First Contact ~ Before & After ~ Be Sure, How many 2nd cousins could you name BEFORE genealogy family trees and BEFORE DNA testing for genealogy

In the excitement, emails are fired off like rockets to anonymous people with no explanations of theories of why one is writing, much less shared research on why one person believes a DNA match is with a particular family line. Oh, there is a surname ‘in common’ it must be this line. Or, oh, they were from so ‘n’ so state or county they must be that line. Or, oh, look at that person, they ‘look’ just like so ‘n’ so they must be from the other line. Do you sound like a pleasant and knowledgeable match or an alien.

All too often consequences of contacting too soon, with too little information, are not considered. Particularly if the search is very important to the tester as with looking for or verifying biological family, or searching for an elder to fulfill a wish we must consider how our contact can hurt our quest and more over how it could hurt the receivers.

And what if the connection is assumed wrongly? Looking for a biological parent and your autosomal DNA results are disappointing – all the matches are under – even well under 100 shared centimorgans, cMs, under 70 cMs – under 50 cMs, and this is often the case, but you think the listed surnames must point to X, Y, or Z family but what if you are wrong? And the same holds true for y-DNA and mt-DNA matches you must consider distance of the relationship with any match.

What if someone has little time? You write initially with so little or incomplete or mistaken info that once the person reads your initial email with mistakes, they do not see a connection then they disregard any emails in the future by not even reading them. Then if later it turns out that match might be of important interest you might have already shut the door on time.

Not to mention taking into consideration people’s health and privacy in relationships. Right or wrong some kits are managed by relatives, not the DNA tester and do we really want to make stress or cause an argument over our need to know and what if it is a mistake? You want contact – you do not want to turn someone off or worse yet cause them to turn off or delete their DNA.

For distant matches (100 cMs and under) you would want to verify and then – find another way to verify. And you would research and you would look at matches ‘in common’ and you would write thoughtfully. There are too many variables – surnames are too common – and you might not get too many chances to get your foot in the door.

First and worse mistake is not saying who you are and who you match. Many people manage or have multiple kits, sometimes at multiple companies, so when you write fully identify yourself.

You might write something like: I am Cherie Lynn and I tested with X company and I have a match named so ‘n’ so with this email address for contact. Our match is X cMs, or X matching markers, or matching at a distance of 0, 1, 2, X etc. I (or the person I am writing for) am listed as so ‘n’ so in the matches and you will find my tree and/or surnames there or elsewhere or I am searching for X, Y, Z information. (If you are writing for another person say the reason)

I am a wife and I manage my husband’s account if an unexpected, unknown child, immediate, or close match relative turns up I can’t say how I would react to an unknown child – especially if it was before or after we married. I might get used to the idea, but if you are are writing for yourself or another you do not want the door shut so choose your words carefully. Also, I would never send bulk emails where I have added the email addresses of multiple matches, even if BCC blind copy.

What if I am managing a kit and it is immediate or close, or not so close, but a person who is searching as an adoptee or parent search? What if I manage the kit but Aunt So ‘n’ so is still alive as well as cousins Jack and Jill and am I going to break their hearts with news of infidelity, what if Uncle is passed? And what if you are wrong in assuming the match and the distance and how that person is related, so for some kits there may already be an arrangement, an agreement to know or not to know if certain information comes up, especially after someone has passed.

Even matching with 400 shared cMs in autosomal testing, are you looking at one relationship connection, for certain? What if that match is related to you two separate ways and you actually match that person 250 cMs on one family and 150 cMs via another family – it happens. So if you have not verified the match as many ways as you can – via ‘in common’, in common with names and places you might be searching in the wrong generation and so would come to an entirely different conclusion as to who in their family might be your connection for a match. Plainly if you match the person on their dad’s side but you have them searching on their mom’s side you might use up aqll the time someone might have to help or interest.

The same question is more important with lesser shared genes. What if you are related two ways, one relationship match with the one person is 40 cMs one way, and 60 cMs another way. You will be looking in peoples trees at certain generations of ancestors and you are nowhere near the correct family or generations to guess how two people might be related. You write and the person spends time to look, no they do not see any knowable connection and then will never read any emails in the future and might not answer the first contact email at all.

You want success in reaching out to your matches, before you click SEND think of this message as a one-time chance, write it and save it and wait, verify one more time – with second results

There are many different reasons people take DNA for genealogy tests. sometimes if with a company that tests medical, the person might not be interested in family contact at all, they are only testing for medical results. Sometimes a relative got them to test helping with family line research and the tester is not interested in living people and sometimes not interested in the ancestry but agreed because they like and are helping their relative. And why someone tested is their business, this is a short and brutal statement for someone looking for a parent or other close important reasons, but when the search is extra important, all the more reason to make sure your ‘first contact’ email is perfect – it might be your only contact – verify, verify and verify again.


