Saturday, September 29, 2007

What Would You Do?

I have located a distant cousin in California through the online white pages. I would be very surprised if he has ever heard of me. I have never contacted a distant relative before - in the past they have always found me through my blog or message boards.

In a situation like this would you pick up the phone and give him a quick call or would you do sit down and write him a nice old fashioned letter?

What have you done in this situation?


Miriam Robbins said...

Phone calls on a Sunday afternoon work well. People procrastinate about responding to letters. I've had a lot of success with cold calls...just be cheerful and explain who you are right up front so they don't think you're selling something!

Good luck, Apple! Let us know how it turned out!

David said...

This is probably the one thing I don't like doing with research because I've yet to find a method that has a decent success rate. I've read and tried different approaches, but it's just kind of a futile exercise (in my experience).

A lot of people simply do not care (for an assortment of reasons) about their ancestors or (to them) some so-called relative looking for information. Even if they do respond, chances are they will only have a passing interest in the information. Don't hold your breath for them to share documents, photos or get them to do a little digging on their end.

I would suggest what Miriam mentioned, though. A Sunday afternoon call is probably your best bet. Good luck.

footnoteMaven said...


I'm a pick up the phone person.

When I was writing about "That Two Hundreth Woman In A White Dress" I picked up the phone and called one of the relatives of one of the women in North Dakota.

It was very well received.

We had a talk at our alumni association called "Bagging A Live One" and the handout can be found here:

The speaker gives some points for writing as well as calling.


Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I'd write a letter personally, but then I'm not very good on the phone with strangers. I guess just make sure you know what you want to say before you pick up the phone.

I've been in contact with 1 or 2 distant cousins in the past year or two, but always through email or websites.

Terry Thornton said...

I'd send a letter of inquiry --- and include a form to return with check-off items and a stamped addressed return envelope. And one of the items on the form would be permission to telephone for additional information.

Although some of you recommend Sunday afternoon telephone calls, please note that many of us with caller ID never answer our phones to callers we don't recognize. And unless you have a "talk" ready for the answering machine that it better than the best of the telemarketing folks, your recorded message would never get play time at my house. For this distant cousin, an inquiry by mail would probably result in me picking up the phone and calling YOU back on my dime.
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

threecollie said...

My mom is an avid genealogist and she has often been contacted by complete strangers who are also relatives of various degrees. She is always simply delighted to find another piece of the family puzzle. She has also made some great friends. One lady who contacted her lived less than five miles away, but neither was aware of the other, despite being quite closely related just a couple of generations back.