The Power of Cousins

Arvin/Armstrong family reunion, about 1972

I have been absolutely amazed by the people of this community. Cousins, yes very distant but relatives just the same, seem to be coming out of the woodwork to introduce themselves to me, share information, and collaborate together on family lines. I never in my wildest dreams expected this.

When I first started researching my family, I found a cousin through Her grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. Thanks to her, my Combs family research opened up and blossomed almost overnight. Within a few months, I had contact with several more cousins from different lines in my father’s family. It wasn’t until recently that I had made connections through my mother’s lines; several cousins have reached out through the Family Tree Firsts blog to make contact with me. Without doing this blog I would never have been able to find them.

I also have a personal blog that I started to meet fellow researchers, share information, and collaborate together. As I have made contact with these offshoot branches of the family I have invited them to read and keep up with my research through it, as well as here. Through the spirit of working together, we all can benefit from each other’s successes.

You can therefore understand my frustration and confusion with people who put their information out there but have no intention of talking, connecting, or sharing with you. Mainly, why would you create a public tree or blog if you don’t want people to contact you? Why would you put yourself out there? I looked recently and I have a good dozen unanswered messages over at to people who may be related. Even worse, one of them has incorrect information published about my grandmother that I am trying to get corrected. She was my grandmother after all; I would think his person may like my insight into her life and the correct information for her birth, death, and marriage.

I sat down the other day and wrote a handwritten letter to a woman I have not seen in over a decade. She is my grandmother’s cousin and in her late 80s, which means time is of the essence. I am hopeful, as the keeper of the Sanders family history, she will be willing to share her knowledge with me and, if no one on her side is interested, pass on the family memorabilia to me one day. A consequence of becoming the family history keeper that my husband and I have discussed: how big does the next house need to be exactly?

Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Cousins

  1. I don’t understand about having a private tree if you can’t get the info readily either. Why have a tree? You, have no trouble sharing info. I’d rather have the right info out there instaed all the wrong info.
    There is also someone on Ancestry that has all my family wrong. The names and dates are correct but the places are all wrong. (My parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins -I haven’t kooked past taht.) I’ve also been trying to get that corrected but the person won’t contact me! Like you say, it is my family, I should know where an when they were born and died! So, I take it you have no solution to that problems either.

  2. I have to admit that I have a private tree on ancestry. It was at the request of my family and thier concerns at privacy. However, I have recieved many requests for information and don’t mind at all sharing what I can. If you find a private tree reach out to them, they may be scared of putting bad information out there, concerned about privacy, or many other reasons.

    No, no answers for you on how to get people to write back. Maybe persistance and faith they will read thier messages is all we can hope for.

  3. I have to admit to not being good about responding to messages on Most of that is due to the fact that I do not go to the website directly. My searches are done from within my FTM software usually so I do not see that there are messages on the site for me. However, when I do finally see/notice them I will respond, even if it is just a short response because I do not have the information they are looking for.

  4. Shannon,

    Some of those people may have also signed up for a free trial using a different email address than their daily email address, or they may have changed their daily email address over the course of the years. I find it’s especially valuable to look at a user’s profile to see when the last time they logged in was. If it’s someone who hasn’t logged on in two years, chances are good they never will again, and it’s not worth my time trying to contact them and getting discouraged when they don’t reply.

    I really enjoy your blog! Good luck!


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