Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Dear Randy: How Do You Deal With Ancestry Hints?

Reader Larry asked this question in Monday Genea-Pourri - Week Ending 10 May 2021 last week:

"I find that when I try to resolve the hints by reviewing them, more hints are added to my list. It looks like I will never get through the list in my lifetime unless I just ignore them one at a time. What say you!"

1)  Yes, the statement is exactly correct. In fact, every time you make a change to a profile in your Ancestry Member Tree, Ancestry's search engine tries to find more Hints for you - Record Hints, Photo Hints, Story Hints, and Other Ancestry Tree Hints.  And they store them in the "Hints" page for that person.  For example:

The Hints are either "New," "Undecided," "Ignored" or "Accepted."

I can "Review" or "Ignore" each Hint for each person in my Ancestry Member Tree that has Hints.

By adding a new Event to the Facts list for a profile, I will probably get more Hints from Ancestry.

The Hints are collected by Ancestry's algorithms that search the top 10% (approximately) of their record collections (ranked by record number).  But 10% is 3,300 collections, so it's quite a bit.  

2)  However, the Hints don't come from ALL record collections - you have to search their collections for the profile of interest.  I have found, and Ancestry has claimed, that the most effective search of all of their collections is from the "Search" link on the person profile (do you see it at the top right of the screen above, just below "Hire an expert."  When I do that, Ancestry uses all of the information in the profile (name, relationships, events, dates, places, etc.) to conduct a Broad search which forces the "best" matches to the top of the list:

As you can see, every field except the last name in the Search Filters are broad.  The Last Name field includes the maiden surname all married surnames of females.  The user can adjust the sliders as they wish from Broad to Exact.

Further down the screen above is the list of 1,297 search Results found for this person in all of Ancestry's record collections:

On the left side of the screen above is the list of possible Search Filters - I have chosen to not include Pictures and Family Trees.

My experience is that almost all of the records for a specific person are in the top 100 matches, and usually in the top 50.  

The above explains how this works on Ancestry, and in my opinion the system works extremely well.  But the Hints offered are a reflection of the records found based on the information input by the user for the person.  If the profile has no dates and places, then it will try to find them in a broad sense.  That's why some Hints are for obviously deceased persons in some cases.  

3)  The question was "What say you" about "I will never get through the [hint] list in my lifetime."

As the recipient of over 149,600 Record Hints at present (with about 63,600 profiles in my Ancestry Member Tree), I know I will never finish the Hint list.  If I did nothing but resolve 100 Hints a day (reviewing the Hint information, adding an event/date/place/note to my tree, crafting a source citation, and accepting or rejecting the Hint), it would take me over 4 years to finish the list.  If I do it within my Ancestry Member Tree, more hints will be created and the Hint treadmill continues.  

4)  My process is to work with the Ancestry "All Hints" list (found by clicking the down arrow next to the tree name in my Tree):

*  Use the "Records" Hints to add information to my RootsMagic family tree database.  

*  For each Hint, determine if the Hint is "useful" to me and should be added to my tree.  I concentrate on records that are birth, baptism, marriage, divorce, death, burial, military, probate, passenger and citizenship information that I don't already have, or for which I don't have a source citation.  Other information is helpful but I generally don't source the collections like "Index to Public Records," "Millennium File," "City Directories," "School Yearbooks," etc. - I review those for my ancestors but not my collateral lines.

*  I add the Event, Date, Place, and Source Citation to my RootsMagic file.  Unless the Hint is for an ancestor, I don't download the record image or record summary.  

*  When I'm done with a Hint, I Ignore the Hint so I don't have to deal with the Ancestry process of Accepting the Hint, adding information to my Ancestry Member Tree, etc.  That takes time, and the Hint stays in the "Ignored" list so I can find it if I need to.  

I review the "Photos" and "Stories" Hint lists occasionally, but not the "Member Trees" list.

Generally, I can deal with about 100 Hints in an hour, but extract information from about 20% of them.  In many cases, I just have to craft a source for an event that previously didn't have one.  I often work an hour or two almost every day resolving Ancestry Hints.

5)  Every week, I "TreeShare" my RootsMagic file with my Ancestry Member Tree, which synchronizes information for each changed person.  In a typical week, I will update or add 200 to 300 profiles to my Ancestry Member Tree.  

Of course, doing this stimulates the Ancestry algorithms to find even more Hints, so it becomes a treadmill activity.  It's not unusual for me to have to deal with the same profile for two or three weeks as I add more information to a profile. 

My view is that I want to add all new persons and update information for existing persons in my RootsMagic family tree, and add information to my Ancestry Member Tree using "TreeShare" in RootsMagic.  My Ancestry Member Tree is temporary - I can and will upload a new tree, again using RootsMagic "TreeShare," on occasion.  

How do you deal with the Ancestry Member Tree Hints?


Disclosure: I have a complimentary all-access subscription from Ancestry.com, for which I am thankful. Ancestry.com 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) 2021, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Diane Gould Hall said...

I will take a quick look at the current hints (I see that number by the hints icon). I don't try to work through any specific number, but do look at the hints every time I am researching a particular ancestor. I think my number is pretty high as to hints, but it doesn’t bother me. They’ll be there when I need them.