Long-Lost Relatives: Good or Bad?

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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