Friday, November 23, 2012

Pruning my Ancestry Member Tree Hints

One of the real advantages of Ancestry Member Tree Hints (the green shaky leaves we all know and usually love) is that they can short circuit a researchers search for an original source record.

While most of the Hints I have are for Ancestry Member Trees (every one in my ancestral tree has one - because I also have my full database as a separate tree), there are times when I find a gem from the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 collection on  These are, in general, images of the original town record books, or, in some cases, images of a transcription of a town record book.

While I have many source citations for the published Massachusetts town vital records books (which are clearly derivative sources since they indexed and sometimes transcribed the town record books), I want to capture as many of the original town record images as I can, and source them, because they are usually the original source record.

I'm doing a bit of my ancestral tree at a time in my Ancestry Member Tree.  Here is one example of how I am pruning away the Hints that I don't need or want, and saving the ones I really want:

1)  In my Ancestry Member Tree, I listed the Hints for my 8th great-grandmother, Ruth (Hill) Willis (1644-1736):

There were 8 Unreviewed Hints for her.  They included:

*  Ancestry Member Trees
*  American Marriages Before 1699 Record
*  Family Data Collection - Individual Records Record
*  American Marriages Before 1699 Record
*  Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 Record
*  Public Member Photos (page from Dorchester Vital Record)
*  Public Member Photos (page 229 from Pioneers of Massachusetts)
*  Public Member Photos (page 230 from Pioneers of Massachusetts)

I choose to ignore all of those, except for the Town and Vital Records item, because the others are Derivative sources, and I already have a published town vital record book source for most events listed in the index collections for American Marriages, the American Genealogical and Biographical Index (AGBI), the Family Data Collection - Individual Records, etc.

2)  I clicked on the "Review Hint" for the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 Record:

This is a record that I want to save to my tree - it is the death record for Ruth (Hill) Willis in Wayland in 1736.  I saved it to my tree using the orange "Save to my tree" button.

3)  After saving it, I can look at the record by clicking on the image in my list of Accepted Hints:

There is the death entry for "Ruth Willis widdow Died September 1st 1736" - the 4th entry on the left hand page (page W (penned) or page 342 (stamped).

4)  At this point, I saved the image of the page to my hard drive, noting the database name, the specific town record book (Wayland births, marriages and deaths, image 174).  My saved file name for this image is:

RuthWillis-1736-DeathRecord-WaylandMA Births marriages deaths-page 342stamped-pageWpenned-image174 (Ancestry Mass Town and Vital Records).jpg

With that file name, I can then easily create a source citation for this image in RootsMagic:

"Massachusetts, Town Records, 1620-1988," digital images, (, "Wayland [MA] Births, marriages and deaths," Page 342 (stamped), Page W (penned), Image 174, Ruth Willis widow death entry, 1 September 1736; original data from Massachusetts town and city clerk records in Jay and Delene Holbrook, Massachusetts Vital and Town Records (Provo, Utah : Holbrook Research Institute) Microfiche collection.

The source citation for this collection (note that it is not for the exact digital image) is: Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).

My devoted readers will recall that I save the images of records to my computer hard drive rather than leave them attached to a person in my Ancestry Member Tree.  That way the image can be attached to a person and event in my software database, which is independent of any one online family tree.

5)  I now can upload the saved image to my RootsMagic file for Ruth (Hill) Willis, and Tag it to the Death Event.

I have thousands of these to eventually find, so I'm grateful for the "low hanging fruit" of these indexed records on showing up in the Ancestry Member Tree Hints.  Similar original records are on FamilySearch, but they are not indexed.

This is not as tedious as it could be (e.g., searching page by page on FamilySearch or on microfilm), and I have tried to streamline the process in order to minimize the number of clicks required to get the specific record into a source citation and an image attached to an event in my database.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Diane B said...

Randy, how I wish we could sort the hints by Record Collection. That would be so helpful to me. In fact, there are several sorting capabilities that I would like - for instance, pulling the hints up, sorted by birth date of the person - that would be great. Another wonderful option would be if we could just eliminate certain Record Collections from the hints entirely. Well, we can dream!

Taco said...

Hi Randy, even though I never add the indexes as a source, they do let you know there is material out there that could provide more insight. I don't accept them as sources, and the same goes for the user trees, but they do contain a wealth of information; whether it's accurate or not is something to be researched. That brings me to this point: wouldn't it be nice if you could somehow store that information directly in your to-do list, or in some other way connect it to someone in your tree without adding it as a source straight away? In that way, you could create a sort of research aid set of records to go with each individual, family and/or event, and keep that separate from your actual source list. Doors that make sense, or is it just the ramblings of someone that wake up too early and needs to go back to bed?

Taco said...

Doors=Does (auto correct issue)

Unknown said...

You can choose to hide all of the hints from Ancestry member trees, just leaving the hints from record collections or indexes. If I find an index, and don't already have the original record, I add that item in my to do list in my software.

Unknown said...

I've used "Ignore Hint" extensively. It's particularly helpful in those instances where the Member Tree Hints are not actually a match. But I am with Diane B. Some serious upgrades to the hint functionality would be great.

Taco, I do attach indexes as sources. But I like your suggestion alot. I've found the To-Do and Shoebox features becomes unwieldy over time. And I'm trying to decide how to incorporate them into my new database.

I'm moving my primary database to RootsMagic from Ancestry. Attaching an index as a source allows me to pull up a list of all references to that source. That way, when I go to the original, I have a list of everyone I'm looking for in that record set. I realize indexes are not quality sources and weight them accordingly in my database, but they are sources until the original record is obtained. For my paying clients, where time is limited, these sources are frequently in the Research Recommendations portion of my reports.

Since I'm in clean up mode right now, re-writing all my Ancestry citations to EE, I haven't been researching as much. But you've reminded me that I really should be using either the To Do or Research Log function of RM as I work with each individual to log my ideas/leads to pursue. So thanks for that!

Desta Elliott said...

The hints feature of are great, but they do demand a lot of work. I wish there was a way to eliminate all the the "family collections" data which are useless, since there isn't any source.
Also, the member family trees are of marginal value.
If I could suppress those two data types, it would make it a lot easier to troll those shaky leaves.