Long-Lost Relatives: Good or Bad?

Long-Lost Relatives: Good or Bad?

by Kerry Scott on 19 February 2010

One thing that’s changed a lot in the 10 years or so since I last worked on my family history research is the internet.  Cousins are easier to find now.  I know, because I just found some on Facebook, while my carrots were roasting for dinner.  It was that easy.

When I started doing research in the early 1990s, you had to look through phone books (remember those?).  If you were lucky, you were working with an uncommon name, and you could narrow it down to just a few possibilities.  Then, you might write a letter…or, if you were really bold, you might call.  You couldn’t be sure you hand the right person, and they couldn’t be sure you weren’t a weirdo or something.

Now, you can look people up on sites like Facebook.  You know you have the right person, because you can see all the people they’re connected to, including their siblings and cousins and teenage children.  You can see their picture before you talk to them, and note how much they look like Great-Grandpa Joe.  If you friend them, they can see everything about you, before they even decide to friend you back.  It’s cool, but it’s a little creepy too (and people…check your privacy settings, please.  Do you really want random strangers seeing all that before you’ve friended them?).

Obviously, I’m into family history, so hearing from a long-lost cousin who wants to share information is generally exciting for me.  However, I know not everyone feels that way.  Sometimes branches of the family have lost touch for good reasons, and other times people have family situations they just don’t want to have to explain to a stranger.  These things can be delicate.

So I’m curious.  What would you do if you got an email or a Facebook friend request from a long-lost cousin?  Would you be excited or annoyed?  Would you think it was a scam?  Would you respond?  Would you be curious to see what pictures and information they had to share, or would you want no part of the whole thing?

Photo by skittzitilby

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Boland February 19, 2010 at 9:22 am

I WAS this long-lost cousin once, in the early 1990s. After moving to the largest city in the upper Midwest, I trolled through the phone book in homage to Steve Martin’s Navin Johnson in “The Jerk.”

I found the name of a favorite childhood cousin from my estranged father’s family. I called. He, his wife and kids, and my brother struck up a strained little friendship. It was the most awkward thing ever and we were all in our early 20s so didn’t know how to say, “Whoops, this just isn’t working out. Please go back away now and good luck to ya.”

Next time I moved apartments, I didn’t give him my forwarding info. He never tried to find me. Fifteen years later, I’m still creeped out, sorry for intruding on his life, and wishing I’d left the whole thing alone.
.-= Amy Boland´s last blog ..Dear Thailand: Thanks for Curry =-.

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Michelle February 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

We met a long lost relative who contacted another family member. Coincidentally enough, he had the same name as their recently deceased child, so the initial phone call was particularly chilling. They have been invited to family gatherings since them, and we’ve really enjoyed the addition to the family.

Very sweet people.

Not quite estranged, but my cousin and I didn’t speak for a long time because my father and her father had disputes. We came to the realization when we both hit adulthood that their feud has nothing to do with us.

I’m incredibly curious about my family history, especially the uncomfortable and horrible stuff no one wants to talk about. Mostly because we can learn a lot about ourselves by knowing who we came from. Even knowing that we came from stock of cruel or crazy, we can work to understand more about the people our parents and grandparents and so on grew up to be as a result of those who raised them. Knowing, for instance, that terrible handwriting isn’t a family trait so much as a result of enforced right-handedness.

The point being, I’d be happy to be contacted.

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Susan Tiner February 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

At some point I would have been glad to be contacted, but now am content to focus on the people currently in my life, some from the family of origin, but most in my circle of immediate family and friends. Too much has happened requiring too much explanation to bring long lost family members up to date. And memory itself is a problem. My version of events is different than other members versions, colored by different experiences, different paths taken in life.
.-= Susan Tiner´s last blog ..S Corp Loan to Shareholder =-.

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Em-Dash February 20, 2010 at 3:55 am

Due to my last name being rather uncommon in the US, but not elsewhere — I was frequently contacted by long-lost relatives, who weren’t actually mine. I enjoyed taking the time to look into it, have a chat, share what I knew of the diaspora/where else they may have success in their search, and then wish them luck on their search.

My long-lost relatives are in another country, speaking another language (but I’m pretty sure that the ones of my generation will share enough of the two languages that I speak for communication… I just regret that I don’t speak their native tongue). I’m thinking about getting in touch again, but I’m worried about the reaction.

At some point, you have to just get over that worry: If they aren’t interested in communication after initial contact, I’m not any worse off than now, right?

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Kerry February 20, 2010 at 6:47 am

Em—you’re probably right…although some of these other stories are reinforcing my own hangups about this. I just don’t want to cause people any unnecessary drama.

I love finding dead people, but living people are a lot more complicated.

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Jackie February 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

I have both contacted a long lost family member and have been contacted once myself. When I made the contact by phone, it was met with suspicion. I always wondered what I might have learned from my husbands’ great grandfather’s brother about family… I was contacted at my place of work by a long lost cousin. He tracked me down by my married name from a posting I had made to a web site 15 years prior. I was confused at first, “who was this guy?” As we talked and he mentioned common ancestors, I believed he was sincere. I mailed him all my materials but other than a thank you, he never shared his info. I don’t regret sharing my hard earned research. I just wonder why he didn’t do the same.

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Sheila February 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

I’d be happy to hear from people – I’m curious about family history and like to hear stories.

If for whatever reason the person who contacted me ended up being someone I didn’t want to have any additional contact with, I’d have no problem ending communication. I also don’t feel like I’d need to go into any detailed explanations of things I don’t want to discuss so I have no worries about that.
.-= Sheila´s last blog ..RSS Feed Progress =-.

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George Pollock February 20, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I’m a 51-year-old man and fourth generation of our Slovak-ancestry family in the U.S. My great-grandparents would roll over in their graves to learn that I feel no emotional link to the old country. However, a great-uncle in his 80s (second generation) has made genealogy a passion. My family is essentially from northeast Pennsylvania, and it spilled into neighboring areas of New York and New Jersey. However, my father’s work took us around the country, and we eventually settled in Wichita, Kan.

As a result, my immediate family was separated from the main body of the family. My two sisters and I grew up hearing about “Uncle John,” “Aunt Helen” or “Susan XXXXX,” but we had little clue what relation they were to us. My parents knew, of course. Two years ago, the great-uncle made an observation: The extended family back East could make day trips among the members, but keeping my family truly “in the loop” (my words) required a round trip halfway across the country. So the extended members really didn’t, well, try.

During the visit to my great-uncle two years ago, he explained his research. One item was there was a distant relative in Colorado — something like the son of a cousin of a cousin of another relative’s wife. It was that convuluted — but he had the man’s Colorado address! After I mentioned that one of my sisters lived near Denver now, he especially wanted to give me the address to share with her. I honestly wasn’t interested but accepted it tactfully.

Why wasn’t I interested? Because I honestly thought that if I tried to contact this person, his entire reaction would be “… WHO …?” And even after I explained this story, his response would have been “… OK … What do you WANT …?”

My sister in Colorado agreed completely. She had an interesting theory: Yes, there’s valid curiosity in learning your family tree. But knowing your extremely distant relatives was more useful in the 19th century, e.g., in the old country. If your were traveling — maybe on foot — to Bratislava and knew your extremely extended family, you could crash at their places: “Hey, I’m Georgi, the son of your cousin’s cousin of my third great-uncle Albert’s wife.” They’d blink and say, “Albert from the village of Frankov in Lower Sares?” “Yeah.” “GEORGI! COME ON IN!”

:)

Whereas the Colorado son of a cousin of a cousin of another relative’s wife would more likely say, “… Albert … WHO? … And what do you WANT …?”

:)

Just some thoughts. Enjoyed the HR blog amd love the new one.

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Kerry February 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

You know, George, you may be right about that. I think we’re all a little more cynical and suspicious than we were 100 years ago.

I also wonder what the impact of sites like Facebook will be in terms of extended family. In the days when your family moved to Kansas, that big expanse between you and the eastern branch was huge. Maybe people would exchange letters or Christmas cards, but even that didn’t always happen, especially after the older relatives died.

Now, though, it’s so much easier for people to stay in touch with the internet. My husband is now connected to second cousins he probably never would have known at all in adulthood….people he hasn’t seen since he was a very small child. You see this with high school reunions too—I’ve actually already connected online with some of my old friends from high school, so I don’t really have much need to fly across the country and go to the reunion. I already know what they look like now, where they work, how they celebrated Valentine’s Day, etc.

Although I am still not crazy about Facebook, I have to admit that it’s been a nice way to reconnect with people I didn’t realize I missed. Geography just isn’t a barrier to that anymore. That means our children and grandchildren will have more options in terms of choosing the family members they want to keep in touch with, instead of having them chosen for them by time and distance.

It’s an interesting change. I can’t imagine how our ancestors would react to how easily we can communicate today.

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Tim G February 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I have loads of cousins, and one of them made an email distribution list a few years back. Last week, I got an email from one of them. He had been held up, in a foreign country, and need help (cash) to get home. A quick copy-and-paste into snopes.com confirmed my suspicion that this was a case of email hi-jacking, and Steve sent a follow up a few days later apologizing for the fact that his email was somehow hacked.
It made me almost wish it was a genuine emergency, because with that many cousins, he would have gotten the help!
.-= Tim G´s last blog ..Day 7,431 – I Can Make Music =-.

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Debbie February 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Are you talking about long lost cousins as in 2nd or 3rd cousins, or people your close relatives don’t talk to anymore? I think there is a big difference. I know there are some cousins of my g-gramma that I would like to get in touch with that still live on their farm. Than there are also ones that my mom doesn’t talk to because of some things that happened when I was a kid, and my mom would be really mad if I was talking to them.

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Kerry February 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Oh, definitely second or third cousins and their ilk. The people I have in mind are descendants from my great-grandfather’s brother…not close relatives.

When you have rifts involving close relatives and/or people who are still living, that’s a whole different thing. I wouldn’t touch those. In my experience, those people aren’t “long-lost” relatives. They’re not lost. They know exactly where to find you. They just don’t want to.

