Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Musings On Leaf Hints, Record Matches, Instant Discoveries, Record Hints and more

Today's state of the genealogy "Hint and Match" art includes:

1)  Ancestry.com provides green leaf Hints for records that may pertain to a person in my Ancestry Member Tree (a separate "my tree").  The leaf appears on the tree.  This happens without being requested (while you sleep or do other activities) - remember "you don't even have to know what you're looking for."  My experience is that these Hints are 80% to 90% correct.  The information can be added as events to the person profile, the source is added, and the record summary and image can be attached to the person, in the Ancestry Member Tree.

2)  MyHeritage provides Smart Matches (other MyHeritage trees with the same person) and Record Matches (records that may pertain to a person) in my MyHeritage tree (a separate "my tree").  Match indicators appear on the tree.  This happens automagically - without being requested.  The user can review these for each person or by each record collection.  My experience is that these Record Matches are 90% to 95% accurate (except for the newspaper matches).  The information can be added to the person profile, and the record details and record image can be attached to the person in the MyHeritage tree.  In addition, MyHeritage has introduced "Instant Discoveries" which can automagically add persons to a user's MyHeritage tree.

3)  FamilySearch provides Record Hints for persons in the FamilySearch Family Tree (a collaborative tree, "our tree" not "my tree" or "your tree").  The hint appears on the tree.  My experience is that these Record Hints are 80% to 90% accurate.  Users can review these Hints and add the record content and source to the person profile.  The source contains a link to the record summary and image.

4)  Findmypast provides Hints for persons in my Findmypast family tree (a separate, "my tree").  The leaf appears on the tree.  This happens without being requested.  My experience is that these Record Hints are 80% to 90% accurate. The user can review these for each tree person and choose to add record content to their tree person along with a source citation, and the record summary is included in the Media tab for the person profile.

What should a researcher do with the windfall of information that they receive from these record providers?   My practice is:

1)  I keep my "master" family tree database in the RootsMagic 7 computer program on my Windows desktop computer.  I try really hard to add information to this file only when I am confident that the information applies to the tree person and has a trustworthy source.  I am definitely a "conclusion tree" person

2)  When I evaluate any information from a Leaf Hint, Record Match, etc. I look at the source information for that record and make a judgment - asking questions like: Does this record apply to my tree person? Or: Does it "fit" with other information about the person?  If it does, I add the information and source it.  I may be wrong, but I own it.

3)  I chose to attach the "Instant Discovery" persons to my MyHeritage tree because it was the easiest way to evaluate the information therein.  I can check the new person profiles on my MyHeritage tree and choose to add (or not add) content to my "master" tree in RootsMagic.  I can also delete persons on the MyHeritage tree if I decide the information was wrong.

Why are the record providers creating these Hints and Matches?

1)  It's a competitive business, and each site wants to stay relevant and provide innovative solutions that may provide a competitive edge.  The three largest commercial sites (Ancestry, MyHeritage and Findmypast) and the non-commercial FamilySearch continue to develop and refine their processes to provide records to their customers and users.  We are fortunate to have so much competition because this drives the companies to innovate.

2)  Because some users don't renew their subscriptions (for example, Ancestry.com had a 3-4% "churn rate" per month in recent years), the commercial sites need to continually find new subscribers and try to lure their previous subscribers to renew.

3)  Ancestry.com advertises that "you don't even have to know what you're looking for," and MyHeritage lets people on the streets make "Instant Discoveries," in order to attract new subscribers who are not genealogists, in hopes they become interested in genealogy research and remain long-time subscribers. 

A Summation:

I think that the hints, matches, and discoveries are really a wonderful thing for everybody.  I continually find records that I had not seen before that I can add to my RootsMagic database.  

Seasoned genealogists may say "people attach those 'green leaf Hints' or 'Instant Discoveries' to their  tree without even considering if they were correct."  My view is that the Hints and persons offered are leads, and adding them to your tree depends on your experience level, your decision criteria, and your judgment.  Just like any other resource (book, manuscript, periodical, artifact, government record, website, etc.), the researcher needs to be careful while adding content to their tree.

These search tools may lead "new" genealogists to become "seasoned" genealogists over time.  It's a "honey instead of vinegar" issue.  You have to attract these "new" genealogists (the "honey"), and then teach them the proper methods to search for and evaluate records, how to use all resources, apply the Genealogical Proof Standard, and become more experienced.  Not every "new" researcher sticks with it, but some do, and are successful.

These are only research Hints and leads - not proof of relationships or events until analysis and critical evaluation are performed, resulting in a conclusion one way or another.  With all of the seeming "brick walls" and "dead ends" I have in my family tree, I appreciate these opportunities.  In the blog context, they are also teaching opportunities.

What do you think about these leaf hints, record matches, record hints, instant discoveries, etc.?  Are they helpful?  How do you use them?  Please tell me in comments.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/04/musings-on-leaf-hints-record-matches.html

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Or contact me by email at randy.seaver@gmail.com.


Dianne Nolin said...

I definitely use the leaf hints in Ancestry. During the years they helped me a lot. But now I only get record hints. I TURNED OFF getting member-submitted hints. The reason for that is that I am now getting hundreds of "hints" a day of images people are downloading then re-uploading instead of sharing - mostly coats of arms and images I originally uploaded and are now coming back at me.
If I am missing anything new, I will catch it when I do a search.

Grandma Cantrell said...

I like the hints/leaves. Why not let a search engine find the easy possible links, so I can spend my time evaluating them. Then I can spend my research time filling in the missing pieces. I think it is a great way to accomplish more.

Cherie Gardner Rawlings said...

I too, have about the same percent of correct to incorrect hints. But, beware, in the case of my girlfriend who was born in Manchester, England. Her hints are WRONG at least 50% of the time! Her grandfather is a John Roberts and her grandmother is a Theresa Smith. With common names in a large city--the errors go way up.