Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding Record Hints for Persons in a Specific Database on

My genea-colleagues DearMYRTLE and Russ Worthington have been exploring ways to find the green leaf Hints for a specific database on (Watch their YouTube video at  Their thought is that it is easier to find Hints and create source citations for persons in your Ancestry Member Tree (or family tree software database) one database at a time, rather than one person at a time (the classical way to access and add Hints to your AMT).

For example, I may want to find all of the green leaf Hints for persons in my AMT for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), or the 1940 U.S. Census, or the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church Records.

I showed a way to do this in my post Mining Records for Persons in Your Ancestry Member Tree (posted 29 January 2013).  Since then, the process hasn't changed at all, and I'm still using it.  But some readers haven't read it, or have forgotten about it.  I had too while on this week's Mondays With Myrt when it was discussed.

The important steps to do find green leaf Hints for a specific database are:

1)  Figure out the code number for your specific Ancestry Member Tree.  You can do this by selecting the tree from the "Family Trees" tab.  The URL for the tree contains an 8 digit number:

The web page address (URL) is:

My Ancestry Member Tree code number is 33123910.  See it there?  Write your own AMT code number  down.

2)  Determine out the Database number for the database you want Hints for.  I picked the Social Security Death Index from the Card Catalog:

The URL for this database is

The Database number for the Social Security Death Index is 3693.  Write it down.

3)  Open a new browser tab, copy this web page address and paste it into your browser address field:

Click in the address field and edit it to:

*  Substitute your AMT code number for xxxxxxxx

*  Substitute the Database number you want for dddd

For my AMT and the SSDI, my URL is

NOTE:  Don't just copy this URL and expect to see Hints for persons in your database.  Only I can use that URL because it is my AMT.  You need to create your own URL with your own AMT code number.

4)  When I use that last URL, the page of Hints for the specific database, the Social Security Death Index, appears:

As you can see, I have 94 SSDI Hints in my AMT that are not attached or ignored to persons in my tree.  I can go through these systematically one by one and attach them (or ignore them), and add any useful content to my database for the persons, then source the name, birth and death events, and attach the Media item (if I'm using my software genealogy database).

5)  Say I want to change to another database.  All I have to do is change the Database number in the URL.  For instance, I wanted to see the Hints in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records database, which is Database number 2451.

So I edited the URL to

Here is the results screen:

I have only 6 Hints for my persons in this database.

6)  Frankly, it makes more sense to me to find these 6 Hints using this specific database search rather than looking for these 6 Hints in the 18,609 Record Hints I have for 7,839 persons in this Ancestry Member Tree.

This is the only rational and efficient way to add information from a NEW database.  You can cold search all of the persons in your AMT, or look for the green leaf Hints in your AMT.  However, this is terribly inefficient and time consuming if you have already attached or ignored thousands of Hints to persons in your Ancestry Member Tree, like I have.

In addition, it is much easier to add source citations for a number of results from one specific database into a genealogy software program because the software "source memory" or a "cheat sheet" can be copied, pasted and edited.

7)  Once again, I call on to make this easy for a user to do from any database.  All it would take is a link on the Database page (e.g., the SSDI screen above) that says:

"Find all entries in the 'Seaver-Leland Family' tree in this database."

Surely, that cannot be hard to do from a programming standpoint.  All it needs is the user's AMT code number and the Ancestry Database number.  The AMT code number would be the "active" AMT number shown on the Home Page or on the AMT tree page.

Have you been using this hack?  If so, let me know how efficient it has been for you.  How accurate have the records been when you've used it?

UPDATE:  Bernie's comment cautions:  " if the database ID has anything after the number, don't include that in the URL string.  Example: Norway Baptisms ID was dbid=60092&pcat=GLOBALCOLLECTION2014FS. I included the global collections part and received a page not found. I ran it again with just 60092 and it worked."

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


clp said...

This is awesome! I'm going to try it today. Thanks!

Bernie said...

This is a great tip, thanks Randy.
One qualifier: if the database ID has anything after the number, don't include that in the URL string.
Example: Norway Baptisms ID was dbid=60092&pcat=GLOBALCOLLECTION2014FS. I included the global collections part and received a page not found. I ran it again with just 60092 and it worked.

Devon Lee said...

This would be so great if it worked. I'm wondering if there are restrictions of some kind (doesn't work for LDS Subscription). I did change the ids as you suggested but I keep getting the error page that says "We’re sorry. The page you tried to access is no longer available."

This would have been a great hack.

Randy Seaver said...

Devon, it still works for me.

Did you see Bernie's caution in the comment above yours? You have to only put the dbid=xxxxx and not anything after that.

You're probably right that the LDS subscriptions don't work. I can't check that...perhaps another researcher with the LDS subscription can check it out.

Devon Lee said...

I figured it out. I grabbed the pid and not the family id. I thought I grabbed the right one, only to learn that I didn't. Anyway... I'm giving this a try now!

Devon Lee said...

You know what I'd really love though, I'd really love if there was a description field available for all the records (not just Census) where I could put a note from the record I saw. For instance, I used your trick on City Directories. On the directory, I can see the address the person lived in and the occupation they have. This information helps me keep track of my individuals. However, I have to attach the record and then go to the event entry to add this information in the description field. If it I was using Census records, the description field is there. Ah well, I'll keep doing it the 'long' way.

Russ Worthington said...


Thank you.

One of the things that I am hoping gets pulled from our exchange is for ANCESTRY.COM to give is more Options. The ones we have a great, but the work around you propose, works, but too difficult for a newer researcher.

Its great that we can turn OFF Public Member Tree Hints, but I would like to be able to Globally turn OFF a couple of record groups. Right now, it's one person at a time. In fact, I have to turn off 6 Hints for one person, they were from 2 record groups (Collections) that have given me head aches before.

The other option would be able to select a specific Collection. You can do that from the Search page, I could live with those same choices.

I was able to add 75 NEW Records to my database in a couple of hours by using the process that +DearMYRTLE and I talked about.

I will give your Work Around a try.

I had forgotten this work around. Mostly because I had not use my AMT for my searching. I was doing everything from FTM2014.

Thank you,


Michelle said...

Thank you sooooo much! I'm going to focus on those wonderful new PA Death Records that came out today!!!

Jan Murphy said...

Here are a couple more reasons I like to work from one collection:

1) I only have a US sub at Ancestry. If there is a free access weekend for a limited number of collections (e.g. for directories or passenger lists from outside the USA), I can collect all the hinted-at records from those collections without the USA hints being in the way.

2) If, in the course of entering all the 1940 Census records, I realize people are missing from their expected families, it's easy to make a list for people I still need to search for. Or I might use a query to generate a list of people I expect to find in the 1940 census and then remove their names from that checklist as I process the files. That way I can see who I still need to look for without losing track of where I was.

3) I store all my digital images by the database/record group they came from, so it makes it easier to move them all into the right folder after I have finished processing them.

4) I like to look up where the street addresses are on a map. If you are working all the 1940 Census records at once, it's much easier to spot if two families were living around the corner from each other because you're looking at records collected at the same time period.

5) Using the 'Clues in Census records' article at the National Archives website, depending on what census I am looking at, I can make a checklist as I go for people who are veterans (to search for military records) or naturalized citizens (to look for naturalization records) or aliens (to look for passenger lists). Doing a batch of census records from the same census year makes it easier to remember and record that To Do List.

Thanks again for a great tip.


Steve K said...

I just found this post from a link in a Facebook genealogy group. It is wonderful! In a short time this afternoon, I found and downloaded eleven entries in the SSDi I had not found previously.

Interestingly, I found it hard to find the record from these results without first adding them to my tree (AMT).

Thanks for the tip.

Steve K said...

The above should say I found it difficult to find the record for 2 of the 11 results.

Dona said...

Excellent post, thank you for taking the time to spell it out. I'd suggest everyone should copy this post and save it so you can continue to refer to it easily.

Steve K said...

A question about this process... So I used this to find eleven SSDI entries. For each one I downloaded a PDFs of the SSDI index. Then built a master source and changed citation for each entry. I added the facts and citation as appropriate to each person affected in FTM (FTMM3).

What will keep this process from presenting these same "hints" in the future?

Russ Worthington said...

Steve K,

It depends on HOW you do what you are doing. Those Hints should NOT reappear. Of all of the Hints that I have followed, and that is in the thousands, NONE have reappeared.


Steve K said...

Russ W., I understand that it depends on how I am doing it, and I suspect that I am doing it in a way that will give me trouble.

1. In in am searching my tree for let’s say SSID hints per the above suggestion. In my first attempt I found eleven “hints”.
2. One of them was obviously not belonging to my tree. I “ignored” it. I do not expect to ever see that again
3. For each of the other hints I navigated to the index record and “printed” to PDF, and saved it in my “DOCS to be processed in FTM” folder.
4. (THIS IS WHERE I AM PROBABLY CAUSING MY FUTURE PROBLEM) I do not “Review Hint” and save to my tree. I don’t do this because I do not want to add ten new sources, but rather I use one master SSDI source, with separate citations. Because I do this, I suspect these hints will be back often.

Is there a better way for me to process the hints, that will not create multiple sources?

Russ Worthington said...

Steve K,

Doing what you are doing will NOT impact the Hints, IF I understand what you are doing.

Think about this a minute. How would KNOW that you USED that Hint?

Printing a PDF file won't do that.

You must MERGE (use) that record for Ancestry to KNOW you used that hint. I have a blog post on how to do that.

I have many blog posts on Merging within FTM2014 (or FTM-3). Again, Ancestry AND FTM2014 KNOW that I used that hint.

I have a blog post and have given presentations on how to use Randy's technique to do research BY Record group.


Steve K said...

Understood. That was the reasoning in my first post. MY process is the problem, not Ancestry's.

I just have to rethink, because I do not like Ancestry's sources

Thanks Rus.


Randy Seaver said...

Steve K,

You are correct that if you don't Accept or Ignore the Hint, the Hint will remain on your Hints list.

When I don't want to add the media and source to my Ancestry Member Tree, I pick the "Ignore Hint" link on the Hint list page. That puts it into the "Ignore" basket rather than in the "New" basket in the tree and it doesn't appear again.

Cheers -- Randy

Steve K said...

Thanks Randy, and "DUH" that is the obvious and simple solution!


David Lee Archibald said...

Hello is this still working with the changes that ancestry has made I have tried it a few times with different databases i.e. North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 61157,
1940 U.S. Census: 2442, and Social Security Death Index: 3693
and get We’re sorry, this page is temporarily unavailable.
You can try reloading the page, or come back later.

The address I am using is
substituting the dddd for database number

any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks David Archibald

Randy Seaver said...

David and all readers,

Ancestry changed their URL system somewhat. Russ Worthington figured it out - I wrote about it in

Good luck -- Randy

David Lee Archibald said...

Thank you so much and sorry I missed the updated blog post.

David Archibald