Sometimes rifts happen for good reasons. Not every family is perfect, and I think it’s often best to let sleeping dogs lie.

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The gold digger February 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

My mom has been working on the family history for the past 20 years. She and my aunt have found distant relatives in Czechoslovakia. My aunt and uncle visited them a few years ago and are in email contact with them. I like that level of relationship – emailing distant, European relatives whom I might want to see the next time I’m across the pond.

But yeah – if there has been a family feud with someone in the next town, I would rather leave it alone. I have 16 aunts and uncles and 26 first cousins. I’m already busy.
.-= The gold digger´s last blog ..In which Sly and Doris threaten to boycott the wedding =-.

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Michelle February 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

I’m sad at the number of people who are afraid of reactions. Do you not wave at passersby on your street? Greet neighbors? Is any human interaction at all just too much pressure? Are we too afraid of the sue-happy and the rude and the mean people out there (who are not the majority, just a loud minority) that we’re afraid to be friendly with anyone?

I moved far away from my immediate family and am thrilled to hear when friends of friends of friends are coming to town, or relatives I’ve never met, I’m happy to take them out to dinner and spend some time. I love how I’m connected to so many people. And if we have a bad time of it, it’s one night wasted and a funny story. I enjoy conversations with strangers and meeting new people. Having a family connection gives an excuse to reach out. And if you get nothing in return, you’ve lost nothing. If the reaction is hostile, you share one bad phone call. But you gain a friend and family member if the reaction is positive.

Humbug!
.-= Michelle´s last blog ..Oh, the Crazy =-.

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britt March 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

i grew up with my moms side of the family. when i was just a baby my dad left us. we reconnected a couple of years before he died. didnt get that close though. i’ve recenty come into contact with an aunt i’ve never met. and she seems soo nice, she gave me my other grandmothers phone number. i’ve never met this other grandmother. and i’m not quite sure how to go about handling this situaion. i know i’m gonna call, but i dont know what to say or how to say it.

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Kerry Scott March 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Britt—that’s not an easy phone call to make, I’ll bet. I hope it works out. I’m guessing your aunt would have told her she passed along the telephone number, so hopefully that will grease the skids a bit. Good luck!

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Mad in Missouri March 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Hmm, Funny I found this today! My two daughters are “meeting” my exhusbands family as I write this and I am sitting here madder than a cat dipped in water! My ex left me when he decided to have an affair with my best friend, I was pregnant and my 1st child was just an infant. (they are 13 months apart) I used to take them to their “grandmothers” (his mom) to see her until the girls were about 9 and 10 or so. She NEVER came to our home, she saw them only because I wanted them to know that side of the family at that time. When I was able to move to a better home, we went over to tell her, she the grandma was having a BBQ with all her other children and their spouses, so when we drove up It really didnt “please” her , and after I told her that we were buying a new home she stated “THIS IS WHERE WE SHOULD CUT THE CORD” no invite to eat with everyone nothing, so we left, OK now its 20 some odd years later and FACEBOOK…. Well a “cousin” a step sister whatever found one of my girls (they have never know their fater he just wasnt enough interested to even call, so he is a stranger), anyway today my girls are at that side of the familys grandmas “birthday” meeting them. And this is what I personally think! If my girls were not good enough for you then, YOUR NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM NOW! You were all adults at the time, the “aunts” and the “grandma” and “grandpa” as they would like to be called, could have cared less if they went to bed hungry or if they were barefoot in december, Now that they are all grown they want them to come and be “part of the family” BULL thats right BULL I say go to find out if there are any cancers or illness you need to know about and say farewell. Unfortunatly I am not going to say a word, it will have to be a live and learn thing. Anyone who would abandon a child is no good in my book ESP since it is my children! So FACEBOOK is not good all the time!

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musicmuse June 15, 2011 at 10:32 am

Hey,
I’m with you! After divorce, my father’s side of the family never bothered to know us. Especially painful since my mother’s parents put their father and mother up when their house burned down.
While my mother struggled to feed three of us with no support from him, his family never called or checked in on us. Now, my brothers are contacting this crew of idiots and asking me along. This has been going on for a year and a half now….I have been direct stating that I don’t want to know them…
what could they possibly add to my life except heartache. There are also 4 half siblings that didn’t know we existed. Should we all get together to celebrate the lying rat bastard that was my dad? But sure enough there marches my younger brother off to meet them all…..if he wants to meet them fine but I wish he’d stop telling me about it. It hurts.

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Kerry Scott June 16, 2011 at 5:18 am

I think it’s your brothers’ right to decide to be in touch…but it’s also your right to decide not to have any part of this, and they need to respect that. There’s no right or wrong answer in this stuff.

One thing about siblings is that even though you’re in the same family, you experience your family differently, depending on exactly when you came along, who was there and who came later, what age you were when bad stuff was happening, etc. So sometimes siblings have very different experiences in a family, and their feelings are different as a result.

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Kerry Scott March 8, 2010 at 7:54 am

Yikes. How frustrating.

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Artie See August 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Sorry, I didn’t find this page until months after it was posted.

My father abandoned me before I was born, and my mother left me to live with my grandparents soon after. I knew my mother growing up, but only saw my father once that I can remember. Since I never lived with my father, I never considered him a member of my family.

Not many years ago, I received a phone call from out of the blue from a woman living over 500 miles away who claimed to be my half-sister. I was skeptical at first, but she knew enough details which I could confirm that it was soon apparent she is indeed related to me. At first, things did NOT go well: she had known that she had a brother she never met, and (from my perspective) was expecting a big brother who would be overjoyed to hear from her. The problem is, I did not consider her to be a part of my family; my father had started an entirely new family after I was born, but had never made any effort to contact me.

Her fixation on her long-lost brother quickly became something of an obsession. I started to resist her probing personal questions, which resulted in several nasty arguments by email or phone. I finally had to cut off our contact.

Months later (with my conscience bothering me) I contacted her again, and we started corresponding regularly. She and her family have visited twice, which was interesting because they were ultra-conservative Southerners visiting a liberal Northern city. Their visits went very well, but since then she only contacts me very rarely. I strongly suspect that I could never have lived up to the fantasy she grew up with.

I really and truly wish she had never tried to find me. It has been an unpleasantly emotional experience for me at times, and obviously a huge disappointment for her.

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Kerry Scott August 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Artie—I think that’s exactly what the issue is: expectations.

When you have people who are several generations removed from the original split, and they never knew of each other, there are no expectations. Nobody’s disappointed. You exchange emails, maybe share photos…but unless you hit it off for some reason, you’re probably done after that, and it’s fine.

But when you have people who have had a relationship with someone in their head for a long time, and then they meet the real-life person, there’s ALWAYS going to be a disconnect. I think it’s possible for things to work out, but in my experience, it’s kind of rare.

I think, too, that sometimes folks don’t always consider the feelings that might be on the other side of the split. Given your father’s departure, it seems pretty natural for you to feel ambivalent about the whole thing from the start. It sounds like maybe she didn’t think things through from that perspective.

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Ornithophobe September 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Erm, define “distant”. You mean my great-grandparents’ sibling’s great-grandchildren aren’t proper cousins? Clearly, you aren’t from the south! :)

Seriously, though- I’ve met a number of my “distant” cousins and I’ve not had a bad experience yet. I’m always happy to hear from them, and I try to keep in touch once contact is made. Funny story- I once went to visit my grandfather’s aunt, and was in her house for some hours, letting her feed me, before she got round to asking just which one of Ivan’s granddaughters I happened to be. (Since she’d not seen me or Kristen since pre-elementary school, I suppose.)

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Deb Koons February 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I so agree! I’ve managed to find many distant cousins who are interested in family history, both for family tree work and for sharing photos. And since I’m the family archivist for several of my branches, I have a lot to share and love sharing what I have! I’ve visited many of these new-found cousins and have had nothing but good experiences.

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Jo November 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

I found my brother on Facebook the day before yesterday. We have the same mom. When our mom and his dad (my stepdad) divorced, she and I moved away and never saw him again. He was two and I was six.

My whole life I wondered and worried about him. Now, over 30 years later, we finally found each other.

I’m going into the situation knowing we are both kinda screwed up so the expectations aren’t high. Plus…we live across the country from each other so I don’t need to worry that he’ll just show up on my doorstep if things get weird.

So far, it’s been great. Already multiple conversations on the phone and not nearly the weirdness you’d expect. Getting off the phone yesterday, he ended the conversation with “Talk to you tomorrow!” and that just made me smile and smile.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. ;)

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Kerry Scott November 5, 2010 at 8:41 am

Wow—it’s great to hear of a success story! I think you’re going in with exactly the right attitude. Keeping your expectations in check is key.

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kristin December 5, 2010 at 10:16 am

I met aunt Willie’s grandaughter last year – aunt willie was my great grandmother’s sister – we shared the stories that had been passed down, she gave me more information about her branch. We exchanged photographs and I ended up with photo I didn’t have of my great great grandmother and two of her children that I had no photos of. I grew up hearing so much about family several generations back that I had no problem thinking of them as family when I meet them. I’ve met several cousins and cousins of cousins who have shared important family information that I didn’t have and would probably never have without them. I have shared with them too so it’s been mutual. On the other hand one of my sister-in-laws turns up these cousins of cousins in-laws that aren’t related and don’t have any information. I don’t get that.

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Dee December 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

Just found this post cruising through your archives via the permalinks.

My 3rd cousin 1X removed found me through an online newsletter from family surname association about a year. I found the family association when I started getting deeper into one of the surnames in my tree, and was appalled that the information they had on our Arkansas line of the tree was so sketchy and so much of it in error, so I contributed monthly so they could clean up their database.

He saw one of the newsletters where I had contributed material and emailed me. Turns out we only live about 70 miles apart. Who knew?

In the last year, we have been to five cemeteries together doing research, exchanged electronic documents, been to an annual family reunion, and found two of our ancestors’ unmarked graves in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, and are chipping in together to get them marked.

