Connect and Communicate with New Relatives
When you start to expand your family tree, you will find new relatives. Here are some ideas and resources to help find and communicate with relatives that you think may have your genetic variant. There are many ways to find and connect with others, so don't be afraid to change your approach, especially if you encounter a dead end with one method. Once you connect with one new relative and share information about your variant, the disease risk, and how they can get testing, you can ask the relative to help you find other relatives so you can continue spreading awareness about your family's inherited disease risk.
You may not know how to reach a relative that you have identified directly, but perhaps you know someone who does, or you know someone who knows someone who does. As you start to build this network, you’ll likely meet new relatives and may identify someone else who doesn’t know that they could be at increased risk for inherited disease. Even in a world that seems to be dominated by social media, a phone number or address and a direct conversation may be your strongest tool.
Public Searches for Contact Information
Some phone numbers and physical addresses are listed publicly. Public “people search engines” can sometimes provide you with phone numbers or physical addresses for people given only their names. However, if their names are common, make sure they're the relatives you're looking for. Also, be considerate and cautious when contacting them, as they likely are not anticipating hearing from you.
Some people's search engines and helpful sites are listed below.
White Pages – A free widely used people search engine.
Addresses.com – Another free people search engine.
Pipl.com – A comprehensive free people search engine.
FamilyLinks – A service of the Red Cross intended to help put family members in touch who have been separated by crises.
Cyndi's List – A list of various people finding resources, organized by category and circumstance.
Techwalla - How to Find Someone on the Internet – A simple guide to finding long-lost relatives.
To connect with other relatives on social media and networking sites, the best place to start is with people you already know. Reach out to your relatives using your favorite social media site to learn about other relatives and family history. Here is one way to approach this:
Start “following” or become “friends” with your known relatives
Let them know who you are, how you are related, and the reason you are contacting them.
Example: “I recently got genetic testing and found out I have a genetic variant in a gene that increases my disease risk. I am trying to connect with relatives who may have the same genetic variant, and I am wondering if others in our family have had any disease related to this variant. Could I ask you some questions about our family?”
Take this opportunity to grow your family tree and learn more about your family's health history. This is also a good time to talk about your variant and experience with inherited disease risk.
Identify other relatives you’d like to talk to and ask permission to have their contact information.
If you have a name but cannot get good contact information, try searching social media. But be careful if there is more than one person with the same name! Look for other distinguishing information, like the city of residence or someone already connected with relatives you know.
Another way to find distant relatives is through online genealogy sites. Family history and genealogy websites have family trees, forums, and message boards that help you connect to people researching the same lines. If you can find an ancestor that you are focused on, then you can post a query to see who else might be looking into the same person.
Genetic Ancestry Sites
Communicating with relatives identified through DNA testing can be especially challenging. Before talking to distant relatives, consider all the ways that they may respond. Here is one way to proceed:
Use tools provided through matches on the DNA testing site for initial connections. Many people use these services because they want to communicate with new relatives. Some people check their messages from these services frequently and some don't check them very often.
Be clear about how you found someone (for example, which company you used).
Example: “I found that we share DNA through MyHeritage.”
Communicate about how you are (or think you are) related.
Example: “I am your second cousin. Maria Lopez was our great-grandmother. Your grandmother, Claudia, and my grandfather, George, were siblings.”
Tell them about your variant and personal and/or family health history.
Example: “We have a lot of breast cancer in my family. I have been doing family history work and I think it may be coming from Maria Lopez, our common great-grandmother.”
Explain that you think that they might have the same variant because you both share DNA with a common ancestor who you think had the variant. DO NOT overstate the chances that they have the same variant. If they want to find out for sure, they should have clinical genetic testing.
Example: “Because we both share DNA, I think that we may have a similar disease risk. Would you be interested in talking with me about this?”
Invite them to find out more about testing or support groups – either now or in the future. If they plan to have genetic testing, share a copy of your test report.
Respect your relative’s right to decide when to follow up. Genetic risk can be hard for some people to discuss. Sometimes a relative may respond that they are not interested. Sometimes people are interested, but it is not a good time in their life. Sometimes people want to follow up privately.
Next Steps & Related Pages