For most people, being a PITA doesn’t come naturally….so you might need some help knowing how to be one, or perhaps perfecting your PITA skills. Yes, in case you’re wondering….my tongue is firmly implanted in my cheek.
For genetic genealogists, there are special ways to be a PITA. Let me share some of these with you, just so you can fine tune and add to your PITA skills.
First and maybe the best ways to be a PITA, right off the bat.
1. Send e-mails with no subject or punctuation and an indecipherable topic, especially to someone you’ve never communicated with before. Here’s an example. You can just copy and paste this and send it to anyone you want to irritate or confuse.
“i would love to have any information you could give me…..thanks…..”
I so want to send this person something about penile implants. Is this wrong?
2. Send e-mails with no capitals or punctuations. This is always a wonderful way to impress people.
i just wanted to let you know that i have no idea how to type or how to use the period or comma keys or how to use the shift button i’m also using the fact that i’m using my phone as an excuse not to use punctuation however I can manage to type half of my life story for you to try to decipher so get out your special decoder ring
3. BETTER YET, SEND THE ENTIRE MESSAGE, INCLUDING SEVERAL PAGES OF YOUR ANCESTORS NAMES WITH NO DATES OR OTHER IDENTIFYING INFORMATION IN ALL CAPITALS. THEN ASK FOR ANY INFORMATION THAT PERSON MIGHT HAVE ABOUT THOSE ANCESTORS. THIS IS ESPECIALLY USEFUL WHEN FIRST INTRODUCING YOURSELF AND LETS YOUR NEW CONTACT KNOW JUST HOW IMPORTANT THEY ARE AND HOW MUCH FUN IT’S GOING TO BE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU.
4. When a match asks you for genealogy information, just send them a link to your Ancestry.com tree. You can then sit back and laugh, knowing that they have no idea where to search in your 35,723 people for a common ancestor without looking for every surname they have. Plus, you have the added benefit that Ancestry will help you be a PITA by attaching your tree to their account like a giant kudzu vine that they can’t disentangle without knowing the secret handshake.
5. When a match asks you for genealogy information, never, ever send them something actually useful, like a pedigree chart with an index. Instead send them rambling e-mails with disconnected tidbits from both sides of your family, or that link to your Ancestry tree. Go to sleep then, knowing they will be up all night trying to figure this out.
6. Ask for, or better yet, demand free consulting. Select someone at random (not me please, I already receive more than my share – 17 yesterday alone) and send them a rambling stream-of-consciousness e-mail several pages long. At the end, tell them that you can’t afford to pay anything, but ask if they would tell you “what they think.” Before sending these to anyone in the genetic genealogy community, send several to other professionals, physicians or lawyers in your community and see how that works out?
Now, if someone is a project volunteer, that’s a bit different. They still don’t “owe” you free consulting, but they have set themselves forth as a volunteer resource. Still, try to be respectful of their time and be brief and concise in your requests.
In other words, the 21 page e-mail I received this week from Person Unknown demanding that I, as a project administrator, figure out how the “requester” was related to three people in the large Cumberland Gap project (also persons unknown) was, well, ahem, a bit over the top, to put it mildly. No, I confess, I did not read all 21 pages and the only reason I know it WAS 21 pages long is because I wanted to use it as a bad example. If that was your e-mail and I’ve just offended you, well, I’m sorry you’re offended, but that is not the way to win friends and influence people, nor to get your questions answers or your problems solved. It is, however, a great way to be a PITA. In fact, you win this week’s PITA award!
Here’s an example of a reasonable, concise question from my blog:
“Thanks for that explanation, I needed that information. Still would like to know what a “back mutation” is.”
And the answer:
“A back mutation is when a mutations happens, like from A to C, and then the reverse happens, a mutation from C to A. It initially looks like no mutation happened, unless you are aware of the intermediate step and that two mutations actually happened.”
There’s a big difference between a simple one or two line general DNA question and a multi-page personal epistle that the receiver has to read three times and make charts to even begin to unravel or understand, so, to be a PITA – always make yourself annoying and then you can wonder why you never receive replies from people. Then complain about not receiving replies.
Oh, and if you do write to a project administrator, never, ever tell them how or why you are writing specifically to them – it’s much more fun to leave them guessing. The sender of the 21 page epistle did not SAY it was the Cumberland Gap project – they left that for me to decipher.
7. Skim articles, don’t click on the links, and then ask questions of the author that would have been answered if you had clicked on the links they provided in the first place. They love receiving several of these e-mails every day!
Now, if you have DNA tested at any of the three major testing companies, there special ways for you to be a PITA with each one. Let me give you some fresh ideas.
At Family Tree DNA
8. Join a DNA project, any project. Then, when the administrator sends you a welcome message, introducing themselves and asking for genealogy information, send them a nasty note. Here’s one I received recently. You can just use it.
“Who the hell are you and why are you contacting me. Don’t ever contact me again.”
9. Family Tree DNA does you the very large favor of providing you with the e-mail addresses of your contacts instead of forcing you to go through a message system like at 23andMe and Ancestry.
