When using Ancestry.com to research your family tree, should you accept the record hints?
As anything in genealogy, the answer depends on whether the hint is accurate or not.
How do you decide if a record hint on Ancestry is accurate?
When deciding whether to accept or reject a record hint on Ancestry, consider the following questions.
- Does the record reflect a biological possibility?
- Does the record name individuals that you have established are connected to the ancestor you are investigating?
- Does the document support previously discovered research?
- Does the information contradict the previous research?
Sometimes, you can quickly rule in or rule out a hint. In other situations, you have to dig a little deeper to find your answer.
Where can you find record hints on Ancestry?
There are several places you can find hints while researching your ancestors. They include:
- Front Page Family Tree Overview Box -- “View People With Hints”
- Leaf Icon in the top menu bar beside “Hire an Expert”
- On the pedigree chart view
- On the individual fact page for your ancestors
There are several types of hints on Ancestry.com. You can explore records, photos, stories, and member tree hints. I typically explore these hints in the following order of importance.
- I rarely use member tree hints.
- Story hints are interesting if I don’t already have them in my tree
- Photo hints are valuable if it’s not a flag, flower, tree, or “DNA match” graphic.
- Records -- I spend nearly all of my time exploring record hints.
A Case Study in When to Accept a Record Hint
In the above video, I evaluate a record hint for Oscar Ward’s son George’s death record.
Oscar and George Ward are common names. I have to be careful when I evaluate potential genealogical evidence of their identity and relationships. (Read “Tips For Researching Common Ancestors” for more tips.)
Eventually, I accepted this hint because:
- George’s middle name Albert was recorded
- George’s wife Grace was mentioned
- The informant Lee Ward is likely George’s son (Lorenzo or Laurence)
- The record identifies George’s occupation as a theater manager
The death record did not identify George’s mother as Jeanette, or else I would have been quickly convinced to accept the record.
When I reviewed census records for George, I was able to quickly find clues that helped me validate the accuracy of George’s death record. Thus, I could attach the hint to his father Oscar.’
A Case Study in When to Reject an Ancestry Record Hint
But what happens if a hint doesn’t seem accurate?
In the case of Mary Elizabeth Smith, she has 10 hints. I rejected several hints because:
- One hint happened in 1920 when Mary had died in 1889.
- Another hint linked to Levi Steel, not Mary Smith.
- Another had her married to a different man in a different state at the same time she had married her husband Leon Smith.
I theorize that many of these hints come from poorly researched Ancestry member trees or the algorithm needs some refinement.
Tips for Attaching a Record Hint to Your Family Tree
Once you decide to accept an Ancestry hint, there are things you still need to consider.
- You can overwrite your tree information with information from the record.
- You can ignore information on the record.
- You can add alternative information to your tree based on the new information from the record hint.
In the above video, I show you when I did each of these three options.
Should You Believe the Ancestry Record Hints?
A good genealogist, which we are striving to be, always validates the hints before we accept them.
There are some genealogists to ignore hint whole cloth. For me, that’s inefficient research and wastes your time.
Use the hints, but validate them.
- If they support that at research you have already established., then go ahead and accept the hint.
- If it significantly contradicts what you have found, then you can reject it.
Just be open to the possibility that sometimes you need to accept what you want to reject and visa versa. Sometimes previous research is wrong.
If you have further questions on what to do with ancestry hints, be sure to leave your questions in the comment section below.
Check out these additional resources for more research and Ancestry.com tips.