52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 20:
Cousin Bait
Family Finds Charter Oak

Cousin Bait

I enjoy being contacted by previously unknown cousins, close or distant, to compare notes on our shared ancestors. Whether the information leads to tearing down a genealogical brick-wall, or simply to sharing old family photos. In fact, I have posted old family photos online with surname tags in order to attract cousins. Among genealogists this is known as “Cousin Bait.” I suppose, in many ways, this genealogical blog is a form of cousin bait. I have lured in a few cousins with my posts. On the flip side, I too have responded to bait and made contact with others who have posted photos or stories of our shared ancestors.

Photo Bait

The photo that has gotten me the most response from previously unknown cousins is an image of my maternal ancestors, the Rumples. The photo is from 1895 and I identified everyone in the image. I featured this photo in a post a couple years ago, “Family Photo” and have shared it on Ancestry.com. This photo has led to nearly 100 cousin connections. [1]

Rumple Family in 1895, Annotated Version

I have also been on the other end of the line and was drawn in by a photo. These were posted by a 4th cousin. They are photos of my 3rd great grandfather, James McCash, 1788-1871, and his brother William McCash, 1783-1871. James is on the right in each image. The 4th cousin who posted these descends from William. There are no dates on the photos, but the cousin guessed the brothers set for the photos between 1855 and 1865. [2]

McCash Boys ca. 1855
McCash Boys ca. 1860
McCash Boys ca. 1865

DNA as Bait

Sharing my DNA on various sites has led to MANY cousin connections. Whether they are close or distant, the comparison of shared matches can lead to solving ancestor mysteries. I have had more than one DNA contact that helped to resolve a, so-called, brick wall. And a few have led to discovering cousins who are adoptees looking for birth families. DNA is good bait, but it is very dependent on others doing a DNA test, sharing the results and knowing some of their ancestry. I have nearly 100,000 DNA matches on Ancestry, about 4000 are close cousins. I could probably learn more about some of my brick walls from someone among all those matches. But, it is almost like a needle in a haystack, to use a non-fishing metaphor. [3]


Content as Bait

Another technique I have found successful for attracting cousins, is the sharing of content. I have shared through Ancestry a variety of content: scanned vital records, newspaper clippings, transcriptions from books and links to online content. By making it easier for others to discover this content, I have made connections with many cousins interested in genealogy and willing to compare notes. For example, I transcribed and posted the funeral sermon of my 4th great-grandfather John Baldwin Osborn, 1754-1848, from notes in a church archive and now have over 40 cousin contacts as a result. [4]


I have had success with the “bait” I have been using to lure in cousins. But, this week I read a tip on another blog participating in the 52 Week challenge that I will implement. The blogger highlighted their use of surnames as tags for her posts. I can see how that could lead more cousins to find my posts. So, I will put more lines in the water and see who I can reel in. Enough with the fishing lingo, check out the 100+ pound halibut I reeled in back in 1996 in Prince William Sound, AK.



  1. Blog post, Family Finds: Family Photo, https://barblafara.com/rumple-family-photo/
  2. Profile of James McCash, ‘Osborn’ tree, Ancestry.com;
  3. Blog post, Family Finds: DNA, https://barblafara.com/dna/
  4. Profile of John Baldwin Osborn, ‘Osborn’ tree, Ancestry.com;


  1. Cheryl Schulte

    100,000 DNA matches on Ancestry? Whoa. That is amazing. I won’t tell you how many I have! 4,000 close matches is wonderful as well. You are doing an awesome job of making connections. I love your group photo as well. All those people look like they are posing perfectly and would be pleased to know their photo is still relevant today. Great job.

  2. Auriette

    I’ve been trying to do better about posting photos online, particularly on FamilySearch. After several years of doing that, I realized my photos were getting copied to other websites, so I needed to be better about “baiting the hook.” I now go into Photoshop and add my email address. I try not to cover anything important in the picture, but at least as it gets passed around, the cousins have a way to get in touch with me.

    • Barb LaFara

      Excellent idea!

  3. Mary

    What a fun post you have made! My much loved great grandad was James McCash, now buried in a pioneer cemetery, in Centralia, WA. I sometimes get on a wild hair to learn more about this branch of the family, thanks for what you have shared!


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