Sunday, November 1, 2015
Or On the Verge of Junk Mail?
There comes a time when a researcher borders upon the feeling of being overwhelmed and hits upon what is surely the ingenious discovery of processing efficiency.
Face it: I have 940 matches in my DNA files—most of them, thanks to those prolific colonial American roots of my mother (with, so far, 5,865 in her tree, up 197 from the previous check, half a month ago). Even though his was a later arrival on the immigrant American scene, my husband is now up to 533 DNA matches—some of those maternal-line Germans, after all, got an early start in this immigration business, too. (His mother's tree sports a total of 2,375 names, an increase of 107 since the last count in October).
Despite those many supposed distant relatives in our DNA accounts, we're not making much headway on confirming connections. In the last half month, I managed to send out contact emails to a mere five matches. On the flip side, I received none. Not one. Neither from my husband's ancestral connections nor from my own.
If I'm ever going to make progress with these alleged cousins, I'm going to have to get a grip here. Though the numbers go up oh, so slowly each week—since my last count in mid October, six more matches were added to my DNA results, and four to my husband's—they do eventually mount up. I'm not even keeping up with that upward statistical creep.
Last week, I encountered something unusual: five people matching a specific segment on the same specific chromosome on my husband's results. I've run into something like that before—but in that case, all the individuals had one administrator handling their accounts. Each was part of the same family and had been asked to participate by an impressively motivated genealogical researcher.
But this time, the case was different. None of the five individuals were linked to the same email address. While two of them shared the same surname, the other three didn't match that name—or any of each other's names, for that matter.
I could have sat down and composed a letter, send it individually to each one—with the requisite editing to personalize to each lone recipient—or I could try something different.
I went the "something different" route. I sent a group email. Surely, I figured, if each one matched each other, as I could plainly see in my chromosome browser (shown below, with each colored bar in the diagram representing one individual's match relative to my husband's on that specific chromosome location, as provided at Family Tree DNA), then each one of them already has the others' information in their own records, as well.
My thinking was that if all six of them matched the other five in the group, then if we put our minds together to figure this puzzle out, the synergy might yield faster results for all of us. After all, we are talking matches around the level of third cousin. That can't be too challenging for the likes of genealogists!
On the other hand, I had my doubts. Somehow, getting the hang of hitting "reply all" instead of "reply" seems to be foreign to some people. This might not work, in the long run, thanks to a mere clerical technicality.
More than that, however, was that vague sense of becoming a genealogy spammer—you know, the junk mail junkie who thinks that all one has to do to curry up business is buy a gigantic mailing list and churn out tons of email hype.
I didn't want to become "that guy."
To make matters worse, I have, actually, been the recipient of one of those group are-you-my-cousin email letters. When I received it, it was...well, let's say it was a less than satisfactory experience. It came across as demanding—here, now you have my information (lacking the exact name on the test results, of course), so look yourself up and let me know how we connect—and in the end wasn't even a productive approach. Well, at least not for me. (As I discovered, once I figured out whose test name belonged to the writer and looked back in my own records, I had already emailed this person—individually—quite a while back with no satisfactory outcome. It was as if that person hadn't even bothered to acknowledge the request sent the first time.)
So I can hardly believe I decided taking this route would be forgivable by others. But I did.
So far, two of the recipients were gracious enough to respond. One was an administrator for someone else's case—which is fine; after all, that's exactly what I'm doing for my husband's results. Each seemed willing to work together to find the joint answer to our relationships.
The other three? No answer so far. Which makes me vacillate between wondering how many DNA test recipients are in this because of the genealogy and how many just want to chase those colorful map diagrams of where they "came from" sometime before the earth's crust really cooled.
Worse, those two silent ones make me worry that I'm coming across like a spammer. Too impersonal. For something as private as our own DNA readouts, does it push the envelope to invite a group to put their heads together collectively to muddle through the joint connection?