‘Tis the Season to Ask for Spit

IMG_0760You know what’s awkward? Emailing strangers and asking them to spit into a tube for you.

Like this:

Dear Cousin,

Hi! You might not remember me, but I’m that genealogist who emailed you in 2010. We’re third cousins, twice removed, on your mom’s side. 

I don’t know if you know this, but since we last spoke, my genealogy friends and I have all gotten into this new thing: DNA testing. It’s where you spit into a tube (or maybe swab your cheek with a giant Q-tip), and then you send the thing off to a lab. A month later, you get a list of your cousins. I did this a long time ago, so I have a very long list of cousins…but I have no idea how they’re related to me. Since I DO know how you’re related to me, I’m wondering if I can have you spit in this tube, so I can see which ones are also related to you. It would be super helpful.

See? Awkward.

I was an early adopter on the whole DNA thing, so I’ve been looking at lists of cousins for years. I’ve had a couple of easy matches (because Holthusen is the best surname in the history of the universe. If you have Holthusens from Calumet County, Wisconsin, we’re related. The end.). Mostly, though, I have a bunch of people whose connection I can’t figure out. It’s frustrating. So what I really need is for known cousins to test, so I can triangulate (i.e. see who we have in common, which tells me which line we might be related on). But I can’t even begin to imagine how weird it is to get a request like that if you’re not a genealogist.

Right now Family Tree DNA is running a special through 31 December where you do the $99 Family Finder test, and they give you a gift certificate for $100 to a restaurant website (which they started exactly two days AFTER I ordered a kit for one agreeable cousin, so that sucked). Family Tree DNA is by far my favorite site for ease-of-use, so that works for me. I’m figuring out which cousins I want to approach, then telling them if they do the test they can keep the restaurant gift certificate. I’m hoping that’s enough of a lure to get at least a couple of them to test, because having someone to triangulate against would be a HUGE help on a number of these lines.

Have you approached non-genealogy cousins and asked them to do a DNA test? What sort of reaction did you get?

DISCLAIMER: I have no connection to Family Tree DNA, other than as a customer who likes the fact that they have a triangulation too. I wish Ancestry and 23andMe had one. This whole exercise is kind of futile without it. 

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