How many 2nd + cousins could you have named – when you begin to identify the many 2nd + cousins and see the myriad of different connected families to you, you begin to see that assuming how you are related to any match – is not an easy task. There is serious traditional research to be done, before you begin to guess.

Surnames ARE common – even those you think are so unusual – they rarely are unusual – they often are usually seen frequently. So don’t jump to any family to guess how two people are related.

There are many great charts for estimating the distance of a match based on how many shared cMs. see below

But you need a chromosome browser to really understand the match between two people. On a Chromosome browser you can see which chromosome you match on and how many on each segment. Some genes are counted as matches, with some companies, that are such small sections of shared genes that one might wonder if tested out they might be pseudo or irrelevant matches – or partly so. Different companies have different ratings for autosomal DNA matching as to what constitutes a match and what does not. learn more…

The best is to have relatives test also. A maternal relative (mother, her sibling, cousin, etc.) Or, A paternal relative (father, his sibling, cousin, etc.) Then when you look at any match you have, you can check and see who the match is also related to – your maternal side or your paternal side – half the battle is won. Of course with limitations, and certainly if someone is adopted, these are not always options – many layers of added checks can be used to begin to learn what side your matches are from. Especially if you are a man, then you can know all your X-gene matches are only from your maternal side and from specific family lines only. See also X-gene matches blog. Only some companies give X-gene matching and few give y-DNA and mt-DNA, many companies only give autosomal DNA matching and some companies test other aspects of DNA and offer even other results for you to enjoy of your own DNA. So depending on the depth you wish to search and learn – you may want more than one testing company.

I wonder with people who are adopted and/or looking for a biological parent when they see all the matches, do they think they do not know who the matches are because they are adopted? Could they not know most people do not know who their matches are?

The one company, at this point, that has au-DNA/at-DNA, y-DNA, mt-DNA with x-gene matches, with chromosome browser and with other tools is

This is my project, I might not be able to help but I can tell you if I can’t and try to say who might help. There ARE sales throughout the year – and I am not making any money on this

Copy of shelby county folks epson scan

A negative version of a photo of folks from Shelby County, Alabama. I shared this with the Shelby County Historical Society a few years ago but I never saw that they in turn shared it with the members of the society. I have also have the original. Many of this group have descendants today who are all now cousins, but likely the descendants from 2nd and farther do not know each other – and most would not have known these people or known of them – don’t assume – verify verify verify BEFORE


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And on a delightful happy note, following my music for genealogy tradition of each post having not only a picture but also a song…


I’ve been searchin’ (gonna find her)
A-a searchin’ (gonna find her)
Oh, yeah, searchin’ every which a-way yeah, yeah (gonna find her)
Oh, yeah, searchin’ (gonna find her)
I’m searchin’ (gonna find her)
Searchin’ every which a-way yeah, yeah (gonna find her)
But I’m like that Northwest Mountie (gonna find her)
You know I’ll bring her in someday (gonna find her)
(Gonna find her)
Well, now, if I have to swim a river
You know I will
And a if I have to climb a mountain
You know I will
And-a if she’s a-hiding up on a-blueberry hill
Am I gonna find her, child, you know I will
‘Cause I’ve been searchin’ (gonna find her)
Oh, yeah, searchin’ (gonna find her)
My goodness, searchin’ every which a-way yeah, yeah (gonna find her)
But I’m like that Northwest Mountie
You know I’ll bring her in some day (gonna find her)
(Gonna find her)
Well, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade got nothin’, child, on me
Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan and Boston Blackie
A-no matter where she’s a-hiding, she’s gonna hear me a comin’
Gonna walk right down that street Like Bulldog Drummond
‘Cause I’ve been searchin’ (gonna find her)
Ooh, Lord, now, searchin’ (gonna find her)
Mm, child, searchin’ every which a-way yeah, yeah
But I’m like that Northwest Mountie
You know I’ll bring her in some day (gonna find her)
(Gonna find her)
Songwriters: Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller
Searchin’ lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Belinda Aberbach Stevenson Agar Revocable Trust



“…The song Searchin’

The lyrics, written by Leiber, use vernacular phrasing. The plot revolves around the singer’s determination to find his love wherever she may be, even if he must resort to detective work. The song’s notable gimmick was in citing specific law-enforcement figures from popular culture, such as Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, Joe Friday, Sam Spade, Boston Blackie, Bulldog Drummond, and the North-West Mounted Police (the Mounties).[1] The vocals of the Coasters’ lead singer Billy Guy are raw and insistent. Driving the song is a pounding piano rhythm of two bass notes alternating on every second beat.[4]…”


Digging and searchin’ to name the band and the lead singer on the song? 

There are many great charts for estimating the distance of a match based on how many shared cMs. And you can contribute to research with your own shared cMs of relatives.

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