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Beginners => Family History Beginners Board => Topic started by: Umm Merlin on Sunday 01 March 20 14:52 GMT (UK)

Title: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Sunday 01 March 20 14:52 GMT (UK)
Hello there,

Well, after what has been a long, frustrating, blind (at times) search for my biological grandmother and her family, I have finally found who I hope is my mother's living sister.

Bit of a back story: My mother was adopted back in the 1940s (long story..) and never knew her mother until her adopted mother passed away and her adopted father gave her some family history. The search to find her biological family began. This was some 25 years ago. Since then, and very sadly since the passing of my mother in 1999, I have been off and on researching, trying to piece together the puzzle for her sake. Going with my biological grandfather's details, I was eventually able to undertake detailed research and have just recently found that he had another daughter whose birth details have been confirmed and tally up with my bio grandmother's surname.  (By the way, both of my bio grandparents have passed.)

This find has been totally unexpected.  This missing piece of the jigsaw was put into place when I obtained a copy of my bio grandfather's death certificate - it was signed by his daughter (my 'aunt') and the rest of this puzzle has now unfolded.

Now.. what next? My mother's sister is still alive - she is around 65 and resides in Kent. How on earth would I go about contacting her? I understand this would be an extremely delicate matter, someone contacting you out of the blue announcing, oh I'm your long-lost niece! How does one write such a letter?

I'm not concerned about meeting her face to face (if it happens it's a bonus), I'm more eager to see  photographs of and hear about my grandmother - I feel that then I could be at peace knowing that I did this for my darling mother who always felt there was a piece of her life missing, and at times, was quite overcome with emotion at her sense of loss.

I have also found that she has a 20-odd year old daughter, who has the same middle name as my bio grandmother's first name (I thank the lord that my mother's side of the family has unusual names as it makes searching so much easier!) and her daughter has a Facebook account so I've actually now seen a couple of photographs of my 'aunt'.   My 'aunt' also has a Facebook account though not a great user, it does have a fairly recent entry.

Anyhow, so far I haven't contacted either.  I can't write as the last address I have is for my aunt's (now closed) business on company house and this is 2014, so too old to rely upon.  So it seems the only way is via Facebook but how do I write that initial contact? Should I just say something along the lines of, "Hi, my name's XXX and I've been researching the (surname) family history for over 20 years, I think I may be a (close) relative of yours on my mother's side.." -  how else can I phrase it - what other information should I include in this first contact?   I want to come across as genuine as possible however I don't want to go into a great amount of detail on FB, BUT I do want to give her something to ensure the genuineness and sincerity of my contact so that hopefully she'll respond! There are dubious characters out there on FB and I definitely don't wish to appear like one!   Help?!

(I've also drafted a letter and I have added the facts from my mother's birth certificate and stated that further research shows that my bio grandparents had another daughter... and that I think she may be my mother's sister.. Would it be best NOT to include the details about my mother? Should I also say INSTEAD, 'further research indicates that there MAY be some connection to you'? I just don't know how to say this, it's like walking on eggshells when inside I want to excitedly declare, 'You're my mother's long-lost sister!')

Any suggestions would be most appreciated and I thank you for reading this.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: louisa maud on Sunday 01 March 20 15:56 GMT (UK)
Haven't got any advice but I wish you luck with whatever you do

If it were me I would welcome contact, I have been researching my family for years and have always made contact by letter, everyone replied and was pleased with the contact but I think yours is more delicate,  they may already know and don't know how or what to do,  so, I think I would make contact the way you have suggested but with minimal details  possible , then after a reply give details bit by bit but you have to do it the best way you feel comfortable with.

Have you tried online to see if anyone has their family tree online?

Happy hunting and good luck

Louisa Maud
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Sunday 01 March 20 16:26 GMT (UK)
Hi Louisa,

Many thanks for your response.

My mother's family have unusual surnames and I've not found many trees searching the same, however no-one with the same surname has acknowledged my bio grandmother as being part of their tree.  Whether they choose not to, or genuinely she is not related, I don't know.  Any name similar to my bio aunt comes up just twice so I've written to both tree owners.

I just want to get the phrasing of my intial contact right to pique her interest and not to scare her away LOL..  FB is not ideal but it's all I've got at the moment.

Kind regards,

Stephanie
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: louisa maud on Sunday 01 March 20 16:34 GMT (UK)
If you send another message I can send you a personal message, hopefully

Louisa Maud
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Girl Guide on Sunday 01 March 20 16:43 GMT (UK)
Yes, always rather difficult making that first contact.  Is the surname also unusual or just the christian names?  If the surname is unusual have you tried either the phone book or the 192 website (electoral roll) to try and get a more up to date address?

