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Last night I found addresses and phone numbers for individuals in Reading, PA, who might be distant cousins. I need to make some cold calls, but I'm balking. Both people are up in years. Am I invading their privacy and their quiet? But they could possibly provide me valuabe family information. I'm not usually indecisive or hesitant about doing new things. For some reason, though, I feel a knot in my stomach when I contemplate reaching out through these calls.

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Comment by Ken Jones on October 12, 2009 at 8:26am
I've gone through the very same thing as I'm sure anyone doing genealogy has. As Greg stated below I too sent letters then followed up with phone calls. I made one such contact with a 2nd cousin who I had not seen in over 20 years and we exchanged a lot of family information so don't ever hesitate just do what you feel is proper. They are family after all.
Comment by Margot Cahalane Hayes on August 31, 2009 at 2:41pm
Katie, I'm so pleased that it worked out so well for you! And your relation. One of my very few cold calls was extremely uncomfortable!
Comment by Katie Heitert Wilkinson on August 31, 2009 at 1:38pm
Greg - at the risk of sounding like a broken record, thank you for sharing your experience with someone who has little in this area. I appreciate your taking the time to comment

Comment by Greg Settle on August 31, 2009 at 9:36am
Same thing happened to me. I wrote letters. Worked great. I recommend it for older contacts.
Comment by Katie Heitert Wilkinson on August 31, 2009 at 8:59am
Oh, Kate - you have the benefit of reading my other response. I'm feeling somewhat foolish. What all three of you have shared speaks of plain common sense --- which I didn't use. The reason I even considered the phone call once I found a phone number was that another contact I had developed at Ancestry told me that she frequently gathers information through cold calls. I'm certainly excited about what I've learned, but I regret that it was at the expense of someone else's privacy. Thanks for your insight and wisdom.

Comment by Kate Steere on August 31, 2009 at 6:25am
I would also write a letter first, and wait for a response from them. When I first started out, I found many distant cousins through the genforums/rootsweb forums. It was easier to contact them through email since they had already indicated they were interested in finding out more about our mutual lines.

I have also come across instances where some relatives did not want to be contacted and I felt that if they wanted to be in contact they would have reached out before now, so I left that side alone.

So definitely write a letter, introducing yourself, explaining why you are contacting them, and see what happens. :)
Comment by Jane Lewis on August 31, 2009 at 12:31am
I agree with Margot - a letter is less intrusive as the recipient can simply throw it away and it is their choice whether or not to contact you. I have been contacted this way and appreciated the sender's respect of my privacy. I also think it helps to share the information you have and also let them know that you don't intend to contact them unless you hear from them first. Good Luck! Jane
Comment by Margot Cahalane Hayes on August 30, 2009 at 2:59pm
Katie... I've made a number of cold calls over the years but I always begin by first sending a letter telling who I am followed with what information I'm looking for and why. And end with a promise to telephone the following weekend.

This gets the person in the right frame of thinking about people he may not have tho't of in many years and at his leisure. It also ensures that if you call in the middle of a plumbing crisis, your callee will be (hopefully) less annoyed and give you a good time to call back.

Hope this helps, Margot


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