So I think it does get back to expectations, which in our case, was only of the genealogical sort and were mutual.

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Kerry Scott December 13, 2010 at 7:14 am

That’s been my experience too…getting in touch for genealogical purposes is much easier than getting in touch for something more nebulous.

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Doreen T February 15, 2011 at 1:04 am

Doing geneology research, I just found out my husband has 4 half-siblings. His mother divorced their dad when the oldest was 8 or so. My husband is 50 and the siblings are 10 to 20 years older. We are more interested in any other family information they may have , such as info on the grandparents, then building any relationship this late in every one’s lives. But we don’t know the right way to approah them. Any advice on how or what to write in a letter?

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Kerry Scott February 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm

That is a tough one. I think it matters less how you word the note and more how you prepare for the outcome. The risk of rejection is pretty high, because sometimes people just don’t want to deal with this stuff.

I do think that you if say right up front that you’re looking more for genealogical information than anything, that will help. I think it’s easier for many people to work toward that goal than to accept a new familial relationship with all that entails.

Another thing I’d do is google each of the siblings up front, and check sites like FindAGrave.com to see if one of them has contributed info. In most families there’s only one person who is really interested in genealogy, and your odds of success are far greater if you contact that person versus the others. They’ll have the info, and they’ll be more tempted than the others to want to share it. It’s not foolproof, but it helps.

Good luck—I hope it works out.

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Doreen T April 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

For what it’s worth, I took Kerry’s advice and sent a very calm letter just explaining the situation and actually saying that I expected nothing, just would appreciate any info they may have. We have now been in tough with 2 of the half-siblings and they have been very nice. We haven’t met in person yet but we’re planning on it. The relationship may never develop but at least I can’t regret NOT doing anything about the information!

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cc April 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hi , Have gone through many of these experiences before–I just recently looked up cousins & aunts and uncles& Brothers on facebook– But was very disappointed. My relatives acknowledged me but never respond back.they make no effort to get to know me. I sometimes wonder why I looked all 20 of these people up. More painful than it was worth..I guess I should of left most of them hidden in the past. I was thrilled to have living relatives & they did not have the same feeling of family loss-so to them it it is no big deal..Sad they will not get to know me or my 2 kids……

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Artie See April 3, 2011 at 6:56 am

cc: Please don’t take it personally, or blame yourself. As I said in an earlier post, my half-sister was extremely eager to find me, but I had no desire to contact her. It isn’t that I have anything personal against her, it’s just that any contact with her reminds me all too well of the father who abandoned me. Don’t be surprised if your contact with them consciously or unconsciously opens old wounds that have NOTHING to do with you.

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Kerry Scott April 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

That sucks. I’m sorry.

As Artie says, it’s almost certainly not personal. Sometimes there are other factors you aren’t aware of, or old hurts, or who knows what. When there’s stuff like that going on, those people aren’t necessarily going to be a good addition to your life anyway.

But it still hurts like hell.

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Ziggy April 20, 2011 at 12:56 am

I have been thinking a lot lately of reconnecting with my step brother and step sister on facebook. Now that I have read everyone’s responses I do not think it is a good idea. My step-dad and his children have not spoken/seen each other in a long time, long time meaning around 8-10 years. Not because he is a bad person but because their step-dad who is the Army moved them to Germany when they were in their early teens. This left them thinking that their biological father did not want to see them. Even though I miss them I do not want to cause harm to them since they feel anger and abandonment towards their dad (my step-dad). He has tried to email them a few times and he gets little to no response so I am sure they would not want to hear from me.

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cc April 20, 2011 at 11:11 am

I think it would be great for you to try and reach out-Because in that moment it would probably be a neat or fun exp in the moment, just don/t expect a lot from them -they may have lots of hurts and it is not personal. I figured that out myself-was all thrilled to find the relatives & they were to in the moment but after that I do not hear from them so maybe it takes time or it is just got therapy for them & you to reconnect just a little….

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Kerry Scott April 21, 2011 at 7:23 am

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d do it. Even if they were willing to have a relationship with you, it might be very awkward for you to be in the middle between your step-dad (who wants to talk to them) and them (since they clearly don’t want to talk to him).

I think the real deciding factor, though, is to determine which will cause you more grief–being in that position, or not trying.

But whatever you do, I think keeping your expectations in check is key. I think it’s the folks who expect happily-ever-after who end up hurt in these kinds of situations.

Good luck, whatever you decide. This stuff is hard.

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Ziggy April 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm

CC & Kerry thank you for responding back to me and for your opinions. I have decided not to contact them for now. Maybe in the future I will but as of right now I do not think it is best.

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Ziggy April 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I have some new news to tell you all and the news does not involve my step-siblings. My biological father messaged me on faebook tonight telling me he found his half brother on facebook in another state that is probably 1200 miles away. I have never heard of this half brother and had no idea I have a uncle. Whoa, talk about shocking. I asked my father, “why did you not tell me about your brother?”, his reply, “I did not know where he was so I did not think it was a big deal.” I have some mixed feelings about this and now totally understand how people feel who have found (are) long lost or never known about relatives. Kinda ironic that I was wanting to connect with my step-siblings and now I found out I have a uncle. hmmm life is interesting

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Kerry Scott April 26, 2011 at 6:15 am

Holy cow. That’s deep. I can definitely understand that being hard to process (and your feelings about it might change a few times over time).