You seem to know that your aunt resides in Kent so that is a starting point.

Otherwise you will have to take the plunge and make contact via Facebook.  Give your name and say you have been researching whatever the surname is and you think that you may be related.  Would she be interested in assisting or be willing to assist you with your research to confirm the possible relationship. 

As you say just give enough info for her to maybe make the connection herself and then wait and see what response you get.  It will be a gamble.  You will either get dead silence, i.e. no response at all or a who do you think you are contacting me (irritated) or it will be ooo yes tell me more.

From your point of view the last response would be the best.  Family history is full of ups and downs, you win some, you lose some.  You will now have to decide whether to take a gamble and make contact.  Until you do, you won't get any further.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.   :D
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Sunday 01 March 20 17:13 GMT (UK)
Hi GirlGuide,

The surname is unusual however I can't find any electoral information post 2013.  I've tried variations and including her daughter's name however not results for either.

So it seems FB it is.  It's going to be hard to not divulge too much info as the facts simply speak for themselves, with the evidence to back it all up.  When she has the same parents as my mother, and she's given her mother's name as the second name for her daughter, I mean.. what else is there to say! ;-)  She is without question my mother's sister.

Steph

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Girl Guide on Sunday 01 March 20 17:25 GMT (UK)
Well all you can do is take a deep breath, write and wait and see what happens.

Good luck and let us know how you got on.  :)
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Jool on Sunday 01 March 20 17:43 GMT (UK)
It may be better to contact the daughter rather than your "aunt".  If, as you say, your "aunt" is not a regular Facebook user she may not read your message, or she may be suspicious of someone unknown to her making contact and ignore it.

The daughter, as a younger person and a more regular Facebook user, may be more used to unknown people making contact and may respond to your message.

It may also be easier for you to speak to the daughter initially, as she is a little more distant from the story, and she may be able to speak to her mother on your behalf.  It may be better for your "aunt" to hear it from her daughter rather than someone who, at the moment, is a stranger.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Albufera32 on Sunday 01 March 20 17:47 GMT (UK)
I would also recommend contacting the daughter first.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: ThrelfallYorky on Sunday 01 March 20 17:49 GMT (UK)
The first contact via the younger woman sounds the very best way to go forward.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Rena on Sunday 01 March 20 18:26 GMT (UK)
During the course of my family history research I've used British Telecom's website to find people's phone numbers.   Depending on the relationship of the other person to myself I usually give my full name with the appendage of "Mrs", inform them I'm researching family history, and I have a family anecdote (or interesting finding) ready to utter which gives the person on the other end of the phone time to collect themselves and for them to decide whether I'm trying to scam them.

I once found myself 'phoning a lady across the border in Wales, who is not connected to my tree at all.  I'd been pestered for several days with the thought that I should contact this lady, who was a complete stranger and the only reason I knew of her was that several years earlier I'd seen her name in one of my uncles' wills dated 1998.

I used the below url, saw she was still alive, took a deep breath and dialled the number.   I told her my married name, maiden name, where I lived and gave the reason I'd phoned as outlined above; i then offered a few annecdotes to prove that I was actually related to the neighbour she used to help when he grew old. She didn't snap my head off but was just as curious as me as we ticked off a few things such as did the call coincide with an anniversary, or needing some form of helpl etc.    I believe there is an afterlife and I believe somebody up there was prodding me to make contact and thank the lady for what she'd done for him - and that's what I did.

https://www.thephonebook.bt.com/person/
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Rena on Sunday 01 March 20 18:28 GMT (UK)
The first contact via the younger woman sounds the very best way to go forward.

I agree with you about this approach.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: louisa maud on Sunday 01 March 20 20:23 GMT (UK)
My first contact with who I thought was a family member didn't go down very well, there were only  3 adults by the surname in England, I rang one number I got from the  directory , he wasn't happy even though I knew we were connected, I gave him all I knew, next evening I had a phone call from his brother who was very nice to me and confirmed " yes, we are indeed cousins ", an hour later his father contacted me, I arranged to meet him in London as I did his son, we walked around the areas  our grandmother was born, that was 24 years ago, I am still in contact with one son but sadly his father died, they filled in personal information about my grandmothers family, she was 1 of 12  spread over 24 years, seems half didn't know the other half existed, it was a good outcome for me and I have met the cousin several times, I have done all of the research and tell him of any interesting snippets, and oh boy are there some interesting snippets!!

Louisa Maud
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Biggles50 on Sunday 01 March 20 20:35 GMT (UK)
Through this forum a very kind person in Australia found my two long lost Cousins for me after I failed to identify them online or via Australia’s telephone system.

