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I have a match on Ancestry.com with someone who I believe is a nephew who was given up for adoption. I sent 3 messages through Ancestry.com but no response.

Do you know of any other way to contact the person?

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    Maybe they saw your messages and decided not to respond. – Marshall Clow Jun 15 '19 at 23:20
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    Personal observation: My success rate at getting a response has been about 20%, and the longer the other party has been since they last logged onto ancestry the worse it gets. There are a couple of technical reasons why a person might not respond - one of which is that they used a dummy email associated with their username, or a email address that they never check. But personal reasons also exist. – BobE Jun 16 '19 at 2:33
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There are really two main reasons why you may not get a reply to your Ancestry message:

  1. The person does not want to be in contact with you.

  2. The person did not receive the message.

If (1), there is nothing you can or should do. I'm afraid if your nephew has seen the message and does not want to reply, then that is his decision. Especially with cases of adoption, it is important to respect the privacy of relatives who may not want details of their biological relationships discussed.

If (2), there may be further steps you can take. It does depend what information is available on the Ancestry profile.

  • When was the user last online? This is given on their profile page. It can give you a good idea of whether your message has been seen or not, and whether they are ever likely to log into Ancestry again.

  • Does the user have a family tree, message board posts, or other activity visible on their profile? If so, this is a good sign that they may be back on the site if you have a bit of patience. If there are message board posts, you can discretely respond to one of their posts to ask if they could contact you (but obviously do not give personal details of the DNA match publicly).

  • Username or real name? If you know their real name, then you may be able to track them down outside of Ancestry. Of course, if it is a very common name or if their DNA results are under a generic name such as "familyhistorian002" then you are out of luck. I have had success contacting several close AncestryDNA matches via Facebook and other social networking sites. The users had not received any email notification of the messages on Ancestry, and were very pleased when I reached out via another method. I have had the opposite too, where I was completely ignored on additional attempts at contact.

Then there is the message itself. What you say and how you say it can play a big role in whether or not you are likely to receive a response. There is a real art to it. I recommend:

  • Make the message short, but include enough pertinent details. A long-winded message may send the wrong message, and may overwhelm the recipient.

  • Make your intentions clear, but again no need to be long-winded about it. Especially with close relatives or adoptees, this is important. Do you just want to confirm how the DNA match is related, and leave it at that? Do you want to meet up with your nephew? Do you want to reunite your nephew with his parents? Do you want to see which DNA segments you match to help narrow down other cousin matches? Do you want him to transfer his DNA results to GEDMatch?

  • Be polite. This may be obvious but I did once receive a message on Ancestry that said "tell me your parents names". I didn't really feel any inclination to respond to that.

  • Don't pressure the person. Start with a general enquiry, perhaps a desire to make contact, but don't make the person feel like you are expecting an immediate response. Your goal should not be to just get the recipient to respond to you, but to get them to want to respond to you. And how you phrase things makes a difference.

  • Include your email address in the message. I usually phrase it as: "Feel free to email me at 123@abc.com if that is easier." It is remarkable how many people think that they can't reply to Ancestry messages unless they have a subscription.

  • Using good grammar and spelling shows that you put some effort and thought into the message.

Recognise that many, many people just take an AncestryDNA to learn about their ethnicity, or were given a test as a Christmas present, and are not at all interested in contacting cousins.

You are fine to make reasonable effort to contact the owner, beyond the Ancestry site if necessary, but if you are not getting a response then I would leave it be and move on. And do be patient – I have had response to messages as late as a year after I sent the original message.

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  • I have also suggested to Ancestry that they highlite the message icon (perhaps use a red or flashing ) when a person signs on to their ancestry home page. Casual users may not notice there is a new message pending. – BobE Jun 16 '19 at 17:33
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You have attempted to make contact using the only means made available by Ancestry.com which is their messaging system.

If, three times, your message has not been seen and/or responded to then I would suggest not re-sending it, or perhaps only re-sending it again in a few years.

In our Help Center we say this this site is not about:

Locating identifiable living individuals

so any efforts to identify your nephew in order to contact him are explicitly off-topic here.

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I have found the same issue with only around 1 in 10 of my matches bothering to reply on Ancestry. I have a similar rate on MyHeritage.

However, I have had a lot more responses using GedMatch, here the direct email address is published. If you haven't added your DNA results at Ancestry to Gedmatch it is well worth doing. Ancestry have a knowledgebase page on how to download your results, it is easy to do. The you can check out to see if your distant nephew or other relatives are on Gedmatch.

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