A few weeks ago I found the obit of a descendant of my grand-aunt Anna, and wrote a letter to one of the surviving relatives. I also sent a Facebook message to her son (he was listed in the obit, as well).
Both of my notes were polite and enthusiastic, explaining that I'm researching my family tree, found what I think is a connection to their family, and would like to ask a couple of questions about where Anna came from in the Old World. Also I offered a photo of Anna if they'd like to see what she looked like. No answer.
Does no answer mean "no" or does it mean "too busy to respond" or "don't want to think about the old days" or "don't want to talk to strangers" or "moved, no forwarding address" or what? I've never received a letter like the ones I'm sending, so I can't say how I'd react. Most likely I'd at least contact the writer to confirm that we are, in fact, related, and then go from there.
My 2d cousin Harriet was delighted when my letter found her two years ago. She and I got together for a wonderful visit and we call each other now and then. But I never heard from my husband's distant cousins (presumably related) when we found them in NJ and wrote them last summer.
On the other hand, when the Wood family genealogist and I located a long-lost cousin of theirs after doing a lot of pretty interesting research, we started an ongoing e-mail dialogue with photos and family details flying back and forth. It's been fun getting to know all these folks.
So my question is: Do distant relatives want to hear from us? Update: Via Twitter, found this good discussion thread about online contacts. Check it out!