I made Fb contact with them via the Message facility, writing a break the ice message similar to what you propose.

The result is that we are now in regular contact.

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 27 June 20 14:15 BST (UK)
Dear all,

Following my original post, I decided a couple of weeks ago, after months of nervous hesitation, to write and contact my 'aunt's' daughter via FB.  After waiting anxiously, and then feeling that she wouldn't respond, she finally got in touch and asked me for proof.. and left me with no choice but to blurt it all out.  Cutting a long story short, she confirmed that yes, I had found the family, she was my cousin and her mother, my Mum's biological youngest sister.  I have since been in touch with another new cousin, and just a couple of days ago, Mum's sister finally got in touch and we have been communicating each day. 

I have also found out that Mum's eldest sister is still alive at 81 and a few pieces of missing information has been found and I've been able to get closure.    The sad, though not unexpected, part is that Mum was the result of a WW2 liaison and they do not know who her father was.  Her mother's husband's name is on Mum's birth certificate though he is not the father.  He was aware of his wife's dalliance and sadly, forced her to make a very tough decision.  My mother was brought up by another family.   I think my mother was aware of this and there was talk in the family of who the father was although this information is not known to my 'new family'.  Perhaps in time I'll know more surrounding the circumstances.

Meantime, my 'aunt' is happy to know I've found her and even in the first contact, wants us to meet up so I'm very grateful for the positive response.

I have mixed feelings... initially upon finding the family I was very emotional as this is something I had wanted to get closure on for my mother (who died 21 years ago) and now I'm strangely becoming like , oh well - that's that then, especially, I think, surrounding the circumstances and I'm only 'half' a biological relative.  My father, I have to say, is completely uninterested and quite offish with me about it - perhaps he's just being protective still of Mum.

So there's the update!

I'm almost 99.99% sure I would never be able to find my real grandfather and it's not something I'm going to start as there's enough factual family history to continue researching anyway.

Best wishes!
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: brigidmac on Saturday 27 June 20 14:46 BST (UK)
Well done for making contact.  Have you seen any photos of your grandmother yet ?

It's positive for other people searching that you got a good reception into your new family .
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Jool on Saturday 27 June 20 15:04 BST (UK)
Great news that you eventually plucked up the courage to make contact and got a positive response from the family.  Thanks for coming back with the update, we love to hear how things like this turn out  :)
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Ruskie on Saturday 27 June 20 15:13 BST (UK)
Stephanie, what a great outcome.  :)

A DNA test might be worth considering to help you find your biological grandfather.

If you took a test, your father took a test and your new found Aunt also took a test, you could compare any matches and using a process of elimination you may be able to narrow down those who come from your grandfather's side of the family.

You could just take the test yourself, and it may help, but the more people you can test, the better chance you might have.

Most of the companies have regular sales so look out for them and you could save a couple of £s.

Added: Ideally your aunt should take the test as she and your Mum have the same mother.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 27 June 20 15:29 BST (UK)
Thanks for all your responses...

No, I haven't seen any photos of my grandmother yet though my aunt has said she will try to find some.  I've seen photos of my elder aunt who my cousin says Mum resembles.

Tracing my biological grandfather... how does this work with my aunt involved as she is definitely her father's daughter unlike my mother.  I don't think I'm going to go down this path as if the information we have in my family is correct, then my biological grandfather's surname is the most common name in the UK ;-)  whereas, fortunately, all the family on my grandmother's side is quite uncommon and easier to trace relatives.

Thanks everyone and best wishes!

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: IgorStrav on Saturday 27 June 20 15:45 BST (UK)
Unless you do manage to find any clues from your newly discovered family, then it may only be using DNA matches which will resolve your search.

Have you taken a DNA test?  Even if you do, there is no guarantee, of course, that members of your biological grandfather's family will have done the same.

But at least this means is open to researchers now.

 
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Ruskie on Saturday 27 June 20 15:49 BST (UK)
Your mother and your aunt have the same mother but different fathers.

If you and your aunt take a DNA test, you should have common matches which come from her mother/your grandmother's side of the family.

She will have matches which come from her father's side of the family. You won't match with any of these people.

You will have different matches that come from your unknown grandfather's side of the family. Your aunt won't match with any of these people.

The surname of your biological grandfather being common probably doesn't matter. You may still have matches to his side of the family.

