That New Cousin

To call him a new cousin is incorrect because I know exactly who he is or as much as one can know someone from a few newspaper references and a locked down Facebook profile.

I could stand six feet from him in an essential establishment during this pandemic and not recognize him–wearing a mask or not. His name is only familiar to me because it appeared in the obituary of his father, a third cousin of my own mother. He used his real name on his AncestryDNA results and it took me all of two minutes to confirm his genealogical relationship to me.

He knows his relatives back to his great-grandfather about whom he knows very little. The additional details he has are essentially incorrect–except for one nugget of truth that had been wrapped in some “fluffy facts” over the intervening years. I gently pointed out the correction without ever saying that he was incorrect. Sometimes that goes over better than a response that begins with “You are SO wrong about the details of MY family, where on earth did you get this nonsense.” On second thought a soft approach always goes over better than that–although it is not always successful.

I always debate how much to tell a person I know about them in a preliminary communication with them. Being from a small town, I don’t find it odd when someone says to me “I know who you are, who your parents are, where your family has lived, etc. etc. and it’s nice to meet you.” Usually if someone knows that much about my past, chances are I know their name–usually. This relative had no idea of who I was as when I mentioned my grandparent (through whom we share a connection), she had never heard of them. I may just continue our conversation by referring to her grandparents as her grandparents by name and leaving it at that.

I’m always concerned of putting a DNA match off by offering too much detail too quickly and overwhelming them initially. I find it goes a little better if I let them indicate how strong their interest is.

Of course it can be frustrating for the match to act totally uninterested in our shared history and then to see they’ve posted error after error about our common ancestors online in trees at or the online tree at FamilySearch, but that’s another story.


2 thoughts on “That New Cousin

  1. Marcia Skiver says:

    This is a timely posting. I went through the same thing this past week although the soft approach didn’t seem to work. Oh well.

    • mjnrootdig says:

      Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I always have to remind myself that people might not be even 1/4 as interested as I am or that “life intervened” and they just can’t get back to me as soon as I’d like (or ever).

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