01 October 2008

Contacting/Approaching Potential DNA Testers

Ideally, it would be best if a person who has previously tested called a potential tester or someone who has contacted testers in the past. These groups of people can often answer their questions and concerns. Remember that the following is only a guide, and that each person needs to make the approach their own style.

Before You Call

1. Understand the basics of DNA testing for genealogy. There are some wonderful books and online help mentioned in my Blog. Be able to alleviate a tester’s fear of medical or health issues and the criminal justice system’s desire for DNA. See my articles on those topics.

2. Know a few previous generations of their line. I would suggest, at least three generations and preferably you can go back to where your line could meet theirs.

3. Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone so call at a time when you do not have to be in a hurry. Have plenty of telephone minutes at your disposal. Some of the people called want to talk a long time--particularly if they are doing some genealogy themselves. Or expect a big phone bill at the end of the month.

4. Keep good records of the phone calls as if you were running a business and reporting calls to your boss. That includes a file on each prospect with his lineage in front of you when you make the call. Leave nothing to chance.

5. Be enthusiastic! Be yourself. Do NOT be pushy.

6. Above all, be interested in what they are saying as some may want to tell you all about their lives. Some may want to tell you all about themselves or their family. If this happens, regardless of what the person you are calling says you should be very interested and encourage them to keep talking.

In other words make friends with them. Ask questions about what they are saying and be interested. Ask them questions about what they are telling you.

7. Sometimes the wife answers the phone and will screen your call. Some genealogists have commented to me that they suspect at times that the women who answered did not let their husbands know that they had called--not out of jealousy, but out of interest in the family budget. Many older people are on fixed incomes, and this is the reason that one may need to mention up front that a free test is available.

Calling Etiquette

1. Speak clearly. You may be talking to someone who is hard of hearing. You may have to repeat some explanations. Do not speak quickly.

2. Be interested in the person's career, occupation, or avocation.

3. Be aware that the person you call may be another ethnic group, but could still be related. Some might want to be tested and may connect to your line.

4. If the person called is watching a ballgame, ask for a good time to call later--likely another day. Do not keep a prospective tester from a good football game, or whatever his favorite spectator sport. The same goes for keeping parents and grandparents from a child's game.

5. Be courteous. Show some empathy for a person who is ill, in the middle of a project, a meal a favorite TV program, etc.

Basic Issues to Cover

1. Introduce yourself as a genealogist and mention the surname relevant to your call.

2. Ask if they are related to the nearest ancestors on the chart you have so you can establish you have the correct person.

3. Tell them that you think you could be related, but you have not found a paper trail to prove that yet. Ask them if they know how the lines connect. Show a desire to determine a specific relationship or crumble a brick wall.

4. Ask if there is a genealogist in the family or someone who is interested in the ancestors (get their name, email, address, and phone number or as much as you can I order to contact them).

5. Offer to send them a copy of the chart below if they are interested and do not have this info. Then snail it to them.

6. Get some leads on their family and on contacting people in their family who may know more.
.....Find out if there are other living males (in the case this person will not test, but do not mention that.)
.....IF you get any leads for other people, contact them, repeat the process, and do not mention DNA yet. We want interested people, and DNA can scare them away at first.

7. LAST and maybe not even in this first contact, mention that if they do not know how your two lines connect and IF they do not have a person working on the genealogy in the family, mention that the only way to find out is by DNA testing.

8. Thank them for their time and help. You want to be able to call them again, if needed, so ask if that is ok.

Mentioning DNA

1. Refrain from mentioning DNA initially. Show a sincere regard for gathering information that will help you tie to the family via a paper trail. Paper resources are needed along with DNA testing, anyway.

2. If there is a family genealogist, speak with them first about DNA testing and see if that person can suggest someone who might be interested in testing. Have the genealogist help you convince the potential tester to contribute their DNA. You may have to educate the genealogist before you proceed, however.

3. Be prepared to have several conversations prior to mentioning DNA. The general public is not as comfortable about DNA testing as we are. You must alleviate their fears. Explain GINA (Genetic Information and Non-discrimination Act and CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System).

4. One good way to approach the topic of DNA is to let the potential tester (or the genealogist) know that since you and the potential tester or genealogist cannot find the paper trail, there is one way you know will work to determine if your lines are related or not and that is DNA testing.

5. Once you mention DNA testing, be prepared to explain how it is not used for health issues and the insurance companies cannot access it. With the GINA Law it would not matter if they could as they cannot discriminate for health care or jobs. Also be prepared to explain how the test will not get you on or of the FBI’s Most Wanted List as CODIS uses different markers. (See the other articles in my Blog on these topics.)

6. Be prepared to pay for the test. Especially if you have a person who does not do genealogy, who is retired, or who is just not interested enough to give you his DNA and money. Either you pay for the test, gather people in your family to help contribute, or see if your DNA project has a scholarship fund system.

If this person will not test, see if there are other family members who may.

Before You Go

1. Offer to check your database for their family. Send them a print out on their family.

2. Thank the person for their time and interest in helping you solve your problem, even if the help was minimal.

E. Aulicino

No comments: