How to Use Ancestry’s Shaky Leaf Hints

December 23, 2014  - by uses a wonderfully intuitive way to show you hints which could help you discover new information about the ancestors on your family tree. When I open my family tree on the site, the first thing I notice is a little animated “shaky leaf” next to almost every name on the tree. These little icons are an indication that there are resources available on Ancestry that may provide additional information about that individual!

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It’s funny how excited I get when I see those little leaves shaking as I open my tree! It puts me in private detective mode! I click on a name with a shaky leaf and up pops their individual detail. Notice what appears next to the leaf in the pop-up:

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My grandfather has 13 Ancestry hints! Ooo! Ooo! I want to see what new thing I might discover about Grampa Woods! By hovering over that link a little box explains that I can view all hints for this person. I click on the link and am taken to a page listing the 13 hints.


View Hints

At the top of the list is status information. Since I’ve never looked at these hints, they all appear as Unreviewed Hints.

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For now, I’ll just look at the hints listed for a quick overview. First on the list (I’ve noticed this is usually at the top of any list of hints) is Ancestry Member Trees.

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If my grandfather’s details match details of someone on another Ancestry Member’s Tree – and that member has agreed to make their tree public, I will be shown any such records. In this case, my grandfather may be listed on the trees of three other Ancestry members! More on that later. The remaining 12 hints include:

  • Five US Federal Census records
  • One record from S. City Directories, 1821-1989
  • One record from the New Hampshire, Marriage Records Index, 1637-1947
  • One record from the New Hampshire, Marriage and Divorce Records, 1659-1947
  • Two Birth, Marriage & Death records,
  • A WWI Draft Registration Card
  • A WWII Draft Registration Card


Adding New Hint Information to a Record

Let’s Review a census record.

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Next to each hint is a Review button – I click on it and am taken to the in-depth details. There are several parts to this particular census record. The screen is divided in two columns. On the left is the information from the census record. On the right is my grandfather’s information as it is currently on my Ancestry family tree. Whatever information is not identical, there is a DIFFERENT label. Where there is completely new information, there is a NEW label. Some boxes in the NEW area are already checked and the information has been added to the right column. I can either uncheck the boxes, or leave them checked and click on the Save to your tree button to add these new items to my grandfather’s record.

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There is additional information from this census if I scroll down, but none of it is anything I want to add to my grandfather’s record.

Additionally, up in the left corner there is a thumbnail sized image of the actual photograph of the page from the census – hovering over it reveals a message to Click to view record image.

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This is always interesting because additional information may be listed on the original record. I click on the thumbnail and the full page view is opened in a special viewer that allows me to scale the image and grab and drag around the image for more detail. Here is a part of that image showing that my grandfather’s family is highlighted.

Ancestry gives more census data and more original images of census records than you can find on FamilySearch. Each census recorded different information. One interesting aspect of viewing the original image is seeing who the neighbors were. In this case, they are also family members!

I was concerned because the Ancestry record misspelled my grandfather’s sister May’s first name as Mary. Looking closely at the original image, I see that the census taker had misspelled her name, so it was indexed that way. I know it is not correct, so I don’t want to include that spelling in my records. You have to use discretion when accepting and saving information from these records.

I leave checkmarks by the items I DO want to save to my record and click on the Save to your tree button.

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The census record has now been added to my grandfather’s profile and the status of the hints has been updated.

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I’m just getting started with the Ancestry hints for one person. You may find new critical information for your ancestor that will make it possible to request temple ordinances, link new family members, correct mistakes – or you may find verification for what has merely been heresay up until now. You don’t have to use every hint, but it is nice to look at every hint for whatever useful information you might glean.

I’ll write more about viewing and using other Ancestry member’s public records in another article.


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  1. Please put on Charles Wamsley holding Harry Wamsley and Mary Jane Bracken Wamsley, his wife holding Mary Elva Wamsley, their two children?

  2. Also Family Tree Maker. I re-joined Ancestors on 2/1/2017. Shaky leaves worked, everything fine till about 6/1/2017 when leaves only showed public information like birth, deaths, census etc. but none of the private tree sites on public display. Phoned Ancestry and told me to phone MacKiev, it’s their problem now. They told me when I installed the free update to 2014 program everything will be OK. After 1 hour on live chat telling me all the steps they forgot to put in the how to install instructions and another 90 minutes trying to get the leaves working, they gave up and told me to contact Ancestors. Spent 30+ minutes waiting for them to answer and they spent another 30+ mins. showing me how all the information was available on their site and it was a software problem and guess what? Contact McKiev!!!!!!!!
    I now know I am on a merry go round but I still do not know how to fix the problem. Help…….