Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FamilySearch Shaky Leaf Hints

Overshadowed by’s denial of service attack, last week FamilySearch quietly released its version of the shaky leaf hinting. I’ve been asked to encourage experienced users to use this new feature to help new users get excited about genealogy. Don’t scarf up all the hints yourself.

FamilySearch has compared all the records in its historical records collections to every person in the Tree. In those cases where it found a possible match, it displays a record hint on the person page in the right hand column.

Hints are found in the right hand column

I say possible matches because the records aren’t guaranteed. That is why they are called hints. FamilySearch has tried to be correct 95% of the time. I think I could probably chug through 100 records in a sitting. I would expect to find five bad hints during that time. Unlike the Possible Duplicates feature, I didn’t see a way to indicate that a particular hint was not a match.

If there are too many hints, Family Tree may not display all of them in the margin. Click Show all to move to a page that shows them all.

Use a dedicated page to see all the hints when there are too many to show in the right column.

Click the hint in the right column of the person page or click the Review button on the hint page. Family Tree displays the enhanced attach records page. Use it to attach the record to everyone mentioned therein.

Attach records for everyone mentioned in the record from the enhanced attach records page.

Family Tree displays on the left hand side the information from the record. On the right, it shows the information from the tree. If the fact is new (such as the marriage in the example above), click Add to copy it into the tree. Don’t forget to specify the reason you think the record matches the tree. (In the example above, I might say something like: “The bride’s and groom’s names match as does the marriage date and place.”) After specifying a reason, click the Attach button. Repeat for each person in the record to prevent errors that computers make when they automatically make matching decisions.

Remember: use this feature to engage new genealogists when possible.


  1. I was excited when I first read about the FamilySearch Tree and hints as I had never used this and it sounds great. But I do not see a way to upload a GEDCOM to the tree. Please tell me I'm wrong about this; I sure wouldn't want to input all my folks manually! I have a lot of separate PAF files I'd love to find a permanent home for. If a GEDCOM can be uploaded would someone give me a link to where that is possible.

  2. To answer the Ancestry Insider about how to not a match a hint that doesn't match, you click the Not a Match button on the last screen shot you attached. To see all of the records that have been not a matched for a person, click the Show all link at the bottom of the record hints box and go to the Not a Matches tab.

    To answer janiejac, you can still upload GEDCOM files by going to the page (or the Search / Genealogies tab) and going to the bottom. Depending on the size of the GEDCOM, it will take a while to match against persons already in Family Tree and provide a way to add persons not yet added.

  3. The FS-FT hints widget seems to look in selected low-hanging fruit, such as Civil War and immigration databases, disregarding date bracketing. Returns from these databases are listed for impossibly-long-dead persons, yet chronologically sensible results are not among the first 50.

    This appears to reflect FS's emphasis on post-1850 material. If reasonable results are not among the indexed databases, the algorithm should not invent the nonsensical.


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