What happens when you discover a new cousin through DNA? You may find exciting family photos and information. You might even be able to meet that individual who shares your family history. I had the pleasure of meeting my cousin, Patty Hoskins, last month. We connected through Ancestry DNA and today I’m sharing 3 tips to help you connect with your DNA cousins.
Tip # 1 Reach out to your DNA matches. If you’ve tested with AncestryDNA, you’ll see the option to “send message” to your cousin once you click on “view match” from the AncestryDNA results page. The other DNA testing companies also have options to send a message to a match. I created a spreadsheet on Google Sheets to track my matches, when I sent a message, their connection, and their email.
I sent messages to my closest matches, those who are probably 2nd or 3rd cousins. Since we share a great or 2nd great grandparent, there is a limit to the number of possible surnames we would share in our family trees. I had determined the matches on my paternal side and sent a message asking if any of the 8 surnames were familiar.
The message I sent was “Hi, I see that you are a very close match on my paternal line and wanted to touch base to see how we’re related. My Shults line has these surnames: Harris, Royston, Frazier, Briscoe, Welch, Weatherford, and Isenhour. ”
To date, I’ve only heard back from a small fraction of those I initially contacted. But one who did reply was a goldmine of information. My dad passed away six years ago and I had been wishing I was in contact with more Shults cousins. With DNA help my wish came true when Patty Hoskins sent me the following message.
Yes, the Royston and Isenhauer are very familiar names. My grandmother was a Shults, and her parents were William Houston Shults and Dora Algie Royston. I have just returned from a trip to California where I visited several Shults cousins. How are you related? Let me know. Patty
When I received this message, I did the genealogy happy dance and immediately responded. A few messages later we had figured out our connection.
Tip #2 Discover your connection. If you haven’t yet started gathering information on your living relatives, this is the time to start. The best place to store data on the living is in your genealogy software such as Rootsmagic or Legacy. Because FamilySearch and Ancestry are not great places to list living relatives this might be the right time for you to download a free version of a software program that allows you to put in your aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
My dad had written numerous letters to relatives and when he gave me all of his papers in 2003, it included a lot of living descendants, my 2nd and 3rd cousins. As soon as my DNA match, Patty Hoskins, identified herself as a descendant of William Huston Shults and her grandmother as Lola, I knew what family line she came through. I quickly looked her up in my Ancestral Quest software and was able to pinpoint our exact connection.
Tip #3 Get ready to share. What information on the family would your cousin appreciate? Photos? Stories? Research findings? Patty and I emailed several times and I sent her links to blog posts I had written about the Shults family, as well as my four generation research report starting with our mutual great grandmother, Dora Algie Royston. Patty responded that she had photos and family group records to share with me. I was thrilled when she mentioned that she was coming to Utah and would like to meet for lunch.
I invited Patty and her husband, Dave, to my home and dug out scrapbooks, photo albums, and the like. She brought her collection of photos and with my Flip Pal scanner I was able to scan the photos right then and there.
Patty solved the questions I had about my great grandfather’s suicide. The story didn’t get passed down in my family and I wanted to know more details. At the age of 78 he was suffering from crippling arthritis and in a great deal of pain. He had also been a widower for thirty years and with his children raised and on their own, he felt it was time for him to go. Patty’s grandmother, Lola, found him and the note he left for his “dear children.” Patty later sent me a transcription of the note and it meant the world to me to put to rest my questions.
Her photo album included a news article about his death, the funeral program, and the photo below of our shared great grandparents, William Huston Shults and Dora Algie Royston. Dora died in 1925 at the age of 43 and I have few photos of her, so this is a treasure.
When I first learned of a Shults DNA match, I was excited, but had no idea what precious photos and information I would gain from my new cousin. Patty also has put me in contact with other 2nd cousins and together we hope to track down this generation. With the help of DNA, we just might be able to do so.
Best of luck in finding your DNA cousins!