I don't think it's blasphemy - I think it's Michael's choice. He has his preferred research methodology and, based on his results, it is very sound.
1) I use the Ancestry Hints, the MyHeritage Record Matches, the Findmypast Hints, and the FamilySearch Record Hints all the time. They are part of my research methodology at this time in my genealogy research life.
These "suggested records" by the online record providers are "low hanging fruit" that tell me "you've missed this - want to see what we found?" A researcher has the choice to use it or not. I choose to look at them, and use many of them, especially for Hints for actual records. I choose to not look much at the trees or photograph Hints - but I love to look at the Hints. I also choose to not look at Hints from many of the authored works indexed databases, but I do use some indexed databases like Find A Grave, state or county vital record indexes, etc.
2) Ancestry.com has said in discussions, classes and online videos that the Hints are obtained from searches in about 10% of their most popular and highest record count databases. Since they have over 32,650 databases right now, that's about 3,265 databases - all of them indexed and many of them with record images. They do it while I'm not looking and present them to me in a list. It's a gift!
How they select the persons for Hints, I'm not sure. For me, they seem to look at 5 to 10 persons each day in my Ancestry Member Tree. I know that if I go to a portion of my Ancestry Member Tree in the pedigree or family view, then Hints are stimulated almost immediately for persons in that view. If I add a new person to my Ancestry Member Tree, Hints are provided almost immediately. If I upload a new Ancestry Member Tree, Hints are generated immediately for almost every person on the visible part of my Pedigree chart. I can see the unresolved Hints in each Ancestry database using the hack described in Mining Ancestry.com Hints by Specific Record Collection - Updated.
3) Right now, I'm averaging something like 50 to 60 NEW record Hints each day for my Ancestry Member Tree (1,012 NEW hints in the last 18 days - I keep track of this).
Why am I receiving this many Hints? Is it because I'm a bad researcher and haven't done the necessary research for each person in my Ancestry Member Tree? Perhaps. Or it may be that I haven't performed a complete search. Many of the Hints I receive from Ancestry.com are for records I have already used, but I have not attached, accepted or ignored in my Ancestry Member Tree. About 20% of the Hints that Ancestry provides in a typical day are useful to me. About 90% of the Hints are for the right person in my Tree. I am often amazed that Ancestry.com can find some of the records, especially for females with multiple marriages.
When I work in the Hints list, I rarely accept therm to my tree, but I do choose to Ignore them, which puts them on the Ignore list in the Hints view for the tree person, and removes them from the "New" Hints list.
4) As I've noted before, I have over 42,000 persons in my Ancestry Member Tree, which I uploaded two years ago as "cousin bait." I haven't bothered to attach many records from the Hints because I know that I will replace this tree eventually. My current RootsMagic database has over 46,000 persons because I keep adding persons, events and source citations to my RootsMagic database from my research and from all of the provider-supplied Hints.
My Ancestry Member Tree consists of:
* My ancestral families back as far as I can trace them - usually to the immigrants to America, and sometimes back into the British Isles and continental Europe.
* Ancestral families of my wife and my grandchildren.
* Ancestral families of my first cousins
* Families of specific surnames - Seaver/Sever, Carringer, Auble, Vaux, Buck, Dill, etc. Most of these connect to me, but many don't connect to me yet.
* Families that may connect to my "brickwall ancestors" that I have researched. They are included so that I don't lose the research I've done.
Of the 42,000 persons in my Ancestry Member Tree, I estimate that I have performed a Reasonably Exhaustive Search for just a few of them (perhaps 20 to 50?) because I had to resolve conflicts. I have researched "fairly well" about 3,000 of them, mainly my direct line ancestral families, and I have confidence in the names, relationships, dates, places, events, etc. I have reached a "high confidence level" judgment on these conclusions. The rest are persons in my cousin and surname studies that I have added over the last 28 years. The information for these may be from published source material, and many conclusions are lacking source citations. There are not enough days in my life to research every person in my database to the Genealogical Proof Standard level.
In general, I rarely receive Hints for my direct ancestors that I have not found before, but the Hints I receive are for the third group of persons in my tree - the ones in my cousin and surname studies. When I find a Hint to use, I add the event to my database, add the source citation, and add a note if necessary. It's not unusual for me to go through 100 Hints in an hour, add perhaps 20 to 30 events, and add 50 to 100 source citations in that time. So the Hints are used to improve my family tree database.
5) Once in a great while, I receive a Hint that really helps me with an ancestral family. The best recent example is probably the Hint for Elizabeth Auble's (1814-1899) will that I received three months ago - see Making Progress on My Auble Cousins - Post 10: The Strubles for the list of posts on this line of research. I never thought of looking for a will for Elizabeth Auble - and Ancestry dropped it right in my lap. Lucky me. This Hint resulted in adding a number of relatively close cousins to my family tree.
6) I greatly appreciate the Hints that the record providers push to me - they help me add content to my RootsMagic family tree database. The online family trees I have provide information for other researchers ("cousin bait") to find and use, and provide links to ancestors of potential cousins found from DNA matches.
7) Michael stated in his blog post that the Hints don't provide every search result for a person. He's correct. Searching an online data provider is an art and a science. There are records in Ancestry databases that are only found in a search with specific search parameters and trial and error. There are records in Ancestry databases for a specific person that may never be found because the information may have been originally entered incorrectly, or were transcribed incorrectly, or were indexed incorrectly.
My thanks to Michael for providing thought provoking blog fodder.
8) Your thoughts? Do you use the Ancestry Hints? If so, how do you use them? Why do you use them?
Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver