Cousin Baiting

I love the title of this blog post.

A zillion years ago, so say maybe about 2007 or 2008, there was an article somewhere about “Cousin Bait”. I wish I could find it again. It was my first introduction to the idea of genealogy as marketing.

Jennifer, the “Occasional Genealogist”, explains “The purpose of cousin baiting is to attract research cousins. You’re looking for people that have information on your genealogy and are willing to share.

Our chum Jennifer has some points to think about when you’re deciding what kind of bait you want to use. I don’t want to steal her thunder. Go read her blog.

Two points I want to pull out:

First, you want to get enough info “out there” so people know you are interested. Ironically, that might mean you don’t put it all out. If you put out “too much”, people just copy your info but never contact you to share their info. That’s where I am with baiting. It doesn’t bother me, not much anyway, because it helps me avoid the kind of electronic chit-chat that just wastes time. There are very few lines I’m actively researching, where want to hear from people. On most lines, I’m just as happy to sit tight with what I have until I’m ready to work on that other line.*

Second, a query will attract some people. You’ll get some responses, but often not the ones you want. My experience is that you get a lot of fishing expeditions — “I saw your query, and I’m wondering if you have any information on my line.” Not worth the time. Somehow the person they’re looking for has same last name, but is 100 years off and from a different part of the country. I am working on scanning my paper files right now. I’m find that a significant number of papers in each file are old responses to online queries in the 1990s.

My own approach for almost 20 years now is to be active in the genealogy community. Not just one site. Not just one topic. If I’m looking for certain information, I leave breadcrumbs. I want to make sure you’ll find me if you’re working anywhere near what I want. You don’t need to put out a lot of info, you just need enough that there is something with your name on it and a way to get in touch.

* Putting all your info online always means that you’ll get messages for the rest of your life that send you something you wrote yourself. Your name will have been long ago stripped away. Putting all your info online also means you’ll be hearing from every nutcase who has fallen for old fakes and is now fighting a rearguard action to preserve the fantasy. Bah.

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