Saturday, 1 June 2013

My experience of contacting distant cousins through genealogy websites

In the past when I first started my research I was a member of GenesReunited (until their subscription fees hiked up in the last few years!). During this time I connected with a number of people whom I shared ancestors with in my family tree. Some of these connections were really positive and others were not, so I will share some of my experience of connecting with distant cousins.

One of the most positive and earliest connections I made was with Barbara, she was my grandmother's first cousin's daughter (my second cousin once removed). Our common ancestor was my great, great grandfather and her great grandfather, Frederick Slater Poole. Barbara's mother and my grandmother were first cousins and had distant memories of each other from their childhoods. Barbara and I were able to connect these first cousins together again after so many years and they were able to write many letters to one another.

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(Image link:, Author: M.casanova,
19 Nov 2012, accessed 8 Feb 2014
Barbara has always been happy to share her research and I mine. Barbara has done much more research  than myself but has always been very happy to share and help out with other areas of my research as well.

A few years ago Barbara organised a few lovely Poole distant cousin family get-togethers. It was amazing that one of these distant cousins had lived only a few miles from where I grew up, we could have passed each other in the street and not known, incredible!!!!

On the other side I have connected with people who have not been happy to share their research. Many older people have spent their lifetimes researching their family history. In the past it was much more difficult to do research than it is today in the internet era. It involved many long hours researching on scrolling through microfiches in libraries and record offices across the country. The cost of the research was much higher as well, so you can understand why they do not want to give all their hard work away to someone.

I have also connected with other researchers who I have been able to share research tips, photos of ancestors or personal documents with (eg birth, marriage or death certificates) and occasionally helped to point someone in the right direction.

At present I use Ancestry to share my family tree, but fewer people contact me. At present I prefer to spend my time researching further back than connecting with living relatives but both are important. When I get a little stuck researching an ancestor I will see if there any other members with that common ancestor which might help point me in the correct direction with my own research.

  • Never copy someone else's research without backing up the facts with your own research, get references to back up all the information yourself, as people can make mistakes!
  • Be sensitive when requesting information from distant cousins, they might not be as happy as you are to share.

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan

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