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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Don’t avoid those Bright Shiny Objects.

Brown Research

Bright Shiny Objects - Photo by arbyreed - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Bright Shiney Objects

Photo by Arbyreed (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

I’ll admit it; I get diverted from my goals by Bright Shiny Objects (BSOs).  I was working on a problem ancestor of mine, my third great-grandmother, Mary C. LNU (Last Name Unknown), about whom I know very little.

Bio – Mary C. (LNU) Brown (1823-?)

What I think I know:

  • She was born about 1824 in New York.[i]
  • She probably married Barney/Daney Brown about 1841.[ii]
  • In 1850, she was living with her apparent husband, Barney, and two children, William H and Myron O Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan.[iii]
  • In 1860, she and her apparent husband, Daney, were living with four children, Henry W, Myron O, Alice C. and David V. Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan.[iv]
  • In the 1870 census, it appears that she is living alone.[v] Her son, Henry, was married and making a life with his wife and two children nearby. Not sure where Myron, Alice, or David were. I can’t find them nor their father, Barney/Daney, in the 1870 census either. So, I figured he possibly died in the Civil War. Certainly, I have a lot more research to do to determine if one of the many Browns who fought for the Union was my Barney/Daney Brown.

Newspapers

After I had figured out that I had exhausted my many searching methods on Family Search, Ancestry, and Genealogy in Time (read Google) for Mary, Barney/Daney, and the children, I thought I’d see if there were any newspapers of the area. I like using The Ancestor Hunt to seek out newspapers. I research Michigan enough that I have a bookmark right to Kenneth Mark’s Michigan page in my browser. I click it, then do a {Control/f} to “find” type “Saline” and–Bang–there were three newspapers listed for Saline. One was 1958-2014, outside of my possible range. But two were in the 1800s, both at Central Michigan University. So, off I go (metaphorically speaking).

Digital Michigan Newspapers – It is a “Bright Shiny Object.”

I quickly figured out how to search only the Saline papers and found lots of articles about various Browns, but none that appeared to be about this family unit.  (It might be really helpful if I decide to do a locational surname study.)  But this is a nice site.  I’d just bet I can find some juicy bits of information there – It It looks like it is a BSO!

Newspaper Clipping - Obituary - Janette A. Arnold Wakefield Parsons
Obituary Janette A. Arnold Wakefield Parsons

I went back to my genealogy program (I use Heredis) and selected the people who had any event in Saline in my database – 45 people.  I’ll bet some of these people are in those papers. As I worked through the list, at first I didn’t find articles about lots of them, A tantalizing bit here and there, like Sarah Young had perfect attendance in school in 1881. Then, I hit some really important articles. My 4th great-grandfather, Chester Parsons’ personal property was auctioned off by the administrator of his estate. Awesome detail of what was going up for sale, “12 cows, 16 head young cattle, seven head horses, 52 acres wheat on the ground and a large quantity of farm implements. Eighty acres of timber land is also offered for sale at a bargain.”  Very interesting stuff. I even learned that someone named Daniel Reeves lived on Chester Parson’s farm for six years, including two years while Chester was still alive.[vi] Who was Daniel Reeves and why was he living on the Parson farm?  I also found the obituary for Chester Parson’s second wife, which provided the date he married her, her maiden and widowed names, and her daughter’s names.  Those names might be helpful when I find Chester Parsons’ probate records.

The bottom line is that in a couple hours of investigating this BSO, I learned a couple dozen facts, developed several new avenues of inquiry and had a lot of fun.  I know that I probably should have kept to my research goal: What was Mary C [Brown]’s maiden surname? I still don’t know the answer to that, but I do know lots of new things. So it is okay with me that I diverted to look at the BSOs. The information I found added texture to my understanding of the lives of several ancestors. So, I’m glad I didn’t toss aside that Bright Shiney Object once I knew it wouldn’t answer my research question. I hope you find BSOs you can have fun with also.

Future Actions:

  • Research Mary C. [Brown] and determine her maiden surname, place of birth, death, etc. (Again.)
  • Find the Probate Records for Chester Parsons (1799-1887) – Washtenaw County, Michigan.
  • Determine if Barney/Daney Brown served in the Civil War.
  • Determine if there is a relationship between Daniel Reeves and the Parsons family.
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ENDNOTES

  • [i] The 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records for her are all consistent, 26, 36, and 46 years old respectively.
  • [ii] Their first child, William Henry Brown, was born about 1842 in Michigan.
  • [iii] United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF8P-F8S : accessed 23 March 2016), Barney Brown, Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, United States; citing family 185, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  • [iv] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWDZ-DLM : accessed 23 March 2016), Daney Brown, 1860.
  • [v] Year: 1870; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: M593_708; Page: 315B; Image: 166772; Family History Library Film: 552207  Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  • [vi] Saline Observer (Saline, MI) – 1891-12-10, Pg 5, Column 2 (last paragraph) – via Digital Michigan Newspapers; Central Michigan University
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