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Contacting strangers -Advice please?

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Eleanor Report 18 Sep 2012 14:13

My OH suggested I should ask for advice regarding contacting strangers for information!

I've managed to find the address of someone who I think could be the daughter of my grandmother's first husband. She is not a blood relative, but I wanted to find out if she had any information about my grandmother. (The details are all on my thread 'Help! Stuck with Watkins/Beddington').

Is it ok to contact this woman 'out of the blue' when she is not actually a relative and if I do, should I use my real address or a friend's?

What are your thoughts please?

Thanks, Eleanor.


Flip Report 18 Sep 2012 14:34

Hi Eleanor,

I'm no expert, but would advise you to take things cautiously, double check your facts & back your research up with certificates so you know what you are dealing with. Also, think about the age of the person you are intending to contact and is she likely to know about her fathers other family? Think what you are likely to achieve from contact, and is it worth it?

Not sure I would get a friend involved, if there is trouble from you contacting the person that will give grief to the friend. However, don't use a PO box, that would put most people off. Personally I'd use my own address, but would think twice about including my phone number.

If writing to her, only give the bare minimum information for her to identify to it - that way you are not putting ideas/memories in her head.

Good luck



Adeline Report 18 Sep 2012 15:49

When my husband has written to someone he thinks could have family information, he has always enclosed a stamped addressed envelope for a possible reply. He has also explained his relationship to the person he is interested in and that his only purpose in writing is to fill in gaps in his family history.


Robert Report 18 Sep 2012 16:17

When I have written to people about my Tree and research. I have been honest with them . I write a covering letter, telling why i writing, what my research has found, my conclusions and ive always enclose supporting evidents, such as a the part of my tree were they fit in and copies of any certs. and i aways explain what i require from them. and i always give them the option to decline. I always send them a SAE and i always state i will cover any cost they encure and i also offer to share with them an futher research. concerning them and there family, above all else be polite and never be pushy. your be surprized how many will co-operate with you


Eleanor Report 18 Sep 2012 18:47

Thanks for all the good advice!

I wrote a letter a couple of weeks ago, and have been unsure about sending it. Thanks Flip for suggesting I check the facts...I'll double check the lady is who I think she is!

I'll enclose an SAE as suggested and make sure there is no ambiguity over the reason for the letter. This is a very long shot to try and find out about my grandmother, but I'm pretty much out of ideas.

Thanks for the help!



DazedConfused Report 19 Sep 2012 12:36

I have recently done just what you are thinking about.

I have found relatives of my cousins half brother (no blood connection).

I wrote them a letter, explained who I was and what I was hoping to find out. I enclosed an sae.

Sadly 3 months down the line I have received no reply.

Sometimes these things are really down to the luck of the draw. If the person you write to in interested in their family history you might be more lucky. Also the 'history' of this branch could be 'troubled' and thus any letter could be raking up old wounds.

It is a difficult thing to do, but as long as any letter you write is written in a subdued form (it is easy to get over enthusiastic). Then I would write.

I have even found a phone number and called, luckily the family I called were really keen to learn more about their family.

Good luck


Andysmum Report 19 Sep 2012 15:24

I was on the receiving end of one of these phone calls last year. The caller was obviously ringing everyone in the local phone book with our surname!! The first name was not ours and I did my best to help, but it took a long time to find out why she was ringing me.

In these days of cold-calling people trying to sell you what you don't want, may I suggest that if you do ring strangers you work out what you are going to say and make it clear, straight away, that you are not trying a "hard sell".

Having said that, I think it's a good idea and, like PigletsPal, you might strike gold.

Good luck.


DazedConfused Report 22 Sep 2012 15:07

The only reason I was able to phone is that I had ordered a death certificate from the 1980's (to verify a name) and the address was unusual and when I looked on BT phone book it appeared that the family still lived there.

And when I phoned I was very clear about my reason for calling. It was a wonderful experience and I was very lucky. :-)


Eleanor Report 3 Dec 2012 09:32

I sent my letter over two months reply so far. It looks like my search to find more info on my grandmother has really come to a halt now.

Thanks to you all for your advice and good luck with your family searches.