You can learn a lot about your ancestors from cousins you meet online. But what are the best ways to contact your Ancestry DNA matches? Here I will share with you my experiences with making contact.
So, please read on as I give you my top 10 tips for sending that first message.
The start of an incredible adventure!
Researching your family tree will be an incredible journey.
Just who will you find and what will you discover about them?
Who knows, you just have to get out there and look.
As I have spent many years researching my heritage I have grown to appreciate all sources of information. Trust me there is a lot of information out there.
I have also been excited to make new connections and find people who share the same ancestry as mine.
And making these connections are great because they can share with you so many details about your ancestors.
1. Update Your Ancestry Profile
If you want people to trust you then you need to be upfront as to who you are. People are more willing to engage with you if they can see who they are talking to.
Ask yourself this question: Is anyone going to reply to my messages or contact me if I have a blank profile?
Probably not but you may be lucky and get the odd message or two.But this response won’t be as successful if your details are blank as the recipient won’t know who they are talking to.
If you want your DNA matches to part with their information and help you then you have to meet them halfway.
After all, genealogy is a hobby where we all help each other to further our research.
Why do you think that I created this website?
Yes, that’s right, to help others!
So, fill in your profile information, upload a profile picture, discuss what you do and what you are currently researching. Maybe mention any brick walls that you have hit lately.
Who knows maybe they can help!
2. Send Messages From Your AncestryDNA Page
Where you send your messages also matters when contacting your DNA matches.
It will help your recipient a great deal if you send your message from your AncestryDNA match page.
This will mean that they will know that you are indeed a DNA match.
And also it will show them their predicted relationship with you.
You will therefore eliminate from your message any lengthy preamble about who you are, how you are related, and your story.
You can then move on to what matters … helping each other and getting on with your research.
3. Think Who You Are Writing To
Before you begin to make contact with your DNA match you need to consider who you are talking to.
What is the level of their expertise?
Have they been tracing their family history for years or have they just begun?
From their profile, you may not know the answer to this question so be as simplistic with your message as possible.
You don’t want to overpower your recipient with so much information, giving terms and expressions that they may not be familiar with.
Just keep it simple!
4. Don’t Expect Too Much From Your Matches
There is one more thing that I would like to mention before you send that first message.
Be prepared that your DNA match may not be able to help you all that much or maybe even not at all.
There is the potential for this to happen so please be prepared.
Reasons why this may be the case:
- Your message wasn’t specific so they didn’t feel the need to reply.
- They may not have time at the moment for research.
- They don’t have the expertise to help.
- Maybe they do not want to disclose certain information.
- They just want the results from the ethnicity estimate.
- They are not interested in communicating with distant cousins.
- Maybe they are an adoptee and so don’t know anything about their family tree.
- Your match is a complete surprise because it shows a new relationship that they didn’t know about. So they don’t know how to react to this.
- The Ancestry messaging system failed, and you may need to send that message again.
5. Introduce Yourself First
Now I am going to contradict myself slightly with this tip.
The first two tips suggested that you clarify who you are by filling in your profile information and using your AncestryDNA page to send messages.
Why should you introduce yourself in your first message to your DNA matchup?
Well, for one it’s only common decency. You want to start on the right foot, don’t you?
After you have introduced yourself then you can explain what you are hoping to achieve by making contact.
Are there any brick walls in your research that you need help with or are there any gaps in your knowledge?
I have gained so much from contacting my cousins that I have found online.
The time, and money, that I have saved from help such as DNA matches is immense.
Although of course, you will want to verify their sources. There are plenty of trees I have seen on Ancestry where there are erroneous family members and details.
6. Be Specific With Your Message
I have given some good, clear tips so far about how to introduce yourself. But what do you put in your message to your DNA match?
What exactly do you say?
Well, firstly you need to be aware that your DNA match may have several family trees on the Ancestry website.
He or she may also be the administrator of many DNA tests as well.
So, again you will need to be clear as to who you are, (as I mentioned in the previous tip). To do this you can first state which family tree that you two share a connection with.
Then you can explain to them the relationship between the two of you within that tree.
Just how are you related?
Speaking from experience I have been more willing to speak to these ‘strangers come cousins‘ if I could see how they are related to me.
It is far more likely that your DNA match will reply to you if you can show how you two are related.
Would you want to spend time figuring how both of you are connected or getting on with research?
You may if you have time.
Why do you need help?!
Or you may want to do this extra work so that you can try to break down that brick wall. But if these two aren’t factors then chances are you probably won’t bother replying.
The last point I want to make within this tip is to try to be brief with your message
Not too brief mind you, but you do not want to overload the person that you are sending the message to you.
If you have been following the tips so far then you have made a positive impression. And so this will mean that there will be more of a chance of further communication between you and your recipient.
So, don’t say everything that you have to in one message.
Stuffing your first message will more than likely put off your DNA match and you may never hear from them again.
What would that do to your family tree research?
Probably keep you back from discovering more about your ancestors no doubt.
7. Proofread Your Message Before You Send It
You want to be specific with your message but you also want to make sure that there are no misspellings, incorrect grammar, slang, or abbreviated text language.
What sort of impression would that send to them?
Use capital letters and punctuation where needed, but DO NOT USE CAPS within your message.
It may show your urgency but it is not easy to read.
You want your DNA match to understand your message.
So, as I mentioned before keep your message clear and keep it simple!
8. Contact Them But Keep Your Distance
This tip follows from an earlier one. As I said you want to keep things brief and not overwhelm your DNA match with too much information.
Speaking from experience I know how information overload feels like.
Too many times I have gotten carried away with my research and have so many names, dates, and other information right there in front of me.
At those times it’s made me think why should I carry on. Sometimes I have had to take a break from it all just so that I could clear my head.
Don’t overwhelm your relatives!
So, please consider how many details that you send to your match and how often you send messages.
Don’t bombard your match with messages otherwise, you will risk losing potential research that you can use.
If you don’t get a response straight away just take your time and then send a second message later on.
Maybe a week later perhaps.
They could be on holiday or maybe they are busy doing something else.
And if they do reply to you then don’t flood them with more messages.
Above all give them time to digest what you have sent them.
9. Offer To Help Your DNA Match
There are two reasons why we make contact. The first is because we are interested to know this ‘new‘ relative.
Just who are they, where do they live, what do they do, etc.
It’s all fascinating to make this connection.
The second reason is that we want help to fill in those gaps and to help break down those brick walls as I mentioned earlier.
But have you thought about what they could get out of making contact as well?
Genealogy is giving and taking.
You give what information you know and you take what you don’t know.
So, try to help your DNA match where you can. You are family after all.
10. Be Kind
And finally, don’t forget your manners.
No one is going to help you out if you are not courteous.
Can you imagine giving your DNA match all that valuable information and not getting a thank you in return?
Pretty rude right?
My Final Thoughts!
There are plenty of tips in this post that will help you get the most from your DNA match. But again I want to reiterate something.
Be prepared that you may not always get what you want from your ‘new‘ relative.
There is always the potential for this!
When we research our family tree we will never know what we will get, who we will discover, and the information that we will learn about them.
And this is true with the information that is shared with us from cousins.
It is great when we do make that connection and we learn more about our ancestry. As a family historian, I welcome any source of information.
The science behind DNA genealogy testing is fairly new and it is improving all the time.
As there will be advances in this area we will receive more results from our DNA sample.
So, please be mindful of this.
For further information
Please check out How Much DNA Do Siblings Share over at BeenVerified. It’s a really interesting read detailing the percentage of DNA that is the same between you and your brother, or sister.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post giving you 10 tips for contacting your Ancestry DNA matches. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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