Man, families are complicated.

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Ziggy April 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I just do not understand why my father did not tell me about him. He had the last 32 years to tell me. This reminds me of how one who is adopted finds out many years later that they have another family, their biological family. I can not imagine what they would go through.

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Kerry Scott April 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I think anytime you get major new info about who you are, it can be difficult to process. It will be interesting to see how things go with your dad and his half-brother.

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George Farris May 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Dear Ziggy:

Somewhat belatedly I discovered your postings. We are each the result of our own experiences and environments. When I read of the revelations to which you’ve only recently become aware, my heart went out to you.

While you lacked initial knowledge of your uncle it does seem that you had contact with your father. Relationships are seldom simple, and memories can often be quite painful. Maybe the subject of your father’s youth is painful for him. Perhaps you should devote your time to reenergizing your relationship with your father, and from such a renewal, information may flow to offer you the opportunity to build a bridge with your uncle.

My parents were separated before my birth, and a few years later my mother took me to California where she remarried. Then when returning after three combat tours I decided it was time we met. As a result our first meeting only transpired when I was a 23 year-old veteran with before I ever met my father. Yes, it was awkward at the beginning, but I was determined to keep an open mind. If not a traditional relationship we formed a cordial relationship, which has meant so much to me as years go by.

Ironically, my father had a brother whom I never met. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it was a question of my father shielding me rather than isolating me. Since that time I have contacted cousins and in most cases have been warmly welcomed, and developed lasting friendships.

Ziggy, I can only advise you to listen to your heart, temper it with reason, and don’t let a chance go by that will you to ask, “What if only I had?”

Best of luck, but beyond that, know intentions for your success will be included in my prayers.

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George Farris May 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I’m always excited, but it can get get a little dicey if their pedigree has some major flaws in it. Still, you snooze, you lose! I’d rather be sorry for something I did, than something I didn’t do.

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Angie October 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

Hi all…. Need advice. I just moved back to My home state after living away for a decade. I am thinking about contacting my long lost cousin for no good reason other to say ‘hi’. I keep thinking about her and even had a dream last night where I thought I learned about her crazy past. I have been sad about her for years after hearing she is estranged from her own family, although my father has contact with her siblings. I have never talked to this girl as an adult, and feel this would be quite awkward, but I generally want to get closer to my extended family. I have always kinda been that weird, shy girl that was overlooked, so maybe I should just try to get more involved in the family reunions and such???

Also, I have a long lost uncle on my mother’s side. I really wanted for a long time to contact him , but I hope you are getting my point that I’m not ready to act as a family representative

Any thought here would be appreciated

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Kerry Scott October 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

I think it’s up to you to as to whether you want to initiate contact. If you do, though, keep your expectations low. If she doesn’t have contact with her family, there’s probably a reason for that, and whether it’s a valid one or not, that’s her choice. Since you’ve never talked to her, that reason likely has nothing to do with you, so it’s not personal…but it’s likely that if she doesn’t talk to her close relatives, she probably doesn’t want the awkwardness of talking to extended family who are in touch with those close relatives.

The same is true for the uncle; there are usually reasons for people being long-lost, so don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back from him.

Good luck!

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Ree May 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

Hi. I’ve recently been asked to attend a family function to meet more of my dad’s side of the family. Up to now, I’ve only meet some of his brothers and sisters, but I haven’t seen any them since he died in 2005 at age 41. They haven’t tried to maintain contact with me, and the only reason why I have some contact now is because I reached out to one of my aunts on Facebook. She did give me a lot of information and seemed open to sharing more and taking me around the family. The main reason I wanted to speak with her is because I want to know more about my family’s medical history, especially since I’ve been having some health problems. This is an odd situation because what I thought I knew about my dad was a lie. I found out his birth mom didn’t want him or four other children she had, so a friend of hers adopted him. He found out he was adopted as a teen by either his biological sister or family friend (they all lived in the same neighborhood). He was the youngest of 8 kids. I didn’t find out he was adopted until his adoptive mom died (my loving grandmother), which was a year before he died. I think my dad kept me at a distance for a reason and I wonder if I should meet anyone else. My mind and heart are ready for rejection if I do decide to meet more of my family. I’m 30, and I wonder, will this contact add any enrichment to my life? I’ve been living a good life without them for this long, so why enter their lives, or have them enter my life now? It makes nervous. I’m not trying to open a can of worms.

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Kerry Scott May 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

All I can say is: I sympathize, and you’re not alone. The more you talk to people, the more you see that a lot of people struggle with these issues. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but good luck. It’s tough.

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tracie July 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm

My father passed when I was a baby. I have not been in contact with any of his family since I was a child. Recently I found the facebook profile of my aunt and cousins. I am still debating whether or not to friend them or send them a message.

