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Ancestry Hints. Are they worth it?

Discussion in 'Online family trees' started by PeterM, Sep 18, 2022.

  1. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Three days ago Ancestry did a livestream on YouTube which is all all about hints! Well worth watching - you'll find it here.

    Note: it's only just over 16 minutes long, but if you're really short of time you can skip to 3 min 30 sec in.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  2. RoseJA

    RoseJA LostCousins Member

    Hello All,
    Just chipping in - Ancestry's Hints has been both a godsend and an annoyance over the years. But overall I'm glad it exists- currently I choose not to use them because they consume too much of my time, containing too many sideshoots. Like Peter says, Ancestry doesn't know what's important to each person and they are, after all, just suggestions - it's up to each researcher to sort the wheat from the chaff. I like the Ignore & Maybe options, particularly the latter because I can save a potential record and check it out at my leisure.

    I worry, however, that people can accept a hint even though it may be wrong, i.e. without checking. I had reason to contact one researcher about a person from my family who appeared in his tree - a child who I was pretty sure had died young but, on his tree, was married with a family. In his reply (and getting a reply is in itself remarkable), he admitted that he had built up his tree based on Ancestry Hints and had not checked it. He had many thousands of names in his Ancestry tree and I was left wondering how many more errors might there have been. Extrapolate that out to all the trees on Ancestry, and FindMyPast, etc, etc.

    When it comes to photos in Hints, I wish there was some sort of veto given to the person who uploaded a photo/document originally. Like others, I can cite instances of my photos being saved to other trees purely based on name and when I've checked the other researcher's tree I have found the families are completely different to my own. Ancestry's Hints is a tool - and all tools need to be used properly.

    Having so much information available either on subscription sites or elsewhere online, in my opinion, has made people lazy - it's so easy to build up a tree from your sofa - but not everything is available online. Obviously, people living abroad may have no choice but to go online. I know I've not spent as much time going to archives/libraries as I once did. I keep telling myself that there's information lurking on a shelf somewhere that's not available online. I think online trees can be very useful, as a pointer, new lines to follow up - but the information needs to be checked. Ultimately, each researcher owes it to themselves, and their ancestors and descendants alike, to try and get things right.

    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    There is a lot of information that isn't online, but most will end up online eventually. If it isn't worth Ancestry's time to digitise and index a record set so thousands of people can use it, it probably isn't going to be a good use of my time either. I have made some fascinating discoveries in record offices, but almost all of them would have been made online with perhaps 1% of the effort and 10% of the cost had I only waited.

    It might be different for someone in the early stages of their research.
  4. cfbandit

    cfbandit LostCousins Member

    What I have found in thirty years of online research is that the basic digitization has been done. Dates, Names, etc. The remaining work to digitize is the harder stuff, that adds more detail to the info. Like I know my relative died a certain date, but thanks to the Lancashire RO, I know that he was killed in a horrific farming accident and the documents they had explained what happened and why the way it happened wasn't a murder. I doubt it would ever be "worth it" to a for profit service to digitize this. Before I ordered the documents to be researched for me, I was left wondering if he was ill or died suddenly, if he was single or living with someone getting ready to be married since he was in his 20s. I actually just ordered a full probate record as well because while I have the dates and info, I'm hoping her probate info will explain what happened to her daughter, and see if there's any other pieces of info I can gleam from it, since her second marriage is a bit of a mystery with what documents that are available online.

    I also find myself asking more questions as I dig more and more into the documents that have come online. A relative of mine keeps getting added to a noblesse seconde family on FSFT. There's no evidence for it, but the medieval French books loaded online by the French government has got me tracking this family and wondering more about them. . So I'm reading about the French wars of religion and finding out how this family had connections to the King, and going through and documenting the path of this family as documented in these old books and chasing all the "see alsos" the book mentions. Its led me to some unusual sources and delighted some medieval history professors as I emailed them questions. I *could* just document that this family are in the medieval work by Pere Anselme and my relative isn't, but this way of talking to professors, getting record office folks to take pictures, and paying some intrepid history students to pull records for me has been much more fun and introduced a bunch of new people to the documentation side of genealogy.
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Ancestry have coroner's records for West Yorkshire - I was looking through them the other day.
  6. RoseJA

    RoseJA LostCousins Member

    Yes, it can be irritating when that happens but how long do you wait if you have a family history itch to scratch... If you had waited you wouldn't have discovered the information when you did and that would have held up your research. Swings & roundabouts.

