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Record Hints

How I Use Genealogy Software and Online Family Trees

 Roberta Estes wrote a blog post yesterday titled “Genealogy Tree Replacement – Should I Or Shouldn’t I?” on her DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy blog.  I commented on it, but want to expand on my comments a bit.

Roberta explains the situation we all face – we may have a family tree in our genealogy software programs (e.g., RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, etc.) and on a number of websites (e.g., Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc.).  But it’s impossible to keep them all up-to-date without making a new GEDCOM file every so often and uploading it to the online trees.  If I do this, do I delete my old tree which may have many record hints and record images attached to the tree person profiles?

Here is a list of the family trees that I actively manage and what I do to try to keep them all updated:

1) I have a master tree in RootsMagic that now has about 60,000 profiles – ancestral families of mine, my wife’s and my sons-in-law; plus one name studies for Seaver/Sever/Sevier, Carringer, Auble, and Vaux; plus descendants of several other ancestral surnames; plus descendants of my 4th great-grandparents (to aid in DNA matching).

*  I do all of my data entry in RootsMagic, adding names, dates, places, events, notes, sources, and media.  I download record images that I want to save to my desktop computer files – they go into a Family file in a Surname File in a Group file – with a common file naming convention.  

*  RootsMagic permits me to “TreeShare” my person profiles with an Ancestry Member Tree, one person at a time and one event at a time, from within the program.  I can either add content to my Ancestry tree or from my Ancestry tree to RootsMagic.  I do this every week.  I rarely download anything from Ancestry into RootsMagic because Ancestry’s source citations are poorly crafted and any record image I might download goes into another file with a non-descriptive name.  
*  RootsMagic permits me to “match” my person profiles to FamilySearch Family Tree profiles from within the program.  So I can add Family Tree persons, events, notes and sources to RootsMagic, or from RootsMagic to Family Tree.  
*  RootsMagic provides WebHints with links to Record Hints on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Findmypast.  I can click right into these sites from my RootsMagic program and go to the records on the WebHints list.  I can then enter information from those WebHints right into RootsMagic,
*  RootsMagic permits me to create a GEDCOM file of all or part of my family tree, which I can then upload to another software program or to an online tree.
*  I have other family tree software programs on my desktop computer – Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree Builder and RootsFinder.  I use these occasionally to take advantage of program capabilities that are, IMHO, better than what is in RootsMagic.  I upload a new GEDCOM file to these programs when I need to.

2) I TreeShare my RootsMagic tree with my major Ancestry tree (connected to my AncestryDNA test)  every week to keep the Ancestry tree up-to-date.  I try to prevent Ancestry record images (poorly named) and sources (poorly crafted) from coming into RootsMagic. My Ancestry tree immediately creates Record Hints for new or changed profiles, which I can then mine and add to my RootsMagic tree.  I also do searches on Ancestry.com to catch every record for a person.

*  AncestryDNA uses my Ancestry Member Tree (which has many descendants of my 4th great-grandparents!) to find Common Ancestors of my AncestryDNA Matches using the ThruLines feature.  Common ancestors are identified from my tree information, the trees of my DNA matches, and their Big Tree.  I have over 34,000 DNA matches, but only 400 Common Ancestor matches are identified.  

3) I upload a new GEDCOM to MyHeritage every year but save the previous family tree file and delete earlier family tree files. MyHeritage provides Smart Matches and Record Matches for each person profile, and also matches by Source.  I can access the Record Matches from the WebHints in RootsMagic. When I find useful Record Matches on MyHeritage, I add them to my RootsMagic file,  I also do searches on MyHeritage to catch every record for a person.

*  MyHeritageDNA uses my MyHeritage tree to find Common Ancestors of my MyHeritage matches using the Theory of Family Relativity feature. I have almost 9,000 MyHeritageDNA matches, but only 8 Theory of Family Relativity identified matches.  