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"Sam" November 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm

see, I’m going through something similar. my grandmother had a half sister she never cared to find or anything. recently, I have found her half sister’s daughter on ancestru.com and even though the half sister has passed and my grandmother has no interest in finding out more about her father’s family, I am interested and all I really want to share with this distant cousin of mine is information (mostly because she had no clue her grandfather had another daughter) and maybe a few pictures. the only problem I have is convincing her that we are in fact related albeit distantly.

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Kerry Scott November 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Would she be open to DNA testing? Sometimes that helps.

Otherwise, when I’ve contacted distant cousins, I’ve tried to provide at least a picture or two on the very first contact. When they see someone familiar in the picture, they tend to think you’re legit (because that’s hard to fake).

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Nicole February 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

Three days ago, I found out that I have two half-siblings. I never knew my biological father, but knew that he had had a lot of issues over the years. We recently learned that he had passed a way in the last few months. Since then, one of my half-siblings has been in contact with my aunt, asking to get in touch with more of this side of the family, since his parents had pretty much cut them off. Looking more into it online, we have some interesting things in common, and he has pictures of me from when I was little, and has obviously been looking for me for at least of couple of years. I’m not even sure where to begin, because he’s known about me, but I’ve never known about him until now.

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Kerry Scott February 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

That’s a tough one. I think it will get easier with time, but it’s okay if you have to go at your own pace.

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Janiah Evans March 7, 2013 at 10:31 am

I found My Long Lost cousin, yesterday. He was my uncles son.. my uncle passed away about 13 years ago from committing sucide infront of my 2 cousins when they were about 8 and 10. and ever since he passed my family lost total contact with the boys. so when i found one of them on facebook i explained to him who i was and how i wanted him to be apart of my life. he denied me instantly! he didnt want anything to do with me because he said he had a father and he was happy with the life he had, and he wasnt flying to ny too meet any of us! he felt this way because he didnt respect his biological father for what he had done so he blamed us. i was so sad and i cried because i always dreamed of the day i would finally meet them and to get turned down so idnorantly was horrible. how do i handle this???

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Kerry Scott March 12, 2013 at 11:58 am

Wow. That’s a tough one.

First, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Rejection from family members is tough under any circumstances, and it sounds like you were reaching out in good faith.

I do think, though, that relationships can only work if both parties want one. If this cousin isn’t ready for a relationship, now or in the future, you can’t force it. I can’t imagine what he went through after watching his dad commit suicide, but I’m guessing he had to work hard to be able to cope with something like that. For some people, coping means shutting off the source of the pain, and seeing family members that resemble or remind him of his dad may be incompatible with that. He may change his mind as time passes…or he may not. But it has to be his choice.

I feel like all you can really do here is give him time and space, and let him know that the door is open if he changes his mind. You never know how he’ll feel in the future.

But yeah…this stuff is painful.

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Interfaith Funny March 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm

To Janiah,

Well, he’s a kid, or I mean young adult, he probably got on Facebook to socialize with his peers, not get into heavy stuff. If I were you I might message him something brief, but heartfelt that he could carry into the rest of his adulthood, but not expect a response necessarily. Just something non- threatenening, like “hey, I remember you, but no prob, we all get older, times change…. I wish you luck in your future, if you ever get into trouble or feel like you’re alone, remember there are people out there who care, even if you’ve forgotten….. Good Luck!!!

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Someone March 21, 2013 at 7:55 am

This is a difficult one for me to write but I want to share my story to help avoid heartbreak in the future.

Last year, I had a few women turn up to my workplace and ask for me my name. I asked them who they were and one of them introduced themselves as my auntie (the other two women being her friends). I had no idea who she was and furthermore, she was Indian – my mum is Irish and my dad is Dutch. She explained she was from my “dad’s” side of the family and long story short, it turned out the man who had raised me for all of my 29 years was not actually my biological dad. I spoke to my mum later that night who told me it was true – she had met the man who would raise me shortly after I was born and they decided to raise me as my ‘real’ parents, I guess. I didn’t ask after the circumstances of how I was conceived because I could sense some pain from my mum there and honestly, I was not interested. I know who my family is, who my parents are and I love them both dearly (and although I don’t agree with their decision to keep the ‘truth’ hidden from me for so long, I understand why they did it and don’t hold it against them). As far as I am concerned, the man who raised me is my father.

I told the woman who showed up that I’d take her number but I couldn’t promise that I’d call. And that was the end of that. It was a deeply unpleasant experience having to suffer that emotional trauma during work.

But the reason I’m sharing this story now is another woman showed up at work yesterday, on my 30th birthday, with a parcel for me. She asked for me by name. Wary of what had happened previously, I asked reception to tell her I was busy and after 10 minutes of discussion, she left the parcel behind and left my workplace.

In the parcel were baby photos of me, a birth certificate and pictures of my ‘other’ family (don’t know how else to describe them), a birthday card and a birthday gift. There was also a letter that attacking my mum, talking about my mum cutting off contact with them, about blame, about my mum denying me my heritage, about my ‘real Dad’ and so on.

