Which Do You Prefer? Cold Calls Versus Snail Mail

Which method of contacting a possible relative do you use, cold calls or snail mail? What are the pros or cons for each? I know which I would prefer to do, but that does not mean it is the right answer. It is just the right answer for me. Let’s delve a bit deeper and see.


Cold Calls


  • Could have instant gratification
  • with a positive connection you can begin sharing information and photo’s sooner


  • You are calling a stranger (even if they turn out to be related)
  • You can be hung up on
  • You can be yelled at
  • People might think you are crazy
  • People might think you are looking for something more than family information


Snail Mail


  • Most likely to get a response (thought it might not be in the time frame you are looking for)
  • A few years from now, you might hear from a descendant of the person you wrote to because they saved the original letter.
  • You build a slight report with the individual before you speak to them
  • You have a chance to state your case in the letter, which will probably be read before your call is answered
  • You can share a family tree with the letter to show the family connection


  • You have to wait for the response, longer than you like
  • You might not get a response
  • Its possible the letter could be thrown away before it is read

My Preference

With these lists, it is obvious that I like to mail a letter. I find more pro’s in this scenario. To be honest, I have an issue talking on the phone to someone I do not know. I do not like to call people who I have no current connection with. It’s a silly phobia, but I have had it for ever and will probably always feel this way.

With a letter, I provide as much information as possible and include a family tree to show  how we are related. Plus, I include a self-addressed stamped envelope to make replying easy. I have written only one letter that was not replied to. It has been just over two years since I wrote the letter and when I decided I would write again, I found a Facebook message in the “other” message box from the son of the man I wrote to. He did not see my letter, but he found my query on Genealogy Wise for his grandfather’s obituary. So, at this point I have an answer from every family I have reached out to.  I know this is not the normal and I feel truly blessed that each person has opened their hearts to the family history I have been able to share and for their sharing information with me.

Which method do you prefer to reach out to potential relatives, cold calls or snail mail?



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  1. There is another option in some cases, that is e-mail.
    When I found a relative I’d been seeking for years, the person who make the connection gave me the e-mail.
    It was exciting and I saved the copies of the e-mails for reference.

    1. Erica,

      That is true, email is another way to connect. For me, it is not an option that I have used to connect with someone that I have not had any other communication with before. Though if I was lucky enough that someone had the email, I would absolutely use it.

      I will say that when I started working on my MIL’s Russian line, I did use email. Here father’s last name (before he changed it at naturalization) was very unique, and I was able to google it and find 1 person in Russia with that name. The gentlemen I contacted was able to find information in Russia that I was not able to find here. I still think there is a possibility of being related, though he did not think so.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, it it always appreciated.

  2. Terri, I’m with you in preferring snail mail (or email) over cold calls. I’ve been contacted years later by another relative as well. So I see old fashioned mail as a big plus for that reason alone.

    1. Michelle, I love the years later reply just as much as the instant. There is something about a response when you are not looking for one.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  3. I’m just about to send a letter to a newly discovered relative. I’m so glad I read your advice about including a family tree and a self-addressed stamped envelope. That is logical, and also thoughtful. I had thought that too much information would scare the relative, but I like your optimistic view better. I also am going to start using message boards and queries. So much to do! A cold call is just too chancy.

    1. Glad this post could be of some assistance for you Mariann. Wishing you good luck and a speedy reply!
      Keep us posted as to how it goes.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your dedication is appreciated.

  4. I prefer mail (e or snail), because I know that is what I prefer to receive.

    When I get a call and something is burning on the stove, or someone is knocking at the door, I can’t pay attention to what the person is saying, and can’t respond with information. I have written to people and they have phoned me in reply, but because I’m uinprepared, the conversation is not as fruitful as it might be. If you phone, you7 never know what the person at the other end of the line is doing.

    I prefer e-mail because the person at the other end is definitely going to be in mail-reading mode when they get it. That’s what they are doing. Even with snail mail, if it arrives when they are busy with something else, it can be put aside and forgotten. But phoning is worse that way — you could be interrupting something important.

  5. I did my first snail mail letter last week. It never occurred to me to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (which I will do next time). I found old ancestry.com postings (over 10 years old), and the email address was no longer working. I hope I hear from this relative. I agree with yours pros and cons, and prefer mail of some sort (whether it’s email or snail mail). I can’t just cold call someone. I also like to think if the tables were turned, I’d be more weary if someone just called me out of the blue. With email and snail mail, I’d have more time to sit on it.

    1. Michelle, Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, it means a lot. How exciting that you sent you first letter. I will share that I have only 1 unanswered letter and the son of that man found me because I had a query on GenealogyWise about his Grandfather. He found me on facebook. So, in all actuality I have 100% success rate with letters. Just keep in mind that some will answer asap and others can take months to years. Do come back and tell us if you got a response! We look forward to hearing back from you!

  6. Mail. Definitely. I am old school, and that is the formal, polite way of contacting someone. It also shows a bit of effort in that you have sat down and composed a letter. I don’t like the telephone. I avoid it whenever I can. That comes from having worked for IRS taking incoming call after incoming call with a headset on my head. Put me right off Mr. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. 🙂

    1. Karen,

      I definitely agree about going the old school route. Who could blame you with answering calls for the IRS. I would stay away from the phone as well.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, its greatly appreciated.

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