During my research, I have identified some people currently living who I believe are distant relatives. They are a brother and sister, who are my wife's third cousins. Neither has a family tree on Ancestry.com, so the obvious approach isn't possible. I have tried the following courses of action:
- Sent the brother a direct email to a plausible email address I found online. No answer.
- Sent the brother an invitation through LinkedIn because he was a 3rd-degree connection in my network. The message did not appear to get forwarded by an intervening connection.
Now I can do one of these things 3. Contact the sister through Facebook (although I am not keen on creating a Facebook account) 4. Sending a regular letter to: either one of the 3rd cousins, or to their parents who are still alive.
Are there other reasonable things to try? What's a good way to word the letter to the parents? I had attached a copy of a family group portrait that includes a common ancestor to the email I sent (step 1). I can also include a printed copy in a regular letter.
The broader question here is what are good strategies for contacting people who are potential relatives? The goal is establish a connection, rather than to freak people out or to cause them to think I want something from them.
UPDATE 5 JAN 2013
Following some of the advice below, I sent a letter including a family photo and a hand-written note, and received a phone call the day after they received it. We had a great conversation with more to come.