Quite a lot of people have success finding biological family after adoption/illegitimacy etc through DNA testing. Just something to keep in mind which might help you.  :)

Added: Igor is correct - results/good matches are by no means guaranteed (but you will definitely get some matches). You may have to wait for useful matches to trickle in as more and more people are testing. If you can afford to take the tests, you have nothing to lose.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: ThrelfallYorky on Saturday 27 June 20 16:03 BST (UK)
Congratulations on being brave enough to "Take that plunge". We so often - especially researching Family History, come to regret the things NOT done or asked  far more than the things done / asked. I do hope that your researches continue to move the tale forward - and thank you also for taking the trouble to update us all on your story - we do all tend to get a bit involved, as a topic develops. Good luck.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: emeraldcity on Monday 29 June 20 01:51 BST (UK)
Thanks for all your responses...

No, I haven't seen any photos of my grandmother yet though my aunt has said she will try to find some.  I've seen photos of my elder aunt who my cousin says Mum resembles.

Tracing my biological grandfather... how does this work with my aunt involved as she is definitely her father's daughter unlike my mother.  I don't think I'm going to go down this path as if the information we have in my family is correct, then my biological grandfather's surname is the most common name in the UK ;-)  whereas, fortunately, all the family on my grandmother's side is quite uncommon and easier to trace relatives.

Thanks everyone and best wishes!

Definitely take a DNA test (with Ancestry since they have the biggest database). It all depends on how many people on the mystery side have tested, but even at bare minimum you'll definitely get leads to go on via your matches. If you'd like any help with this in the future do PM me as I managed to trace an unknown biological grandparent through exactly these means!
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 25 July 20 21:11 BST (UK)
Well folks, there has been a few Whatsapp messages back and forth with my aunt and a total of four photographs from her, one of my grandmother, two of my great grandmother and one of my great great grandparents.  Meantime, I've provided her many of my mother, and several photographs of her great uncles (which I was able to find by trawling google), which was very interesting for her.  The only additional information I've learned from her is that my great great grandparents were both vets.  I did send a list of questions that I asked, that if she had time, would she be able answer, concerning my mother and GGparents as that would really help me with my research going back further which she said she would do but so far I've not received anything from her.

What's been disappointing for me has been the lack of interest in my mother, their sister - hardly any questions about my mother's life, who she was, what she did, etc. etc. but at the end of the day - she would have been their step-sister so perhaps this is why,  And for my aunt, I may be her niece yet I'm still a stranger .. might have been a completely different story if my mother were still alive.   It seems their initial interest in this family 'novelty' (aka me) has worn off and it's now just like.. meh. 

The main point is that I obtained closure for my mother and I shall simply get back to researching her family history purely as a hobby now.   I won't press to meet the family - that was never my intention, nor my suggestion - that came from my aunt, and to be honest, I don't quite see the purpose.  I have contacted her again today about the questions and to ask if she has a colour photograph of my grandmother but I'm not expecting a response.  I think the communication will just drift off now which is fine, I understand - she's busy with her own life and family. 

We all have different experiences and this is mine.  Perhaps this is not so unusual though?
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Biggles50 on Sunday 26 July 20 12:16 BST (UK)
Sort of sad update but not unexpected, people can be fickle.

I would echo the suggestions of undertaking a DNA test.

It opens up a whole new world of expansion of your Family Tree and can confirm branches which you may have thought to be tenuous at best.

It also helps to give a more thorough understanding of the evolution and migration of your family.

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 08 August 20 16:48 BST (UK)
Hi Biggles,

Thanks for your response.

I've since sent another request to my aunt asking her to kindly complete my questionnaire but nothing.  It's a shame because I've come across a brick wall with my research and if she would spend just 2 mins to give me the first names of my GGgrandparents then that query would be resolved.  It's frustrating and very disappointing as I was hoping she could shed light on several queries I have, not only about my mother's situation but also further family history.

In the meantime, you mention getting a DNA test - I'm sure this has been asked many times but what's the recommended one - I think it has to be between Ancestry or My Heritage.

Thanks!

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: IgorStrav on Saturday 08 August 20 17:06 BST (UK)
Hi Biggles,

Thanks for your response.

I've since sent another request to my aunt asking her to kindly complete my questionnaire but nothing.  It's a shame because I've come across a brick wall with my research and if she would spend just 2 mins to give me the first names of my GGgrandparents then that query would be resolved.  It's frustrating and very disappointing as I was hoping she could shed light on several queries I have, not only about my mother's situation but also further family history.

In the meantime, you mention getting a DNA test - I'm sure this has been asked many times but what's the recommended one - I think it has to be between Ancestry or My Heritage.

Thanks!

If there is anything that the RC community can do in breaking down your 'brick wall' or suggesting ways round it, without your aunt's confirmation of first names of your greatx2 grandparents, there are many people here who'd be happy to help.

