November 30, 2015

Social Genealogy: The Mistakes You Made That Sent Potential Cousins Away

Social Genealogy: The Mistakes You Made That Sent Potential Cousins Away…And How You Can Fix Them

One Administrator, Many Trees

As genealogy and DNA sharing has evolved, there is still one very important rule to follow: Whether you’re sending a message to someone who administers another tree in Ancestry, or you’ve seen a thread in Roots web surname or location lists, or, you think you have a close cousin connection in any of the various DNA testing sites like 23andMe or others, the one thing you can do to further your research easily and quickly is to BE SPECIFIC when you contact them.

Periodically, I’ll get a message from someone who has been looking at the 23andMe site where I am the administrator for three different people: myself, my brother and my husband. Most of the time, I can determine which genome they want to connect with because I recognize a surname or they actually TELL ME which one they were looking at.

What should you include in your communication with a potential cousin? Here’s some ideas.

  • The name of the tree, or specific person’s name for a genome. For instance, you want to connect with me and were in my Yates (1) tree. Please note that specific criteria.
  • Are you looking at a genome? Was it Dave ____, Carol ___ or Jim___?
  • Are you replying to a thread about a surname? Please include a first name of your ancestor with that surname if you have one. Include any dates or locations as well. This would hold true as well for inquiries about a location.
  • Are you sending an email? Please don’t put “genealogy” or “family” in the subject line. That means nothing to anyone and will likely get deleted. Instead, have it read something like, “Re: Joe Black, 1812, TN”. (I have three Smith lines, hence the request for a first name when contacting me).
  • Tip: If you choose not to include your email address in the body of the email, but still want to share it with your recipient, just write it as webducky AT (instead of the @ symbol) People are more apt to reply via email than through the website’s message feature. Including your full email address online is a sure way to ‘invite’ email scrapers to send you spam.
  • Tip 2: Follow the rule of WHO, WHY, WHAT, WHEN WHERE.

The bottom line here is, you need to provide the most information to your recipient to ensure your success.

Be courteous and forgive someone if they don’t reply right away. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives. Genealogy and genome sharing is fun and helps to share a clue to ‘who am I’? for everyone involved.

Thanks for reading. Have a comment or suggestion for this topic? Please do! Interested in what your DNA says about you? Feel free to click the 23andMe graphic in the sidebar.

© Carol Wilkerson – 2015 All rights reserved.

You might also like to read:

How DNA Testing With 23andMe Averted Serious Surgical Complications

Genealogy: Why You Still Need To Use Message Boards And Mailing Lists

How Do Cousins Get Removed Or Ignored

  • Quick post for my readers who get confused over what it means when someone tells you you’re X amount of times removed. Read this article from Ancestry that explains why and how it happens.
English: A chart illustrating the different ty...

English: A chart illustrating the different types of cousins, including genetic kinship marked within boxes in red which shows the actual genetic degree of relationship (gene share) with ‘self’ in percentage (%). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DNA Cousins Are A Special Breed And It’s Harder To Determine A Surname Connection

I have three different DNA results on 23andMe for my brother, me and my husband Jim and my email address is used for cousin connection for all three. I’ve also uploaded our raw data to GedMatch that also includes a way to connect as well via email. Three results to maintain and cousins contacting me makes for a bit of confusion because…

  • They don’t consider that there might be one person maintaining multiple profiles for family members. [Include which person’s DNA profile you were looking at].
  • Their message is so cryptic and lacking in even the basic details like how they think there might be a connection. Just this week I got an email that said, “We’re cousins! Welcome to our ever growing family tree.” Huh? [At least try to add your main surnames so we can check our family tree index. I don’t have a memory of each of my thousands of surnames].
  • It doesn’t occur to them to further the possibility of proving a connection by also including their family tree on a site like Ancestry for comparison. [How can we connect if we don’t have any way to compare surnames? Let’s make it as easy as possible to do that.]

Make a small flow chart to post near your computer so you remember to include as much as you can in correspondence. Include as much personal information as you’re comfortable sharing (First and last name, email address where you can be contacted; a link to your tree where it can be viewed online; your website or blog address, etc.)

Source for Cousin Relationship chart “Defining Cousins.” Defining Cousins. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.  Rootsweb/Ancestry


My 23andMe Results Are In! I’m Pleasantly Surprised!

My results are in and my surprise is that I have a tiny bit of Asian/Native American blood, as well as a super big amount of Scandinavian. No surprise on that second part, with my mom’s Swedish line, but I had always wondered whether anything else would show up.

I used 23andMe as my genetic testing service because we had used them for my husband’s line and we were very happy that his results confirmed he has some degree of Native American blood as well. Actually, we had his dad tested, which presented a much more direct line.

Back to my test results, this is what 23andMe has to say about my testing:

Ancestry Composition tells you what percent of your DNA comes from each of 31 populations worldwide. The analysis includes DNA you received from all of your ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene.

I have to say, I was quite surprised by the “Yakut” listing, but it might all tie in with the Native American migration in some way, which I suspect. To be honest, I’m not sure just where my Native American genes might have come from, but I suspect it could have been through my Poindexter family, or my Smith line. Family stories are great for pointing you in certain directions, and in ours they made references to “black indians” and “red indians”. So far, I haven’t found anyone in the family that was an enrolled member of a tribe.

The Poindexter Connection

What have you found in your DNA testing results that surprised you? Was there anything, or was it as you thought it would be? In the past I have used other DNA testing services, but honestly, I think 23andMe is the best when it comes to detailed results. What I like about them too is that they keep refining the results over time so you get an even more clear picture of your genetic lineage.

23andMe Ancestry Composition for Carol PDF file