Two years ago FamilySearch added a feature (available on Ancestry.com for many years): record hints. FamilySearch compares names from its historical records with names in FamilySearch Family Tree. “When we put the data together for comparison and find high-scoring matches to people in your family tree, that’s what we call a hint,” explained Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch senior product manager. “In essence, the FamilySearch.org search engine is constantly working to make research discoveries for you without your having to do much more than login, validate what it found, and accept the hints.”
FamilySearch’s historical records contain five billion names. FamilySearch Family Tree contain 1.2 billion. Comparing the two in September, FamilySearch generated an additional 141 million hints over the 1.5 billion already found. Kehrer said 98.5% of the hints are accurate. Errors occur when persons in the tree have common names, are born in populated places, and have few known relatives, according to Kehrer. (I’m not too familiar with urban research, but it seems to me that companies don’t key enough identifying information about people in big cities. If they would key address, occupation, religion, and other differentiating information for people in big cities, it would be easier for users to find people and would improve the accuracy of their hint system. It shouldn’t be too hard to determine population levels necessitating the keying of additional information. FamilySearch and Ancestry don’t seem to understand the cost/benefit analysis.) Noteworthy among the new hints are those from the 1851 and 1881 England and Wales censuses.
To enlist the FamilySearch hinting system to find records of your ancestors, their names must exist in Family Tree. If they are not already there, you can add them at no cost. If you do, be prepared to defend your conclusions to other descendants. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; we should all be able to do that. Also, because of the uneven experience level of tree participants, expect to spend time teaching others with less experience.
For more information, see “FamilySearch Adds 141 Million Family History Record Hints” in the FamilySearch newsroom.