1) Russ Worthington said: "I think you know the answer to that question from me. It's one word. ABSOLUTELY.
"Because this has come up again, the use of Hints, I took a look at a new file that I am working on. There are 130 people in my file, right now. I started with ONE NAME and location. I knew where this person lived in 1940, so my first search found him where I expected in the 1940 Census. I created my file from that Census Record. I know the family, so I know it is the right person. Most of the rest were from Hints. I have 54 Hints To Go. But I have had 36 Good Hints and 4 bad ones. I think that is about 90%. But let me talk about the 4 "bad ones". I looked at the hint and I looked at my database, and ALL that I had for those 4 hints was a name, they were females, so I didn't have enough information in my database to get me a good, solid hint. By following the Hint from that first Census Record, I have 130 people in my database.
"I do take a break from the Hints and do some Find A Grave research. I especially follow those Ancestry.com Find A Grave INDEX hints, to KNOW that there is a Find A Grave Record. I do NOT work the Find A Grave website right from the Index, because my process for working the Find A Grave website is different is different than from Ancestry.com or other websites. I did a blog post, several of them, http://ftmuser.blogspot.com/search/label/Find-A-Grave including the most recent blog post.
"The Hints I am following and have in cue are ALL in FTM2014 and I have EXCLUDED, in my settings, all Ancestry Member Tree's in my hints.
"Michael Thomas Neill talked about how Ancestry does their searching when providing hints. I really don't care, as long as the hints that I get are good ones, and mine are. I also know that those hint go beyond what I might have to manually enter into an Ancestry.com Search screen. I just love it, when I enter a new person and a Shaky Leaf Hint shows up for that person, based on the relationships, dates, and places that are in my database.
"I'll let Ancestry.com capture the Low Hanging Fruit, but I don't just accept them, I evaluate what is presented BEFORE I merge the information into my file. Oh, and it's now all the easy stuff, I have one New Jersey Fill in the list of hints that I have in cue.
"As I mentioned, there are 130 people is this new file (less than a week old), with 51 marriage, 7 generation, with 41 surnames (mostly local, to this day, surnames), 1,114 Facts, 75 Place Names, 29 Sources, 94 Citations, and 41 media files.
"Oh, and some of those Media files are Cemetery Headstones that I took 5 years ago, and a number just this week. Not to mention that I sent you a couple of photographs of your folk in one of those cemeteries.
"Bottom line, Yes, I absolutely use those Ancestry Shaky Leaf Hints.
"I think people who are so against the shaky leaves that they refuse to even look at them are obviously researching ancestors who lived in areas with sparse records or lived a very long time ago. It's the only way I can explain such an aversion to a brilliant resource. I also think it's unfair to point to all the poorly researched user trees as if it makes Ancestry unreliable. There's a reason why they're called 'hints'".
"Following hints is just one small part of my research strategy."
"Now I find that, like Randy, the hints are most useful when I've either added someone new to the tree, or when I'm looking at part of the tree I haven't worked on for awhile (where the act of viewing makes the hint engine kick in). The 'find hints by database' trick is also very useful (thanks, Russ!), it made very quick work of mining the recent 'SSA Applications & Claims' database. The hint engine mostly finds things I would have found anyway, but it does it with a lot less effort on my part, and there are the occasional 'aha!' moments that make it absolutely worthwhile.
"I also agree that member tree hints are mostly unhelpful, with one specific exception - sometimes I find a member tree from the spousal side of one of my families that has information about maiden names and/or spousal parents. As it's usually unsourced, it still needs to be verified, but it does help."
Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver