Or "Rednecks, Snail Mail Research and Opening the Door"
by Uncle Hiram
Last week discussed writing a letter to your ancestor, this week lets tackle an even harder subject. Writing that letter to the cousin you aint met yet. The first thing you need to do is go out in the front yard and ask the big tree about your family roots. OK, what did the tree tell you? Right, not a blessed thing. The reason for this exercise in futility is to get you ready for the lack of response you will get from 80 percent of the letters you send out. BUT, Instead of dwelling on that depressing fact lets look forward to the 20 percent that do respond.
Enough beating around the bush, lets get down to the basics. You need to decide how much info you are going to include in the letter and what info you are going to ask for. In your first paragraph you need to introduce yourself and tell a little about your family. For example, here is the first paragraph of my "Couzzie" letter:
Hi, my name is Bill Hocutt, son of George Willis Hocutt, son of William Jackson Hocutt, son of Agrippa Jackson Hocutt, son of George Hocutt, son of Edward Hocutt, son of Edward Hocut, son of Edward HOWCOTT of Chowan County, North Carolina. I am attempting to trace OUR family roots. I say "our" family roots because every person in the United States with the surname Hocutt descended from either John or Edward HOWCOTT, a pair of brothers who emigrated to North Carolina in the early 1700's.
You will notice I gave my direct line and explained why I had chosen to write to them.
In the second paragraph explain to them that you are not selling anything, that you are just trying to gather info on the family. Assure them that you are not going to use this info for any purpose other than family research. (i.e., you wont sell it to Columbia House Records, Amway or the IRS). After you have done this, explain what type of information you are looking for. Tell them you would be more than happy to share info with them.
Now you need to include with this letter a family sheet for yourself, a family sheet for the oldest person in your family line and a blank family sheet for them to fill out.
You can dramatically increase the odds on people responding by including a stamped self addressed envelope. Hopefully you will get at least the 20 percent response and your family tree will sprout some new twigs.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)