Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Initial Thoughts on FamilySearch Family Tree Source Hints

Without much fanfare other than an email with a broken link to a blog post, introduced a new feature. The email notice is entitled, "Hinting is Here: We Search for You." Of course, they didn't have to search far for me, if they had my email address and were aware of my blog, but it was nice of them to look for me anyway.

Oh, I get it. They are doing the searching of the databases for me! Actually, they have been talking about adding this feature for quite a few months. Interesting that they have comments from users who were testing the Beta version. The real question is does it work? But first a little background. introduced their "Shaky" leaf source hints back in April or May of 2012. You can read an initial review by Randy Seaver in a blog post entitled, How Accurate are the Ancestry "Shaky Leaf" Hints?" dated 7 May 2012. Of course, if one software engineer can come up with a "feature" other engineers can follow and improve on the initial product. did a complete and very positive makeover of the entire concept with its Record Match program and then added more values with its adjunct Record Detective. raised a high goal with a claimed 97% accuracy. Now, more than a year after's intro and with a lot of history with, throws their proverbial hat into the ring.

OK, I am being too coy. This is a really good addition to the Family Tree program. In the email, Ron Tanner says:
Hints are a method where “we search for you.” We look at the information in FamilySearch Family Tree, compare it to information from our indexed records, and bring back the most likely matches. Our goal is that, on average, 95% of the records we suggest to users will be correct matches. (This won’t be true on every person in the tree.) 
After a user reviews a hint, they will be able to attach it to FamilySearch Family Tree and, using the enhanced match functionality, we will help them compare and attach it to other people in the tree. This process will provide documented information to qualify existing people in the tree for temple work and it will also help add new people to the tree who need temple ordinances. 
Using this feature is quick and easy, just login to, go to an ancestor page, and Record Hints box is on the top right side of the page!
All of that is true. Here is a screenshot showing some of the hints suggested in my Family Tree. I had to go back a ways because we have already added a lot of sources and if they are already added, the hints don't seem to find too many more. I know this is unusual, but I had to search for a while before I could find anyone with more than one source hint. So, I finally gave up and did a screenshot of a person with one hint:

Here is the attach screenshot:

The feature looks fairly accurate and very useful. Good for FamilySearch.


  1. The problem I have found with Record Hints is that (for me at least) the vast majority of them are duplicates of sources that I have already attached to the record. That creates a dilemma. When you open the historical record Record Hints produces, the only options you have are "Attach" and "Not a Match." If I l click "Attach" I end up with a duplicate source. Clicking "Not a Match" is misleading because the record is actually a match. So, it looks like this is going to create a lot of extra work. I will have to attach the record from Record Hints, then delete the source I originally put in. It seems like there should be an additional button that says something like "Ignore" that would dismiss the hint without having to attach it.

    1. Since I have yet to have many source hints I was not aware of this yet. I assume this will be solved. The program changes almost every day.

  2. I have seen these duplicate hints in only two situations so far.

    1) When a historic collection has been extracted two or three times through the old extraction program the precede the current indexing program. Often times the extractions will be a little different. I have records where one marriage extraction record did not include the parents and the second one did. If there is a third one, it will usually have a different variation of the place name. These different instances of the same original record will each have a different URL and a different batch number for the extraction. I just go ahead and attach all versions of these extractions.

    2) A source was attached as a external source rather than a system source. In other words, has a globe icon next to it rather than a tree icon. This occurs with sources that were attached before the blue "Attach to Family Tree" button was available or when people did not use that button or the "Add to my source box" feature but rather created the source themselves. At one point, you could also break a system source by making a copy of it so you could edit the title. Apparently the program cannot recognize a source unless it has the tree icon by it, even if it has the same URL. These I reattach properly to get rid of the hint and delete the older source.

    1. Thanks, that analysis will be helpful.