Why don’t they write back?

I’m talking about our genetic cousin matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage, GEDMATCH, etc.  You find a close cousin match–someone you’re never heard of– you send them a message or email. You wait. And wait.  You hear nothing back.

Sadly, it’s not an uncommon experience. I’ve had this happen and I’ve read the frustrated comments of  people on various genealogical Facebook groups. They all wonder, “Why don’t they write back?”

The reasons can be very complicated, including: 

  • They never received your message
  • They’re uncomfortable communicating with a stranger
  • They have other things going on in their lives at the moment, making it difficult to tend to contacts from someone they don’t know
  • You might have unwittingly unearthed a family “secret” that they would rather not deal with
  • They are only interested in their ethnicity results and don’t want to communicate with anyone

When I was new to genetic genealogy, I found it difficult to reach out to people and I think my early communications needed some work.

Since those early days, I have learned a thing or two.  At this point, I have a standard template that I modify for each communication. As a result, I’ve had more success than I used to!

This is what works for me:  I introduce myself, giving my name and location. Then, I’ll add a specific discovery such as, “It looks as if you and I are related via [a particular ancestor, such as paternal grandfather].”  I always provide surnames and locations and ask if any of this information sounds familiar since I want to make it easy and comfortable for them, too. Since I have a public family tree, I always invite them to take a look at it.

My response rate has gone up since employing this approach. Give it a try and see what happens.


Here are a few articles and a video that will help you as you communicate with cousins.




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