    I don't regret the time/money spent in libraries/archives because I've had the use of the information, as well as enjoying the trip out. If that info becomes available online at a later date (as has happened) I can get a digital copy to supplement my paper copy. When I started my research going to local studies, etc was the norm - it took me quite a while before I succumbed to an online sub. There is a part of me that likes the feel of holding documents, turning pages of a book rather than staring at a screen. Although I will admit that looking at a laptop screen at home is preferable to using a microfilm reader!
    • Agree Agree x 2
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    There are always other 'brick walls' to knock down and other lines to research - I have over 100 'brick walls', some in counties for which parish registers are online, others in counties like Suffolk where online access has been promised for the future, but where I'm currently largely dependent on FHS transcriptions.

    There is always another itch which is easier to reach. Although it's only occasionally that parish registers for a new county go online, DNA matches provide a constant flow of hints.
  8. If your ancestors are from the Cosford Registration District you could try the Cosford database which doesn't give parish registers but does provide dates for baptism, marriages etc and links families together. there are links to both sets of the database in the Suffolk section of the forum.
    I used it for many years and it helped me to go back as far as my 12th great grandparents born around 1530.
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Is the site now back on line or are we still relying on the 2007 archived site at the Wayback Machine? The top result when I searched Google was for a 2013 post in this forum which linked to the archived site. I do have connections to Bildeston but the surname of interest (READ) isn't in the list on the Bildeston site. I already have the Suffolk FHS CD ROMs for the area.
  10. cfbandit

    cfbandit LostCousins Member

    I was contacted by a very excited Needham researcher so I'm back to working on the dual sets of Needham/Bryans parents we have for our common ancestor.

    Was working on the children of one set in the pair and found myself running down the line of their grandkids, William, and the Ancestry hints were a mix of hints for a spouse Mary Ann and a spouse Ann. At first glance, the Ancestry hints all made sense - Ann and Mary Ann are quite close, and the ages are about right.

    But on the second glance, that's where it fell apart. Six different birth years, 2 different birth locations, 2 different locations for every census...etc...etc. I started with Ann since I had one confirmed record for her, a daughter Emily's baptism.

    Emily, on the other hand, had the correct hints for parents William and Ann, in every census, all in the right locations.

    It is endlessly fascinating to me how the AI can be so mixed up on one generation, but if you look at it from a spouse, or from a child, it makes all the correct assumptions!
  11. I hadn't used the Cosford data base since I posted the link to the 'new one' which I now find has a note 'My site search is a little broken at present. Sorry.'
    So yes, we have to rely on the Wayback machine for now. Shame your ancestor isn't in it.
  12. Geoff-Riley-9827

    Geoff-Riley-9827 LostCousins Member

    As a follow up to this conversation, might I add that the hints do not cover all records within Ancestry. The 'card catalogue' is always the best place to go when you want to search for something new… that's the direct link into the centre of the main search engine and lets you pick out what you want to find with far better accuracy.

    As has been mentioned on this thread, the 'Hints' are fine for an initial getting started, but they really do only scrape the very tip of the information iceberg.
  13. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I see it the other way round - hints can pick up records in datasets that I wouldn't otherwise think to search.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. NikiMac

    NikiMac LostCousins Member

    I recently looked at an Ancestry Hint about a Member's tree that led, when I checked the owner's details, to my finding they were a previously unidentified DNA match, 21 cM across 2 segments. This spurred me on to update information in my DNA connected tree from another of my trees and in turn led to my being able to add many entries into the Lost Cousins database. And that led to a new cousin match! Annoying as they can be, Ancestry hints are also very useful at times as long as one checks them thoroughly.
    • Agree Agree x 1

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