, we (or more accurately I, as I manage his results) have contacted 38 DNA matches and 27 have replied. So a 71% reply rate, which I don't think is too bad, especially compared with the low response rates reported by Andrew and IanL.

    In a further 7 cases, I have received a message from a DNA match - to which I always reply of course, even if just to say I can't see a connection. Or, more often, to give them relevant information to establish the connection and hopefully help break down brick walls. In one case the connection was hard to prove, but we sorted it out in the end, through a chain of 'circumstantial evidence' and handwriting comparison on marriage registers, but that's another story...

    These figures exclude people I was previously in contact with through traditional research before the DNA testing, but I reconnected with several 'old' contacts who popped up in my DNA match list, which was good.

    Some of these contacts have proved more fruitful than others, of course. Also, some have been frustrating in that the person has replied enthusiastically, but then failed to respond to further messages.

    But overall, I've found it a worthwhile exercise.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
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  10. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd LostCousins Star

    That's a great response rate in comparison. You are obviously doing something I am not. As you have been doing it for a while now, I wonder if you found there were instances where it could take several weeks or even months to reply, indicating they may not initially have been aware that the message had been sent?
  11. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    Ancestry has opened a large number of doors for me - bringing me into contact with a number of new cousins, and a lot of those weren't through DNA, but rather through photos and other points, or occasionally through errors on my part.

    But I will raise my hand for often being a bad returner of messages. I try and always get to it eventually, but occasionally I can let a couple of days... or a week, or depending on what is happening at work, longer go past before I do. I'm not proud of it, and I always try to give as much information as I can, but I can get forgetful.

    So some of the people you have contacted may be as bad as me when it comes to replies!
    However, they could also just not have received the message, but it should appear as a little blue number on their "envelope" symbol on the top right hand corner of a page when signed into Ancestry, regardless of whether or not it has appeared in their emails, particularly if it has been sent through Ancestry's messaging system.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  12. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Superstar

    Yes, I've found response times very variable. In one case it was 6 months before I got a reply, when the person said they hadn't been able to respond earlier as they didn't have an Ancestry subscription. This is not true, of course, but they probably thought that it was. In another case, the person apologised for the late reply, but said they had only just seen my message from 3 months before. However, thankfully, most answer more quickly than this, often within a few days.

    Peter and Jorghes are right in saying that the person may well not have received the e-mail and only get the message when they log in to Ancestry and see the 'unread messages' number next to the envelope symbol. I notice that most of those who haven't replied haven't logged into Ancestry since I tried to contact them - though they had been recent users at the time I messaged them, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered.

    In a couple of cases, I re-messaged someone when I hadn't received a reply after several months and they got back to me at the second time of asking. Obviously, I don't want to pester people but I don't think a 2nd message (after a reasonable interval) does any harm, and I don't mind people sending me a reminder so I assume others don't either.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  13. Andrew Lloyd

    Andrew Lloyd LostCousins Star

    Thanks very much for your most useful suggestion - I will certainly give it another try, probably after 3 or 4 months.
  14. DavidL

    DavidL LostCousins Member

    I made my contact with a third cousin in response to a Gedmatch score. I was delighted to discover my first connection in more than a decade of trying to trace East European Jewish ancestors. A flurry of emails brought the realisationn that this person's grandmother's name prior to marriage was the same as my grandfather and they both came from the same Ukrainian schtetl. He asked for a picture and promised to search out some of his own. Despite a couple of reminders, I could make no further contact. Some moths later my brother phoned to say he had a contact via 23andMe, who proved to be the same person offering the same information. My brother replied and casually mentioned that I had made previous contact. The same thing happened: no further email responses.
    Ancestry has been even more disappointing. Over the years I have contacted several membersshowing with clear, close connections in their trees but received no replies, even though those members are logging on regularly. My one success was a second cousin who popped up a couple of months ago in the DNA listings. He lives in Malaysia but we share the same birth city. I was able to send him a comprehensive tree of his ancestors - including information which showed his great-grandmother was not who he believed, as he had been "farmed out" as a toddler when she died.
  15. VMS

    VMS LostCousins Member

    I am still meeting this issue. Either no reply at all, or else there is no second response. Is it because I am not an Ancestry subscriber? Am I being penalised until I see the error of my ways and sign up? Alternatively do you think a large number of my matches may simply have been interested in their ethnicity and not their genealogy? It's disappointing although I'm making allowances for summer holidays.
  16. Liberty

    Liberty LostCousins Megastar

    I think you can't make the first contact if you are not a subscriber. But you can reply to a message that has been sent. And once there is some contact established, it is simply a matter of whether the other person wishes to correspond further. As to why they would or would not wish to do so, who can say?
  17. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It doesn't make any difference whether you're a subscriber, provided you found the other member through DNA. (If you try to contact someone else Ancestry will tell you that you need to upgrade.)

    What will make a difference is what you say in the messages you send - for example, if you ask questions then you're less likely to get a response. Similarly if you don't make it clear that you want them to respond they're less likely to - I normally end my messages with "Look forward to hearing from you".

    If someone is only interested in their ethnicity they won't have a tree, or will have a minimal tree with only a handful of people - so you can tailor your messages accordingly.
  18. VMS

    VMS LostCousins Member

    Thanks for the suggestions. I just checked back and one message says 'this Ancestry member is not currently accepting messages.' What does that mean?
  19. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    I have had the same problem with non-replies. Although I just tried for a second time with one but used the GEDMatch link instead of the Ancestry one. This person is listed in both, with the same numbers. How close a relationship would a cM of 198 across 9 segments on Ancestry and 199.8 with the largest being 65.7 on GEDMatch? He has 35 people in his Ancestry tree, with no recognized names. There are three shared matches; one is my niece who is of course connected to both sides of the family, but not my first cousin once removed who is only connected through my mother. Would that make him more likely to be through my Dad? One of the others is a person to whom I have also written without a reply. Hopefully, I can receive a reply this second time.
  20. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    I went back to the GED page and did the Autosomal one-to-one comparison. According to the colours there are two places in each of Chr 1 and 2, and a very long one in 7 where I have Base Pairs with Half Match - significant. If this person is connected to my Dad then any matches would be half-cousins so is that what half matches would mean? All the rest are no match.

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