Family History Episode 15 – More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Originally published 2009
Republished January 21, 2014

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh15.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 15: Genealogy Cold Calling II: 14 Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives

Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that call.

In today’s episode we talk about the skill of “genealogical cold calling.” Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying. We’ll chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.

But first, we do some follow up with an email from a listener about family trees. Then, I share a little story that puts into practice what we’ve learned so far in this podcast series.

 14  Steps to Genealogical Cold Calling Success 

#1. Identify the person you want to call.

#2. Locate the person’s phone number. Below are some great websites for locating people you don’t know. The list is updated from the one given in the show. And Whowhere.com now has an app for Android, iPhone and other mobile devices. Check it out

Don’t forget to search the entire metro area, not just one city. Try just searching their first name particularly if it’s not a really common first name. Try and track down their number through other relatives or researchers. If all else fails consider posting on a message board for the surname

#3. Prepare ahead for making the call.

Every tough job gets just a little easier when you do your homework first. Follow these tips:

  • Take into account a possible difference in time zones.
  • Choose a time when you are not too rushed
  • Do a brief review of the family you are researching so it’s fresh in your mind
  • Make note of specific questions you would like to ask.
  • Have your genealogy software program open or your written notes at your fingertips.

#4. Get up the “nerve” to call.
Remind yourself how valuable this person’s information could be to your research.  If he or she is quite elderly, remember that none of us will be around here forever so you need to make the call today! Say to yourself:  “I can do this.  This is important!”   And be positive and remember, all they can do is say “no thank you.”

#5. Introduce yourself.
Give your first & last name & tell them the town and state where you live.  Then tell them the family connection that you share, and tell them who referred them to you or how you located them before launching into why you’re calling or what you want.

#6. Overcome reluctant relatives.

Be ready to share what you’ve learned, and to share your own memories of a relative that you have in common.  Mention something of particular interest in the family tree that might pique their interest.

If they are very hesitant you could offer to mail them some information and offer to call back once they’ve had a chance to look at it. That way they can sort of get their bearings too.

#7. What to do during the call
You’ll want to take notes during the phone call.  Try a headset which will help to free up your hands for writing. Handwriting is preferably over typing.

Take the opportunity to not just get new information but also to confirm information that you already have–just to make sure it’s correct.

If you have a way to record the call, you don’t have to take notes and focus all of your attention on the conversation, and then transcribe the recording later. If you want to record, ask permission: in some places, it’s illegal to record a conversation without permission and it’s common courtesy to say you’re taping them. But it might put off a stranger; perhaps taping could wait until a second call.

#8. Leave a detailed voice mail message if there’s no answer.
State your name and that you would like to talk with them about the family history.  Leave your phone number and tell them that you will call them back. Consider leaving your email address and suggesting they email you with a convenient time to call back.

Be sure and keep track in your genealogy database each time you call and what messages you leave. Having a log of calls and voice mail messages you’ve left will help you keep track.

#9. “Must-ask” questions.

  • “Do you or anyone else in the family have any old family photographs, or a family Bible?
  • (Reassure the person that you would only be interested in obtaining copies of any pictures or mementos they might have.)
  • “Do you know anyone else in the family who has been doing family research?”
  • “May I have your permission to cite you as a source in print in the future?”
  • “Is it OK with you if I keep in touch from time to time?”

#10.  Wrap up the call.

  • Ask for their mailing address and email address.
  • Offer to give them your address and phone number.
  • Let them know you would be pleased to hear from them if they come across any other information, pictures, etc.

#11. Document the call. 

Sit down at the computer or your notepad right away and make detailed notes about the phone conversation while it’s fresh in your mind. Include the person’s name, address, phone number and date of conversation. Make notes regarding any items you think may be questionable to remind you to go back and do more research on those points. At the bottom of the page list the ACTION items that come to mind that you want to follow up on based on the conversation. Enter their contact information into your genealogy database as well as your email contact list.

#12. Enter new information Into your genealogy database. 

This is a must. Do it right away while it’s on your mind.

#13. Create an action item list. 

Create action items based on what you learned.  Ask yourself “What are the logical next steps to take considering what you’ve learned through this interview?”  The call is not the end result, it’s a step in the research process, and it can really help to make this list now, and while it’s fresh in your mind.

#14.  Follow up. 

Send the person a written note or email thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. If the person mentioned that they would look for pictures or would look up something in a family Bible etc., mention in your note that you would still be interested in anything they can help you with and that you would be glad to pay any copying expenses, postage etc. Offer to provide copies of your information or copies of pictures you have etc. You never know: they might catch the genealogy bug and become your new research partner!

Next, put their birthday on your calendar and send them a card on their next birthday.  It’s another way of keeping the connection going and expressing that you really do appreciate all their help. Try this service: Birthday Alarm.

Occasionally make a follow up call to check in and see how they are doing, share any new family items she’s come across recently, and ask if they have they heard or found anything else.

100 Years Ago Today in Newspapers

Spring is in the air, as it was 100 years ago today. On May 14, 1913 the Omaha Daily Bee, the front page sported a comic depicting the eternal struggle of suburban life – fighting weeds in an effort to achieve the perfect lawn.

May 14, 1913

(Omaha daily bee., May 14, 1913, Weekly Market Review Edition, Image 1 Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922)

You can view the digitized paper featuring “Mr. Suburbs” at the Chronicling America website, along with digitized papers ranging from 1836 – 1922.