I was absolutely overwhelmed. I have never, ever been so angry or so upset. What made it worse was it was an important day for me at work (hence why I was in work on my 30th birthday!) and instead I was hit with this emotional bomb. I was having to fight so hard to keep a straight face and hold back the tears – tears of anger and hurt, that this stranger would say these things that would undermine the two most important people in my life – the loving parents who raised me, who I owe everything to, and to think they could force their way into my life with a few cheap gifts and baby pictures? I am welling up even typing this out now.

I am terrified and uncomfortable at the thought that any of my ‘other’ family will surprise me at work again, so I sent a letter back to that address (along with the items) making it absolutely clear I want no further contact with anyone from that side of my family. They have scared me off ever wanting to talk to them.

I am sorry this is so long but the point of this is please, please, please take it slowly if you’re reaching out to a long-lost relative. If you have spent so much time and energy looking for a long relative, you have obviously had a lot more time to come to terms with the idea of meeting them, talking to them, contacting them. Remember that to the relative you’re reaching out to, it’s still a shock.

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Kerry Scott March 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm

My goodness. This is heartbreaking. Why do people think an ambush is ever a good idea?

I’m really sorry you went through this, and I can absolutely why you wrote that letter. It sounds like you already know who your family is. You aren’t required to make any changes.

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Artie See March 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Yes, it is a shock. Mine wasn’t even a fraction as bad as yours, but I do have some small idea of how you must feel. In my case (as related above), after a few years of rather intense communications – and two visits – the novelty on my half-sister’s part seems to have worn off. I now get maybe one phone call and four or five Facebook messages a year. After the unpleasant intensity of our first several contacts, it is a welcome relief.

I’m guessing it was the two week-long visits that changed her mind about me. I really did treat her like family, but I could never live up to the fantasy in her mind. (For one thing, I’m an inner-city politically involved Democrat, and she’s become a redneck-country southern Republican!)

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Kerry Scott March 22, 2013 at 8:44 am

Artie, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The fantasy and the reality are never going to match up. All of our relatives, whether they’re ancestors or long-lost living folks, tend to be characters who live in our heads. They might be based on reality, but they’re fundamentally fictional characters. So there’s always going to be a disconnect when the real person shows up.

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David Jones June 28, 2013 at 12:28 am

My brother has never wanted to know me. Never liked my Mum and dad and hasn;t had time for any of us. Mum and dad are long Dead now, he’s seventy now and I’m sixty. Had a strained little relationship for a few years after parents died, then he stopped speking to me, Everytime I rang him he would say someone’s at the front door. He moved about 7 years ago and left no address. Anyway traced him on internet and rang him. Got the front door treatment again. Feeling like a right fall and wished I hadn’ done it

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Kerry Scott June 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

That is heartbreaking. I’m really sorry.

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brian scanlen August 28, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I have been researching about my family history for decades till i broke ice in 2007 when i realised my grand father was South African and one of those that descended from the 1820 British settlers in S.Africa. I then liased with a genealogical researcher who helped me get all the necessary documents like birth, death certificates, and so on. My father was able to use the same documents to acquire citizenship in S.A though his still leaving here in Uganda. My father because of the limited resources in the their times was unable to trace the where abouts of my g.father and has lived in Uganda since 1942.
After acquiring citizenhip and knowing our roots, guess the next step was finding out if we actually have relatives out there and this was quite easy given the level of networking these days. I have communicated and shared with them the history and where am coming from but there after they decide to keep silent and can’t return my emails. I believe they think am some kind of a scam on the internet. Now that i attained citizenship, i would like to go study and work in south africa. I find this challenging because this will be a whole new life experience for me the fact that i don’t know any one there. I want to go there when i have some people i could easily relate to as i settle in but it seems my relatives are not ready for new family reveltions. How do i go about this? I want them to believe that we actually exist and that we are happy we found them.

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Kerry Scott August 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where you have to make sure you have realistic expectations going into it. Human relationships only work when both parties WANT the relationship, and that’s especially true when you’re talking about long lost relatives. I think all you can do here is contact them, explain what you’re looking for and why you want to be in touch, and wait. If they’re interested in connecting, make sure they know how to do so. If not, though…there’s not much you can do. It has to be their choice. Sometimes it’s years later that they come around, and other times they just don’t. Fundamentally, though, you can still move and settle and be happy. Many people have moved to new countries and created a “family of choice” among friends. If you want to go and build a new life for yourself in South Africa, don’t let the response of these people limit you. You can still go and be happy, with or without them.

Good luck…I hope you find what you’re looking for.

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Old Country Relative October 31, 2013 at 2:44 am

I tracked down some US relatives. I sent letters and even emails, but no reply from them. Maybe they don’t even know about my emigrated relatives – or they don’t want to tell me what happened to them. Most likely – they think that I want something, which, of course, is not the case.

Can’t blame them for not being interested, but it’s good to know that they have my number. Just in case someone want’s to find their roots.

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Kerry Scott November 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Wow, I’d be delighted if someone from the old countries contacted me. I agree that they may think that you want something, though. I’ve had that experience a number of times when contacting cousins I’ve found through my research. It’s frustrating, but I get why they might feel cautious.

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