Mining for Treasure: Hints on the Family Trees

Have you’ve ever taken a look at ALL the hints in your Ancestry family tree?

Although I have spent some time lately actually doing just that, and cleaning them out, for the most part, my M.O. is to check out hints that come up as I work on particular ancestors.

I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned by doing the “all hints” search instead.

First, 12,374 sounds like a LOT of records are there to be found my ancestors. In reality, there are far fewer and that leads me to one of my new pet peeves.

I decided to begin with the two categories most interesting to me – Photos and Stories, which form only a portion of the total hints.

I quickly discovered in the Photos section that there were hundreds of hints that were nothing more than stock photos, like flags.

This is not my idea of a photo. Besides flags, there are icons with a sailing ship that says “Immigrant Ancestor,” Quaker portraits (not of the people to whom they are attached), drawings of churches and signs to cemeteries, etc.

I guess people want to have images for everybody on their tree, but I personally don’t see the need to add all these icons.

I decided my time was best used by ignoring all of the “chaff,” so to speak, to discover how much wheat there really was. Between my tree and that of my husband, I found about sixty new images that I had not seen before.

That leads me to my second new pet peeve. Each new image has been copied and saved by so many people that some were appearing at least ten times in my hints list. Unlike the icons I just mentioned, I don’t think much can be done about cutting down on this duplication because we are all out there doing the same thing – mining for new treasures.

There are a couple of things about the Photos list that I don’t like. First, when I hit “ignore” and moved on, the remaining hints don’t seem to move up in the line to replace the newly vacated spot. After I had exited Ancestry and later returned to the Photos list, page 1, for example, would have two hints on it, pages 2, 3 and 4 might be completely empty, page 5 could have one hint, and then I’d hit several more blank pages. I’m not sure why it works like this, but I would think Ancestry programmers could make this process a bit smoother.

The other thing I don’t like because I don’t know why it does it, is that after I have reviewing and accepted or ignored all the Photos, it still shows a number indicating that more Photos are to be found. The image at the top of this post shows 185 Photos in the queue, but when I click on each of the ten pages in the collection, every single page is empty. Either the image counter is off or else the other Photos aren’t coming up.

Next, I took a look at the Stories hints, each within a folder that appears as a book to be opened:

The Stories group is a motley collection of a little of everything. There are scanned pages of transcribed wills, a single link to some other source, transcriptions to Bible records, county biographies, obituaries and research notes. There are also a number of files that open to gibberish or that don’t open at all.

There are some true gems to be found among the Stories hints, but it was a lot of work to find them because each and every file has to be opened and viewed to determine what is in it because Stories are just attached to a person and the title is buried within the file. Very few people seem to have included a description of what the “story” is.

I have never used Stories to save any of my own information and I don’t think I will. Instead, I save jpg images that appear as Photos with titles. I think that is a much more efficient way to store and then later locate them.

My hints list above shows zero stories to be reviewed because I cleaned out that file for my tree. However, my husband’s tree has 438 stories to be reviewed. Eventually, I will get through them, but I honestly found so few Stories that I wanted to save in my tree that I could count them on one hand and still have fingers left over.

After the Photos and Stories, I took a look at Member Trees, which I think is a complete waste of time. Just a word of advice, if you choose to review those trees, DON’T click on the person’s name as that will only open your OWN tree. Instead, click on REVIEW to see the other member trees that include that person.

We all know how accurate or inaccurate public member trees can be. I often check public member trees for clues, but only as I work on individual people and I am hoping to find a new research path. It’s a lot quicker to search those trees using one person’s name than it is scrolling through the list in these hints.

I left the Records group until last. As with the Photos category, there is one icon that appears often.

This one, too, is a lot of work to review because this icon sometimes indicates only an index with no other information to be seen or it might link to Find A Grave or some other website where the record is housed. It’s going to take me a long time to get through all of these!

One final word of caution about all these attached records – just as with errors in the public member trees, there are items attached to the wrong people in the Records hints. I have found men of the same name born a century after the Revolutionary War with their very own pension files attached to them! I’ve also found death certificates paired up with the wrong people and have found photos that are correctly labeled attached to people with some other name. Ancestry has also provided some record hints that pertain to someone else of the same name.

As always, one needs to be vigilant when reviewing new records and resources.

What will I do in the future in terms of using these hints? I will admit upfront that I will probably continue with my method of reviewing them as they come up attached to individual names.

When I have some down time and/or am bored and want something to do, I’ll delve back into the complete list of hints to see what treasures can be found.

One thought on “Mining for Treasure: Hints on the Family Trees”

  1. RootsTech 2018 Contest Entry I love clicking on the Photos in Hints to add because it is so slick and fast and most of the time it matches my tree.

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