I've often been amazed by ability of people here to 'think out of the box' and also find sources I'd never have thought of, let alone find.  :D :D :D

Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Biggles50 on Saturday 08 August 20 17:12 BST (UK)
I have been on Ancestry for quite a few years and we did their DNA test, which btw is always worth looking out for when they have cut price offers if you plan on taking a test.

Initially we did not have much response but over time we got more and more matches.

I have not done anything for two weeks and in that time I now have 12 new matches which have a distant Common Ancestor.

I do have one close match but she has no tree.

Hence even if you get a close match you need them to respond to the contact message.

Having an online accessible Family Tree can help in that Ancestry will give you DNA hints of a pathway if others have trees.

Hence it can be hit and miss and a waiting game but it is the only chance you have of filling in the blanks.

Once you have the results uploading them to matching sites will improve the chances of a match being given, but do remember that a match can be along any branch.

Good luck with whatever action you decide.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 08 August 20 17:33 BST (UK)
Hello Igor,

Thank you for your kind response.

Despite researching my family history for many years, I'm basically a newbie on the various genealogy sites and have not used them before to assist with my research, more's the pity as undoubtedly there's a lot of very valuable people on here with a wealth of information and resources available.

Where would I begin in asking people for help - guidance would be appreciated :-)  Fortunately the surname brings few results which in theory should make it an easy wall to break down.  I'm 90% sure I have my GGmother's first name if only it could be confirmed by my aunt!   There are early records for a woman from Yorkshire and a later record for another in Reading - I don't know which person would be my great great grandmother, or whether she is the same and the family simply moved south in later years.

QQ - what might be the reason for no census record from 1801 to say 1911?  I thought that if I could find a a census for the family with a daughter that matches the information to that of my great grandmother then that would be the brick wall smashed.. but it's not been as easy as that.  This is where I'm stuck.

If only my aunt were more willing to communicate it might be much more fruitful but I fear that's a closed door now which is a great shame.  Nothing of my doing, I hasten to add.
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: Umm Merlin on Saturday 08 August 20 17:35 BST (UK)
I have been on Ancestry for quite a few years and we did their DNA test, which btw is always worth looking out for when they have cut price offers if you plan on taking a test.

Initially we did not have much response but over time we got more and more matches.

I have not done anything for two weeks and in that time I now have 12 new matches which have a distant Common Ancestor.

I do have one close match but she has no tree.

Hence even if you get a close match you need them to respond to the contact message.

Having an online accessible Family Tree can help in that Ancestry will give you DNA hints of a pathway if others have trees.

Hence it can be hit and miss and a waiting game but it is the only chance you have of filling in the blanks.

Once you have the results uploading them to matching sites will improve the chances of a match being given, but do remember that a match can be along any branch.

Good luck with whatever action you decide.

Hi again Biggles... thanks for your response.

I've got my main research on Genes Reunited as I think at the time I seemed to prefer their format (and was probably cheaper!! ;-)  Would I be able to download Ancestry's results into that website? 
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: brigidmac on Saturday 08 August 20 19:37 BST (UK)
Its good to know that youve made progress

Just wanted to add if you do decide to do dna even tho your grandfather has a common sur name if he was American you may find second cousins in USA who dont have any other obvious  connection to UK and you may be their only british match so that narrows things down .

Also I agree that rootschatters will be able to help you identify ancestors of your vetinary ancestors ....you could post  their names on occupations boards without having to identify your connection if you are worried about upsetting anyone
Title: Re: Found new living relative
Post by: IgorStrav on Saturday 08 August 20 22:15 BST (UK)
"Hello Igor,

Thank you for your kind response.

Despite researching my family history for many years, I'm basically a newbie on the various genealogy sites and have not used them before to assist with my research, more's the pity as undoubtedly there's a lot of very valuable people on here with a wealth of information and resources available.

Where would I begin in asking people for help - guidance would be appreciated :-) "

You are most welcome  ;D

I would suggest you approach this in the simplest way, by summarising what you do know and the sources you've found (if any), and if there is an appropriate location for these, simply posting a request for further research on the appropriate board. 

If no general location, post on the Common Room board.

The only rules are that the people mentioned should not be now living.

I lurk around these boards frequently, but am not always quick (or expert) enough to make huge contributions, but I was thrilled recently to assist in a search which found some relatives for someone who had been looking for years without success.  It was some guesswork, followed by more theorising, and then further great record finds which tracked down and confirmed a marriage via a familiar address......

Can I add, it's also often very useful to summarise what you do know.