To learn more about using newspapers to climb your family tree grab a copy of my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.

 

 

 

National Archives and Digital Public Library of America

The National Archives announced recently that it will help with the first pilot project of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

According to the National Archives’ press release, “The DPLA is a large-scale, collaborative project across government, research institutions, museums, libraries and archives to build a digital library platform to make America’s cultural and scientific history free and publicly available anytime, anywhere, online through a single access point.

“The DPLA is working with several large digital content providers – including the National Archives and Harvard University – to share digitized content from their online catalogs for the project’s two-year Digital Hubs Pilot Project.  This pilot project is scheduled to launch on April 18-19, 2013 at the Boston Public Library, which will host an array of festivities, including presentations and interactive exhibits showcasing content from the DPLA’s content partners.  The DPLA will include 1.2 million digital copies from the National Archives catalog, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and documents that define our human and civil rights.”

If you’re like me, you’re wondering what genealogically-interesting documents will have a home on the DPLA. There’s a great blog post on the DPLA site that talks about partnerships with state and regional digital libraries, including the Kentucky Digital Library, which has more than 800,000 pageHitting the Mark!s of newspapers, and over half a million pages of “books,  photographs, archival materials, maps, oral histories and pages of other paginated publications.”

NOW we’re talking! The DPLA will certainly be a resource worth watching!

Episode 143 – Mobile Scanning, Heroic Stories, and Old Postcards

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In this episode you will hear how one man’s passion for geography and history were saved from destruction, and you’ll find out what a portable scanner can do for your genealogy research and mobility.

My Latest Travels

I wrapped up my recent round of travels last week with a trip to Sumner, Washington where I spoke at the Autumn Quest Annual Seminar sponsored by the Heritage Quest Library. It was a packed room and we spent the day talking about how to find your family history in newspapers, using Google Earth for Genealogy, how to find living relatives and most importantly how to save your research from destruction.

There seemed to be a bit of serendipity involved in this particular speaking engagement, which was booked many many months ago. Recently Bill’s mom made the big move to a lovely retirement home and she really wanted her kids to get together and go through the house and pick up the items they wanted to keep, and then prepare the house to be rented out. As it turned out, amazingly enough, this was the ideal weekend to corral all four kids together to do that before the renovations on the house started.

So after Saturday’s seminar, on Sunday we all got together and although my mother in law was very happy to have moved and really wanted to the kids to do this, it was just hard to get started. Since I didn’t grow up in the house it was a little easier for me to see the task at hand from more of a practical point of view, and I was sort of nominated to guide the process. And it actually worked out really well. Everyone was very comfortable with how the remaining items were divided up, and there were lots of family photos to go around.

I was fortunate enough to receive my mother-in-laws father’s original Royal Typewriter. I think it’s probably from about 1910 and is in pristine condition. It’s all cleaned up and in my studio now inspiring me to continuing writing and blogging. And I also received a small journal with the handwritten life stories of her parents. So I have my work cut out assembling the stories and photos and I hope to get some coffee table books printed as well as do a video that the family can enjoy. We’ll see if I can get that done in time for Christmas.

I’m sure many of you listening have also gone through this process of closing down a parent’s household. If you have an interesting story, or came across an unexpected gem email me or call and leave your story on the voice mail line at 925-272-4021 and I might just share it on an upcoming episode.

Geographic History Saved

Now I mentioned to you that I taught the class Save Your Research from Destruction, and though that title may sound a bit over dramatic, time and time again it proves accurate.

One example is a story I recently came across originally in the LA Times

Quote: “I think there are at least a million maps here,” he said. “This dwarfs our collection — and we’ve been collecting for 100 years.”

Thank goodness there are folks like Matthew Greenberg, who came to the rescue of a century of old maps. He’s my hero!

Click Here to See it for Yourself

GEM: Interview with Gordon Nuttall of Couragent, Inc. and the Flip-Pal

I’ve been a longtime fan of the Flip-Pal portable scanner and I use mine all the time. You’ve probably heard me mention it before on the show, and I often have specials on the Support the Podcast page on my website where you can save money, and at the same time your purchase helps to support this free podcast. Over the years I have received questions from many of you who are trying to decide if it really makes sense to get a portable scanner, and wanting to better understand what it can do for you and how to use it. So I decided it is about time to get all the answers together for you in one podcast gem. And who better to get those answers from than the inventor himself,
Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc., the company behind the Flip-Pal.

Use this link to Flip-Pal and use the special codes below:

“Carry On!” promotion: Save $20 when you purchase a Flip-Pal mobile scanner plus a Deluxe Flip-Pal mobile scanner Carry Case with Pocket, valid October 1-December 31, 2012. Promotion Code: C412A (Please place both items in your shopping cart first before using the promotion code)

“The Suite Life!” special: Purchase a Flip-Pal mobile scanner with Digital Creativity Suite 3.0 DVD and get a Flip-Pal mobile scanner Cleaning Cloth and Flip-Pal Window Protector Sheets 3-Pk FREE!, valid October 1-December 31, 2012. Promotion Code: TSL12A (Please place all items in your shopping cart first before using the promotion code)

These promotional codes cannot be used in conjunction with other promotion codes.

Thank you for helping make the free Genealogy Gems Podcast possible!

Just a Few More Things

Internet and Computer Prediction video

Premium Episode 93 – Evernote

Premium Video: How the Genealogist can Remember Everything with Evernote

Check out this episode

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