When sending an e-mail to someone you match, be sure to never include the name of the person you match, or what kind of a test you took that matches. This will confuse them and make them really want to answer your inquiry. Many people manage test kits for several people and if you don’t put the name of the person you match in your e-mail, they will probably think it’s their kit, and then they will either spend a lot of time looking for matches and/or putting together genealogy info to send to you that is not useful. Then, after you receive the info, tell them you’re sorry, but the match was to a different person. That will truly endear you to them.
10. Don’t ever update your e-mail address…then complain online and loudly about how you never receive contacts from either your project administrator or your contacts/matches.
11. Don’t upload your GEDCOM file either, because someone might accidentally discover a common surname match or a common ancestor, and that would be just awful. It would also provide Family Tree DNA with the information to bold matching surnames on your autosomal match list for you, AND you’d get a $10 coupon…all of which would be just terrible.
12. Volunteer to be a project administrator, then do nothing at all. Leave your project entirely ungrouped, and refuse any assistance. In this case, you really don’t have to DO anything to be a PITA.
Better yet, create an off-site (non-FTDNA) website instead of using the one at Family Tree DNA and remove any information that could be useful to someone searching for their ancestral line. Here’s an example.
Don’t want to create your own website? Well, you can be almost as large a PITA by using the Family Tree DNA page and simply disabling anything useful, like, you know, most distant ancestor. That way people can see that there is a project and their line MIGHT be hidden in there, but they have no way to find out other than contacting you. Then, don’t answer, of course.
13. Give yourself a really innovative “screen name,” like, say “Your cousin” or “3rd cousin” or better yet, “My Mother.” That way when you send contact requests or sharing requests to people, it looks like it is coming from their mother…and if their mother has already passed over…well…let’s just say your contact request could be really startling. Worse yet, if that person matches two people who are equally as creative and both named themselves “My Mother,” how will they ever tell you apart??? And can you really have two mothers? OMG, I feel an identity crisis coming on…
14. Tell your contact that you are really interested in genealogy, provide a little bit of genealogy info, just a couple tidbits, maybe a juicy morsel, but then refuse to share your DNA.
15. Don’t provide any surname or location information. That might give someone a clue as to how you connect – so don’t ever do that.
16. I’d tell you to never upload your GEDCOM file, or create one, but you can actually be a larger PITA by uploading your file at 23andMe, because their file reader interface works so poorly that your match will be more frustrated trying to read the file than by not finding one at all. So you can be a PITA whether you upload your file or not. How’s that for good luck!
17. Don’t ever reply to contact or sharing requests. I know this one is already quite popular. About 90% of the people there already do this, so you’ll be in good company. If people at 23andMe aren’t interested in genealogy, there is an opt-out, but don’t opt out because you can be much more of a PITA by leaving yourself in the genealogy pool but never replying to anyone, especially close matches. Drives them crazy!
18. First and foremost, never, ever reply to messages. I know that this one is very popular, because many of my DNA matches, including my closest match at Ancestry has implemented this scheme. She, I assume, due to the name (unless I’m related to the boy named Sue) and I share a common great-grandfather. In this case, I have photos she might really like to have. Too bad she is being a PITA.
19. Make your tree private, AND never reply to requests. This is the ultimate tease, because your match KNOWS the information is there, right there, hiding just out of reach, and can’t get to it.
20. Copy and paste several trees together because, after all, the names match and, hello, it wouldn’t BE on Ancestry if it wasn’t RIGHT. Right? You can then scare the bejesus out of someone when they discover that their non-Mormon grandfather had 7 wives and 35 kids….all while married to their grandmother. That’s always fun. Then, when they frantically contact you to ask about it, don’t even think about replying to that message.
21. Insist that because you and your Ancestry DNA match have a shakey leaf and a common ancestor in your tree, that you KNOW that’s your DNA match because Ancestry SAYS SO. When your match tries to explain that connection might be incorrect, may not be your DNA match and that there is no way to prove it, at least not without utilizing tools from either GedMatch or Family Tree DNA, don’t reply to them anymore. That will certainly solve the problem!
22. Send random people invitations to your Ancestry tree – and be positive your tree name has absolutely no identifying words in it. Like the one I received recently, for example, named “A Global Tree of Life.” Yep, I can tell you right away who sent that to me and why!!!
23. Oh yes, and in true PITA-esque fashion, never, ever say “Thank you,” to anyone, ever, for anything. Thank you is such an easy thing to say and it makes the person on the receiving end feel good about whatever it was they did for you – even if was “just” answering your question. So don’t slip up and do this! Otherwise, you’ll certainly be thrown out of the PITA Club!
24. Instead of being grateful for free things, like blogs and webpages, and simply unsubscribing or ignoring them if you don’t like them, make nasty comments. That will certainly confirm your PITA membership and make the person providing the free content feel warm and fuzzy about the time they invest.
“How about I unsubscribe to your boring emails about your family I have been getting the last year. Ms PITA.”