4) I upload a new GEDCOM to Findmypast every once in awhile.  Findmypast provides Record Hints for tree profiles on their website, or on the RootsMagic Web Hints feature.  I add useful information to my RootsMagic tree.  I also do searches on Findmypast to catch every record for a person.

5)  American Ancestors uses RootsFinder as their online family tree, and I uploaded a GEDCOM file there a year ago.  However, my family tree takes up 1.5 gb when I access it, and slows my desktop computer significantly.  It provides Record Hints but I rarely search for them.   I also do searches on American Ancestors to catch every record for a person.
6) I have an ancestors only tree at FamilyTreeDNA which rarely provides any useful matches.

7)  I have an ancestors only tree at GEDmatch which rarely provides any useful matches.

8) I match profiles in FamilySearch Family Tree (a collaborative tree) with profiles in my RootsMagic tree, or create new FamilySearch Family Tree profiles from RootsMagic profiles, and share information both ways, including sources and notes.


*  FamilySearch provides record matches for person profiles, which I can access from the tree profile or from the FamilySearch WebHint in RootsMagic.  When I find useful record matches on FamilySearch, I add the information to my RootsMagic tree.   I also do searches on FamilySearch to catch every record for a person.

9)  I have added information for most of my ancestral families to Geni.com (a collaborative tree) over time, but it takes time to add information there with or without a GEDCOM.  

10)  I have added information for most of my ancestral families to WikiTree (a collaborative tree) over time, but it takes time to add information with or without a GEDCOM.

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What genealogy software do you use, and why do you prefer it?

What online family tree(s) do you use, and how do you keep them up to date?

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Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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Dear Randy: Do You Ignore Ancestry Hints?

Sherry asked a question in email recently concerning Ancestry Hints:

Do you use the ignore button to get rid of a hint once you have recorded your information or do you leave it there are try to remember where you were on the list of hints?”

Here is my response:

I do IGNORE every Record Hint that I look at for my Ancestry Member Tree, perhaps with a few exceptions.  That way, I know that I’ve at least looked at it, and often include the record information in my RootsMagic tree, add a source citation, perhaps a Note.  If it’s a useful record for one of my ancestors, I will save the record image to my computer files and add the Media item to the person profile in my RootsMagic tree. 

On Ancestry, even the IGNOREd hints are saved on the Hints page, so I can go look at them if I choose to.  I like that capability, because occasionally I find that I need to look at them again.  

The RootsMagic WebHints feature shows all of the Ancestry WebHints found for a person, and the list includes New, Ignored, and Accepted Hints.  I can accept or reject them from RootsMagic also.

I would never remember where I was on the list of Record Hints!  I have over 115,000 Record Hints now.  Sometimes it is days later when I come back to the Hint list, and Ancestry has added dozens or hundreds more hints.  I usually start with the latest first, and try to work through 200 or so in one sitting.  I try to do this 3-4 times a week.  I never seem to catch up!  I do what I can, but am resigned that I will never be “finished.”

Note that I don’t add information to my RootsMagic tree for every Hint – I already have events and source citations for many of them, and don’t add information for other trees, for duplicate entries (some state vital records are in multiple collections), or for general collections (e.g., Millennium File, AGBI, etc.).  I seem to add information for one in every 10 to 20 Record hints (I haven’t collected statistics on this).  On the other hand, I look at the “Suggested Records” for a person in a record to determine if there are other records of use to me.

I have found that if I TreeShare every other night I can limit the number of new Record Hints and am able to work through some of the older Hints.  

I look at the Photo and Story Hints occasionally so as not to miss something for one of my ancestors.  

Some readers may wonder “don’t you help Ancestry by telling them why you accepted or rejected a Hint?”  

This task is a bit time intensive for me, so I don’t do that – I just Ignore them.  

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Disclosure:  I have had a fully paid Ancestry.com subscription since 2000.  Ancestry.com has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.


Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the “Comments” link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at randy.seaver@gmail.com.