Saturday, June 18, 2011

Am I Just Being Paranoid?

Lately, I've been getting emails about genealogy from people claiming to have a connection, but who don't give any info or very vague info about their families. See below:

hi, your information keeps popping up in my searches and i think we have similarities in our trees i would like to collabrate
Am I just being paranoid, or do you think this person really has a connection? This person contacted me via's message system, so I clicked on his/her profile to see if he/she had any family trees at This person did, but it had nothing in it. It was basically a blank tree.

Another email I received looked like this:

I was doing a Goggle search for photos of Pembertons & I notice several submitted by you. Are you related to the family?

So I emailed this person back and gave him a brief pedigree on the Pemberton line going back to my 4th great-grandparents. The initial email he sent did not concern me too much because he mentioned a specific surname. But his response did concern me:

I can say with centenary my sister found proof of us being related to both the Civil war General but the man whom invented Coca Cola too as well.

Aside from the fact that I am annoyed by people who are certain all Pemberton's are related, especially to General Pemberton and the inventor of Coca-Cola, it freaked me out a little because the word "centenary" is a very personal word to me and it doesn't make sense in the sentence. I went to college at Centenary College, and it can sometimes be used to prove my identity. Perhaps this is just a spell check error. I'm sure he meant to put "certainty." Still, I found it odd that he didn't give me any more detailed info on his own pedigree. So I stopped all communication at this point.

I just normally don't send vague emails to people about genealogy. I will usually mention at least one ancestor or surname in a first email to someone I think has a connection. I suppose my fear is that these people are interested in identity theft.

Does anyone else ever get these kinds of emails? What do you usually do about them?


  1. I did get one like this from Ancestry recently! Someone said, "Shared Ancestry. I notice that we have some shared ancestry perhaps we could share notes?" I wrote back and asked which lines- I have several trees up. No response... I don't know what they'd be phishing for, but it kind of freaked me out, too. I switched to private on all my trees.

  2. I think your instincts are sound. And it's creepy to think that people might be using Ancestry this way. Although I don't want to be a prig about grammar and spelling, this does sound like the level of literacy you see in phishing. Bad spelling, nothing specific, nothing offered - I'd ignore them.

  3. I've never had an e-mail like this but I think you are right. It's very odd. I wouldn't respond to anything that random. Genealogists aren't that vague about connections.

  4. I think the first is definitely phishing. The second...I'm not so sure, but it certainly creeps me out. I also would not respond.

  5. I got a weird Ancestry message last week from someone asking for more information about a specific person. The name wasn't familiar to me, but I checked my tree, thinking it might be a spouse of a cousin or something like that. Nope, not in my tree. I replied to the sender and just said I didn't have anyone by that name.

    I would only do that if the message came through Ancestry. I agree with everyone above. Follow your instincts; it it seems questionable, it probably is.