You might be forgiven for thinking that everyone's life is now an open book. The growth of social networking sites seems to have spawned a generation who live their lives without a shred of privacy. However, not everyone wishes to have their name splashed all over the internet or indeed their local paper. Your new relationship with a cousin might be ruined before it starts if you don't apply a little discretion to your approach.
- Don't publish a living person's name - just don't! It may seem like the most direct route to finding a cousin, but it can cause embarrassment and resentment.
- I'll just say that again - don't publish a living person's name. Even worse, don't add details like their age and their parents' names. You will be causing a serious security risk to their identity. They won't like you, with good reason!
- Do use the names of deceased relatives, preferably only if they passed away some time ago. Most people will recognise the names of their grandparents, particularly if you give a brief biography of them, and won't be offended. If you choose to mention their deceased parents, particularly if they passed away recently, you may find some raw emotions.
- Be tactful and sensitive. For instance, I finally found a cousin I had been tracking. Sadly, I found him through his funeral notice, the funeral having taken place two days previously. I could have contacted the funeral directors and had a message passed on to his family, but really ...even if I was prepared to intrude upon their grief, would I have received a warm welcome? I left it, and in fact we received contact from his brother a couple of weeks later via an old GenWeb forum message.
- If you write to a prospective cousin directly, apologise for in advance for contacting them in the event that you have the wrong person.
- Don't make comments about other family members - your branch of the family may find Great-Aunt Agatha a standing joke, and it may seem amusing to share the joke, but she may have been cherished by other relatives.
- Be prepared to share what you have, don't just plunder other people's research.
- However, be aware that not everyone shares our passion for family history and be prepared to back off - don't bombard people with information.
Good example of a post on a Genealogy message board:
I am looking for the descendants of Edwin Brown. Edwin was born in Bristol, UK in 1894 to Richard Henry Brown and Ellen Warren. He was the 8th of their 11 children. The family lived at 198 Wells Road where they had a butcher's shop. Edwin served with the St John Ambulance in WW1 and took over the family business in 1926. In this year he also married Mattie Irene Owen. The couple retired to Dorset.
Edwin Brown definitely had one daughter, Pauline. She married in 1954 and moved to Rutland. I believe that she had two children. Within the last few years Pauline has moved to New Zealand with her daughter.
My interest in finding Pauline is that I am the granddaughter of Edwin's youngest brother, Philip Brown.
This post gives enough information about the family for Pauline or any of her close family to recognise her, without actually giving her full name or date of birth. If she or her family were searching online they would be most likely to Google for Edwin or Mattie's names or that of Edwin's parents, so the post has a chance to be found. The post ends with the reason they are being sought.