The Ancestry hints function is a genealogist's best friend in the world! Here on this page, we'll do a basic introduction for beginners, but we'll also discuss some effective time-saving, headache-reducing strategies for intermediate users to think about when adding records.
Information for this page was adapted from my quick start tutorial on Ancestry hints and was first written for my church congregation. Click here to see the original tutorial presented in a more faith-based way for Latter-Day Saints.
For starters, you'll need to log in to your account and find an ancestor with some "green leaves" or "hints" to look at.
Click on 'TREES' as shown below and select your tree.
To find an ancestor you've been working on (if it isn't already visible at this point), click on the 'FIND PERSON' utility in the upper right corner of the screen.
Type in a name or click on the 'Last Viewed'.
Alternatively, you can click on any of the green leaves you see.
In my case, I entered “Emma Katie Anthony” and clicked on 'Hints'. I get this screen:
At this point, you've either clicked a green leaf or found someone you know who has 'hints' for us to work on. Let's get started.
Notice you have a list of hints for this person. We want to focus on the hint circled in blue:
The first hint is 'Ancestry Member Trees'. I will often review these for clues about other family members I need to add to my tree, but I never actually use this hint. The reason for this is you don't know who has done the research or whether they've made a mistake, how discerning they are about making sure to get the right records etc... It's always better to do your own research.
Instead, because I happen to know that Emma Katie Anthony went by the nickname 'Katie' and because I also know her husband's name was Monroe Kline, I'm going to investigate the second hint – a death certificate. Click the green 'REVIEW' button.
Ancestry will give you a little bit more information about the record and ask if you still think this matches your ancestor. I notice that Emma's son 'Ralph Joseph Kline' matches her son's full name as I have it in my tree exactly. This being the only information at this point, I deem the record worthy of further investigation and click 'YES'. I can still back out and not save the record at this point.
I get the following breakdown of what the record will add to my Katie Anthony:
As I scroll down, I can see Katie, her husband Monroe, and her son Ralph – all familiar names. Not only that but the birth and death dates for Ralph match exactly. I know I've got the right death certificate, so I click the checkbox next to Monroe's name to add him and to get a closer look at his information.
As you can see, this causes the right side of the screen to become active. The left side now shows what information exists in the death record; the right side shows what we already have in our Ancestry tree. In a more complex record, you'll have names, dates, places, and other information. You'll want to check spelling and little differences you notice and make changes accordingly. Sometimes your Ancestry might show 'Pennsylvania' as a place of death, for example, but maybe the death record shows 'Pennsylvania, Lehigh, Egypt'. You'll want click the checkbox next to that information to copy it over. Sometimes you'll get a situation where some of the data needs to be copied over, but not all of it. For example, maybe you get a better spelling of a woman's married name, but you already have the maiden last name. You don't want to copy that over, so just edit it manually on the right before saving.
In my particular case, everything exactly matches, so I don't change anything. I scroll down and click checkboxes to activate the son – always make sure to activate the boxes and check information for on everyone in the record. They all need to be added to the family!
Once I get through everybody, I reach the bottom of the screen and click 'SAVE TO YOUR TREE'.
This puts me back to the hints list. You've just added your first Ancestry hint!
Now, because the second hint provides an opportunity to explore some family history detective techniques, I'm going to go ahead and look at it as well.
Notice the wife's name is Emma Kline, and the husband's name is John M. Kline. Now, I've noticed in researching Katie that she keeps showing up as Emma in the census records, but as Katie in the death certificate and other records. I further suspect that her husband's name might in fact be “John Monroe Kline”, that the middle initial “M” stands for Monroe. So let's have a look. Click the 'REVIEW' button.
I'm going to start by reviewing information about Emma Katie and her husband as we already have it in our tree, as it should now be showing at the top of the screen:
Notice that the birth years are 1866 and 1867. Notice that the ages are fairly close together:
This is close enough to warrant further investigation. However, in this case, given the limited reliability of census, I want to view an image of the actual census record.
Click the 'VIEW' button.
Usually, this will provide additional information. Often, I find their children in the household or something like that. In this case, no additional information is provided. I am unable to verify that I should use the record, so I click out of it and go back to my hints list. More research is required. I could go into the ancestry member trees hint at this point and see if anybody else shows him listed as John Monroe or if anybody else has included this particular 1930's census record in their research. If I'm able to see other people using this, I might come back and include it at that point.
That's the end of this tutorial – you now know how to take advantage of Ancestry hints. This one skill accounts for about 65% of the research I do. Up next: I still don't have nearly enough information about Monroe Kline, so we need to talk about how to manually search for records that didn't show up in hints.