Communicating With Distant and Unknown Relatives

How do you communicate with distant and relatives that you don’t know?
Before the internet, if we wanted to talk to someone, we had the option of meeting them in person, calling them on the telephone, writing a letter and sending it via the mail and maybe even sending a telegram.

Today, the methods of contact are endless with the help of numerous advancements in technology. We have the internet that provides us with email services, video chats, social media. Methods such as the telephone, postal mail and meeting in person still exist but can be more time-consuming, and depending on the generation, can be intimidating.

Benefits of Communicating with Distant and Unknown Relatives

  1. Meet family you didn’t know you had.
  2. They might have information, records, photos or personal items for ancestors that you didn’t know existed.
  3. Compare notes for what you have versus what they have and maybe fill in blanks to find even more information.
  4. Connect to other family members.

How Can You Communicate with Distant and Unknown Relatives?

Postal Mail 

Sending a letter through the mail could be the least intrusive method for contacting someone you don’t know. Sometimes it may also be the only method if you can’t locate the person on social media or find a telephone number.

Writing a letter gives the writer an opportunity to explain who they are, what they know, and what they are looking for. The recipient has time to think about the contents of the letter and if they want to respond and how.

A person’s home addresses can often found through various sources through an online search, city directory, public records, etc.

Telephone phone icon

Depending on your generation, it might be completely natural to pick up a phone and call someone you don’t know. It’s how people connected for decades. However, as texting, instant messaging and email have become a normal method of communication, younger generations are becoming intimidated by actually calling and talking to people on the phone or they feel that other methods are more effective. Read this article from that explains this trend with the younger generations, particularly millennials.

There’s also a larger sense of rejection. If the person you’re calling has no idea who or why you’re calling, it can make for an awkward conversation, or sadly, they may not be interested in connecting with distant relatives for one reason or another.

With cellphones replacing a house phone, it may be more complicated to locate their phone number. Cell phone numbers aren’t published in a city directory like house phones of the past. It may take some online searches but you may be able to locate a cell phone number.

Social Media social media icon

Social media is an easy outlet for people to preview DNA matches and potential relatives privately before deciding whether to contact that person. This is great if you want to get a feel for who the person is, see a picture of the person because maybe they share a family resemblance. You may also get an idea of hobbies, occupations, etc. that can help make sure that person is the person you are looking for.

Contacting on social media is also a quick way to connect with a person as well as their relatives they are connected to in order to further grow your family network.

Read this fantastic story about a woman who connected with her biological family through social media. Her experience was great.

Who knows, you might have mutual friends, mutual interests and may even be in the same groups or like the same pages.

Email or Messaging Services 

Email and instant messaging services is another invasive way to contact distant relatives. If you can find a person’s email address, you may be able to message them through social media or, if they are a DNA match or on a genealogy website, through their messaging service.

Like postal mail, the writer has an opportunity to introduce themselves, what they know about the family and what they are looking for. The recipient then has time to think about the message and if they want to respond and how.

Video Chat 

Once you establish a relationship with your distant relatives, you can use technology such as a video chat application to have a more personable meeting. It’s great to put a name and voice to an actual face. You can also include others in the conversation so it would be like a little mini online reunion. How fun would that be?
For whatever method you use to connect with relatives, always be sure to fully identify yourself and your purpose, be polite and be respectful of their time and if they wish to keep their lives private.