Why Don’t They Trust Me?

Almost every aspect of doing family history research is rewarding.  Finding new family members, finding documents, looking at photographs, even puzzling through mysteries that you cannot solve—all are rewarding in different ways.  Sometimes it is frustrating not to be able to find a key document, but there are always new documents to be found and hope for finding the ones that are missing.

But what I do find most frustrating is not being able to persuade a newly found relative that I am not a stalker or a scammer or some other type of crazy person.  Whenever I have located a new relative, I always send a message explaining why I think we are related (in some detail) and a link both to my blog and to my work website.  If they are on Facebook, I give them access to my Facebook page.  I try to do whatever I can to reassure people that I am not after them or their money, that I am not interested in anything other than making the connection and possibly learning more about our shared family history.

I understand that not everyone is interested in this stuff, and that’s okay.  There are lots of things I have no interest in that other people find fascinating—investments, cars, basketball, cooking.  It makes life interesting—we are not all going to be interested in the same things.  Variety is the spice of life, and all that.  But what I don’t understand is people who won’t even respond, even if just to tell me that they are not interested. I assume they just don’t trust me, and that makes me sad.

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24 thoughts on “Why Don’t They Trust Me?

  1. I wouldn’t take it personally. There are so many scammers out there these days. People are much more cautious about giving out information. Good or bad, we have to protect ourselves.

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  2. I love your post here, it’s very relevant and something whilst researching we all face.
    I have had a few raised eyebrows from close family members over the years. My grandfather especially his words were “what do you want to know about that stuff for”. Although strangely he enjoyed telling me about himself but sadly wouldn’t disclose anything about his siblings who he wouldn’t even name them. Even today, I still have no idea who is step sisters are.
    90% of my family have no interest in our families history and very often it feels as though my hard work will go to waste when I eventually pass over. So blogging, and sharing every certificate and record online is the only way I can ensure my heritage and hard work doesn’t get forgotten. Hopefully many people will stumble upon my work and through them my favourite past time will be remembered.
    Continue what you are doing, and don’t take to heart what others may think because it’s our work that will be sourced, blogged and perhaps even published many centuries down the line.

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    • Thank you so much for saying this. I had the same experience with my father—he (at least at first) could not figure out what I was interested in any of this. Now he reads the blog and wants to know when I am going to do HIS family! So you never know. I feel like I am doing this for myself and for my children and grandchildren. They may not care now, but perhaps when they are my age, they too will want to know about their ancestors. I may not have fortunes to leave them as a legacy, but at least I will have this!

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      • Your life times work will be the greatest gift ever, I have been researching since I was 19 years old, which is a very funny story in it self, due to having no understanding of the subject and dragging my mum and brother around the entire county researching someone else’s tree 🙂 lol. I have learnt a lot since then and I would love to spend an entire day with my grandfather telling him all about his family history.

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      • That sounds like a great story—have your written about it on your blog? At least your mother and brother were willing to go along with you—that’s terrific. Is your grandfather still alive, or is that a wistful wish?

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      • It is something I should write about, I’m sure most people can relate to researching the wrong people. It’s easily done and more so at the beginning of your research.
        My Grandfather is still alive, but sadly he is very much set in his ways and very distant.

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      • I agree—I once thought I’d found a relative in England named Boomer Cohen. I was sure there could not be more than one woman with such a name, so I contacted her grandchildren. It turned out to be the wrong person, and I was very embarrassed, though my English “cousins” were lovely and still wanted to be friends!

        Perhaps you can send your grandfather some hard copies of what you have written. You never know—he may read it and enjoy it, even if he never shares that with you.

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      • Amy, that is a lovely idea, and I will do that before I am to late to regret it. thank you for the best piece of advice I have had in a long time.
        plus I have just blogged the story about researching the wrong tree and about how my research began. So thank you for the idea.

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      • I am so glad you like my idea, and I hope your grandfather does appreciate it, even if he never admits it to you.

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  3. The reason I got into genealogy (love of history is another) was my family refusal to give out any family history. So I have run into the stone wall of silence many times. I have even tried to give back family papers and old photographs of other families that I have obtained, but they were not interested. So some people just do not care and have no desire to learn about it. The other problem I have run into is that I have given all sorts of information to a person but when I ask for some information they cut off communication. This has happen many times. But the many great people I have met and the good times with them far make up for those who will not talk with you.

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    • You are right—the number of helpful people outnumber the uncooperative ones by a huge margin. But it still is frustrating and sad when people are not responsive or take information and then don’t share what they know. I actually prefer at least getting a response because then there is hope that a relationship and trust will develop and that they might share more down the road. I am always happy to share what I know, even if I get nothing back. But mostly, yes, people have been incredibly helpful!

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  4. Amy–do you trust ME? I have a story related to family history and old records, but I don’t want to post it on your blog. Send me an email address if you want the story.

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  5. Oh Amy, I do know how you feel – and it is frustrating. I have encountered a real mix of reactions from my relatives and the feeling I get from those who stonewall or ignore requests is that they feel they are “protecting” loved ones who have died. I know it sounds strange, but I almost think that the popularity of TV shows like “Who do you think you are?” has made people suspicious of our motives. To make “good” TV the researchers go looking for sensational stories and I wonder if people think that we are doing the same? Just a thought.

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    • It could be, Su—plus all the stories about identify theft and the government and companies spying on us and tracking our behavior. It may not be rational, but the fear is understandable. Ironically, part of what got me started on genealogy was Who Do You Think You Are! So for some it may be disturbing and to other inspiring.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

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  6. First, I am glad Amy contacted me. But I am among those who at first, had a degree of skepticism and hesitation to provide information other than a response. which I did promptly. As I’ve read in other posts in this blog, there are many scammers out there and sadly, they spoil if for those who really ARE interested. Happily, I’m interested and find this research fascinating, and I comment Amy, my newfound cousin for taking the time and interest in her research. I also understand that there are many who just say, “Who cares?” To them I answer, “I do.” And I think it’s important to know where your family came from and learn their history for as far back as possible. In doing so, you may learn about yourself. Too much of our history died with the Holocaust, and if this reference here seems far fetched so some, I believe it’s closer than you think. So to Amy, thank you for doing this! I look forward to sharing as much information as I can with you and learning what I can so I can share it with my children and their families.

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    • Ron, I hope you realize that this post was not written about you or anyone in your line. It was a general post since I’ve run into lots of people who do not even respond to my messages. And I wrote it over a week before trying to contact you. You were amazing—responded and asked really good questions. People SHOULD be skeptical, and I never mind explaining who I am or why I am interested in the connection.

      Second, I am SO glad that you are interested in the family also. And you make a point I’ve given much thought to but not yet been able to research: how many relatives of ours died in the Holocaust? Growing up I always said I had no relatives who died in the Holocaust; now I know that that is extremely unlikely. Although I have not yet found anyone specific, clearly we had relatives who never left Europe. Hopefully eventually I will be able to track them down.

      It’s something I should write about at some point. I never knew I had relatives in Israel until this week! I’ve found relatives in Australia also (your relative also). There is so little we know, so much more to learn.

      Thanks so much for your support!

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      • Hi Amy – yes I realize and totally understand that the post I replied to was not written about me or anyone in my line. I just felt I wanted to respond to that because of the initial skepticism I felt when I was first contacted. All it took was a little patience, some reading and a few questions to validate who you were and the value of what you had done and continue to do. Others who may read the blog may come to the same conclusion. We can hope!

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  7. As follow up to my last post, I am particularly interested in my family history because for much of my life, I had little contact with “this part” of my family. So for me,this will be a learning experience.

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    • I also knew nothing about my family history, especially my mother’s side. I knew my grandparents and a few names, but not much more. It’s been eye-opening and fascinating to learn about their lives and the lives of their families.

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