Three approaches to Ancestry Hints

By Don Taylor

We all get them, at least we do if we subscribe to Ancestry.Com and we have a tree on Ancestry. Yes, I’m talking about hints – the beautiful little leaves that let you know that Ancestry thinks it has information that will be of interest to you.  And they are right, I am interested in all those leaves that provide hints to sources and records that probably relate to people in my tree. The problem is I just don’t have enough time to follow all those hints and verify if they really relate to people in my tree that I care about.

I’ll admit, I have a lot of people in my tree I don’t care much about. The first husband of the second wife of my ancestor is such a person.  In my Howell/Darling tree, I have over 4500 hints and in my Roberts/Brown tree; I have over 13,000 hints. There is no way I can look at them all, so I needed to come up with a reasonable plan to relate to Ancestry Hints.

First of all, I recognize that they are Bright Shiny Objects that will take up my time. If I am not careful, they will sap my energy from researching the people that are important to me. So, I fundamentally ignore them. Unless there is a hint regarding an individual that I am currently researching, I ignore Ancestry hints as a matter of normal activity.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-3-58-41-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-08-at-3-58-50-pmI do subscribe to receiving alerts about new hints via email.  It is the default setting to receive alerts for new hints, but if you aren’t receiving them, In the upper right-hand corner of your Ancestry account, click on your name, then on Your Alerts. You will then see all the family trees you have access to.  Click “change delivery options” I select to receive New Hints monthly.

Next, in my email program (I use Outlook), I have created a rule that says if the message came from ancestry@ancestry.com and it has the following text in the message, “New Hints in Darling-Huber,” move the message to a Darling-Huber folder in my email system.

When I have a chance to work on my Darling-Huber tree, I go to that Howell-Darling folder and see what I have in the folder. Then I look at the individuals that the emails indicate Ancestry has hints for. As an example, recently it indicated:

John Henry Gensler (1876-1956)

1 new hint

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

Then I go to my Genealogical Program, open up my Darling-Huber tree and search for all individuals named Gensler. Are any of the Genslers in my tree a direct ancestor of my root person? Many genealogical programs use a different icon for individuals that are direct line ancestors and descendants of the root person, so it is easy to see. In this case, none of the Genslers in my Darling-Huber research are directly related so I can ignore the email. (In this case, John Henry Gensler is the father-in-law of the nephew of one of my wife’s great-grandmothers.) I haven’t ignored the hint on Ancestry, that is still there if I need to research John Henry Gensler further in the future but it is no longer in my email.


The next hint is about Sally Munsell. Again, a quick search for persons with the surname Munsell lists Sally Ann Munsell – One of my wife’s 3rd great-grandmothers.  Definitely, a person I want to glean the facts from any appropriate hints and someone I would follow the hints immediately.

Finally, another hint I received was about Samuel Swayze. I have many Swayze’s identified in my wife’s family tree – including my wife’s 5th great-grandfather, Amos Swayze. I do not have this particular Samuel Swayze connected to anyone in my tree. However, this Samuel lived in the same place as other relations at the same time; however, I haven’t proven the connection yet. I know he isn’t a direct ancestor, but he is likely a close relative to a direct ancestor.  This would be a person I would want to research more thoroughly in the future.  As such, I would add a task to my research tasks to:

Investigate Ancestry Hints regarding Samuel Swayze (1653-1738) (The dates are to differentiate him from several other Samuel Swayze’s in my tree.) I’ll get to researching these hints, but probably not today. So, they are in my queue.

My Three Approaches.

  1. Investigate hints for known direct-line ancestors.
  2. Queue hints about potential bloodline relatives with direct-line surnames.
  3. Ignore hints about lines that are not direct line surnames.

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