Monday, October 21, 2019

Using the "Mining Hints From a Specific Collection" Tool

Over the past five years or so, several researchers have been using a known genealogy "tool" to isolate the Ancestry Record Hints in a specific record collection - my latest post was in June 2019 - see Changes to Mining Hints by Specific Record Collection - Updated!

The process is actually quite simple:

1)  You have to have an Ancestry Member Tree and an Ancestry account.

2)  You need to know your Ancestry Member tree number (each Ancestry Tree has a unique identifying number) - with your Ancestry Member Tree open, look at the browser address for an up to 9 digit number.  Here is my browser address for my tree:

The tree number ("treenumb") for my tree is 113002012 

3)  You need to know the Ancestry database number ("dbas") for the record collection of interest.  Go to the Ancestry Card Catalog ( and find that record collection.  The easiest way is to roll your mouse over the title and look in the lower left-hand corner of your screen (at least on Windows computers), and the database number is shown (4 or 5 digits).  Another method is to search your selected database, select one of the matches, and look in the match URL in your web browser for the "dbid=dbas" number.  Write down the "dbas" number.

Updated 1 December 2019:  Ancestry has reverted to using the "dbas" number in the Card Catalog and the record collection search.

For this study, I want to "mine" the records in the new Ancestry collection " Obituary Index, 1800's-Current" which is database number ("dbas") 61843.

4)  Now you are ready to search for Ancestry Record Hints in your Ancestry Member Tree for the specific database of interest.

The special URL to use is this:

Insert your tree number and the specific database number into your URL.  For my tree and the database, my URL looks like this:

(Note that if you use my URL above and press Enter it will not work - it refers to my Tree which you cannot access in this way.)

Copy the special URL above into your web browser, but do not press "Enter."  Use your cursor and position it in the URL and replace "Treenumb" with your tree number, and replace "dbas" with your selected database number.

Then press Enter.  You should see a list of Record Hints for your Ancestry Member Tree people in that specific database.  

I recommend that you Bookmark (in Windows) the URL so you don't have to do this process again.  I recommend that you Bookmark this blog post so that you can easily find this process again.

5) When I hit Enter, my screen looks like this for the " Obituaries Index, 1800s-current" collection:

Although the "Records" item on the left-hand side of the screen says I have 120,144 Hints, that is for ALL Record Hints, not for just this selected collection.

To determine how many you have for the specific collection, look in the upper right corner of the screen between the left (<) and right carats (>) for the number of pages (in the screen above, the "1 of 193" indicator).  I have 193 pages, which with 20 results per page works out to be about 3,860 Record Hints for this specific database.

The results are presented alphabetically in last name, first name order.  

I, and others, have listed some of the most popular Ancestry database numbers - see my list at   Changes to Mining Hints by Specific Record Collection.  

6)  One more caveat: does not provide all of the Record Hints for all of your Ancestry Member Tree people at one time.  They provide them in two major ways:

*  When you access a tree person, or search for records from within a tree profile, or change a tree profile, the Hint algorithm works.

*  Every day, Ancestry provides a limited number of Record Hints for random tree persons in your Ancestry Member Tree.

I have been accessing hundreds of tree persons each week, mainly using RootsMagic WebHints and TreeShare, and Ancestry added over 4,000 Hints for the Obituaries Index database for my 55,000 Ancestry Member Tree profiles in the past five days.  Other researchers have reported being inundated by these Hints also.

However, when I accessed one of my old trees, with over 44,000 profiles, I had received less than 20 Hints from this database.  It seems like you have to be active on Ancestry Member Trees to stimulate a lot of Hints.  So, be active in your tree!

There are probably records in the database for other persons in my Ancestry Member Tree who haven't been "Hinted" yet by Ancestry for this specific database.  So I need to check back occasionally, but I can't isolate the new Hints on the list.

7)  I will write another post for how I use these Hints to add content to my Ancestry Member Tree profiles. 


Disclosure:  I have had a fully paid subscription since 2000. has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.

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Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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Keith Riggle said...

Great tip, Randy, thanks for reminding us! It's especially good to know that we must be active in our trees to get more hints. Why do you suppose that is? So they can save processing power?

Randy Seaver said...


Yes, I think that is why. They have something like 200 million trees, and about 3.5 to 4 billion profiles in those trees (if the Card Catalog can be believed - the last update for the tree profiles is from 2009). It may be 10 to 20 billion by now. If it's 10 billion profiles, then that is only an average of 50 profiles per tree, but when you look at the tree density in DNA that's about the median! I did a study on tree density recently for my DNA matches.

They use only the top 10% (by record count) of their databases, but that's still 3300 databases, so it's probably 70 or 80% of the records.

But that's a lot of Record Hints to find and organize and post for each tree. From what I can tell, they limit it to only tree profiles that are accessed somehow (look, search, change) and then they use the profile data (BMD) and try to find Hints. Probably to limit the number of searches they have to do. All of the Hints are saved and put into categories (New, Accepted, Ignored).

Up until mid-2019, they were CPU limited by the program they were using but after going to AWS they are now using a new search program and have more server CPU. In the past, their program for indexing the tree profiles ran out of space (like 6 billion) for the tree search updates. I did a series on these problems earlier this year from an ex-employee.

I can stimulate Hints by just going to a person (say a 2nd great-grandparent) profile in my AMT and just click on him in the Family View and Hints will be generated quickly (in seconds?) for all of the tree persons descended from that person. When I add a person or change a person in my tree using RootsMagic TreeShare, new Hints are generated immediately. It's really an amazing process.

I don't know how often they add Hints from new databases - it often takes weeks to get some Hints because I don't "touch" every person in my tree every week. But they added more than 4000 of the obituary index (new 3 weeks ago) to my Hints this past week.

Briana said...

This is an amazing tip. I will definitely plan to use this and have already found records!

Lacie Madison said...

Thanks for sharing this tool. This is such an effective way of "filtering" through hints.

Unknown said...

Can we do something similar on FamilySearch Tree?

Randy Seaver said...

Dear Unknown,

Not in the same way. Each profile on FamilySearch Family Tree (which is not "your tree" or "my tree" but "our tree") may have Record Hints for some of the indexed FamilySearch record collections (think vital records, census, military, passenger, draft registrations, etc.). My impression is that they are fairly "conservative" in finding these - they may not find name variations, etc. Look on the right side of a profile for the Record Hints. They can be attached to the profile.

Phil Seeberg said...

Thanks for this great tip!!!

Rand said...

Great tip!

Julie said...

Thank you for his hack!

Still works for the new 1950 census. Go to All hints for your tree, delete from the end back to the tree number and append the following


Midwest Ancestree said...

I think Ancestry has changed the process again. I can't get to my hints this way anymore. Have you found a new workaround? HOPEFULLY?

Randy Seaver said...

Hi Midwest Ancestree - I just tried the link that I use and it works. Here is the link: This is for my tree (184684370) and the Social Security Applications and Claims collection (60901).

You need to substitute your tree number for my 184684370 and the database number of interest for 60901.

Good luck!