Friday, June 20, 2014

Information From FamilySearch about FamilySearch Family Tree Record Hints

In my post Record Hints are Now Available on FamilySearch Family Tree (posted 17 June 2014), I mentioned that I would try to evaluate the quality of the Record Hints provided by FamilySearch for a specific person in the Family Tree.

Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch read that blog post, and provided additional information about the Record Hints feature via email:

"I noticed that you will be evaluating the quality of the hints in an upcoming article. I thought I’d give you a little insight to enrich that article.
  • Hints are generated by taking all the information (name, gender, event dates and places, relationships) from the ancestor and that ancestor’s one-hop-relatives (parents, spouse, children)
  • The Family Tree persons are matched against all 4.5 billion historical record personas to identify the highest confidence matches
  • Hints are being exposed incrementally. 
    • Today we deliver only hints where the matched person is primary on the record. 
    • We will shortly expose hints to secondary personas
    • New records, improved algorithms, etc will ensure there are always new hints to evaluate. 
  • The message to users is “Don’t be surprised if you find a record through searching that wasn’t exposed as a hint. Keep coming back to the site to see new hints”.
  • Part of the reason for this is the current release is a “Public Preview”. The hinting system will still be a work in progress through late in the year. We will be working on a number of key things:
    • Continuous improvement in algorithms
    • Update system systems to automatically re-hint changed tree people and newly published records (the current system uses snapshot data updated monthly)
    • Optimizations for hinting diverse language collections
  • Because it uses snapshot data, an astute researcher may notice a couple things:
    • A newly added person to the Family Tree may not get new hints for as much as a month
    • A significantly changed Family Tree person may display hints that no longer perfectly match the tree person data for as long as a month
  • As a measure of accuracy, we have been watching the rate at which users mark presented hints as Not-A-Match. That rate has been exceedingly low. 
Also, we will very soon be adding to the attach tool the ability to view record details and the image from any record. 

I followed up by asking:

*   Does the system refer to the Sources already provided for the person that are from historical records on FS, and then not list them as Record Hints?

Robert quickly responded with:

"Yes the hinting system is fully aware of which sources have already been attached and it will not surface already attached sources as possible hints."

My thanks to Robert for offering this information about the Record Hints feature.  I think that this will be a very useful feature for all genealogical researchers.

As Geolover commented on the initial blog post - not every record for a specific person will show up in a Record Hint - many collections are not indexed and therefore won't be found in a name search.  The information can still be attached to the Family Tree by the user with a source citation and document image. 

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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