141 Million New Ancestor Hints Added to FamilySearch Family Tree

September 28, 2016  - by 
148 Million New Ancestor Hints Added to FamilySearch Family Tree

141 million new ancestor hints will be released on FamilySearch Family Tree this week. That’s a big number. But what does it really mean to you, as a FamilySearch.org user? Here’s some context.

Why Hints Are Important

Hints matter because they can make it easier for you to discover your ancestors in historical records. Finding out when people were born, where they lived, details about a marriage or a death can lead to other discoveries that all work together to help tell your family story. And it is interesting to learn about what your ancestors’ lives were like, details that are often preserved in these types of records.

Normally, you would search the FamilySearch collection of records for information on each ancestor separately. With hinting, FamilySearch conducts a search for you and delivers results you can review and even compare with information already in the tree. These records often identify individuals who can be added to the tree, or they help provide a solid source of information about an ancestor already in the tree.

Where Hints Come From

Many of these new hints are the result of updated historical records collections, such as the 1851 and 1881 U.K. censuses. Several collections are updated each month, which often results in new hints being generated. Also, new hints can appear at any time as new people are added to Family Tree or individual details are added. Editing an individual’s record in Family Tree kicks off the process to find new hints for that individual.

Virtually all of the hints you receive on FamilySearch are the result of volunteers worldwide reviewing scanned images of records and adding details like names, dates, places, and events to create an index that is searchable. That search can be done by an individual searching for ancestors, or by the system itself, which generates and distributes hints to individual users of the site. Read more about how indexing fuels searching and hinting.

Where You Can Find Hints

There are a few places you can check for hints. After you log in, you can check the ancestor’s person page or his or her entry in the descendancy tree view. You may also receive a record hint on the main page as a recommended task. See this example for a marriage record hint found for Agnes Wright. Clicking the link in any of these three places allows me to review the record, see if it is a match, and attach it to Agnes’s listing in the tree:

Person Page
Where to find hints on FamilySearch and how to use them
Descendancy View
Where to find hints on FamilySearch and how to use them
Recommended Task

Where to find hints on FamilySearch and how to use them


How Hinting Works

FamilySearch hinting builds a cloud of data around an ancestor in Family Tree using all the information about the ancestor and his or her parents, spouse, and children. It then compares that cloud of data to the data indexed on over five billion historical records on FamilySearch.org and links to records that have a high possibility of being for that ancestor in Family Tree. Current accuracy has been verified at better than 98.5 percent.

Now it’s your turn. Log in to FamilySearch.org, and check for new hints for your own ancestors. It’s a simple way to learn more about the people who came before you and helped make you who you are today.


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  1. You could “improve the cloud” of events about an ancestor by (1) adding geocoordinates to each event in the cloud, (2) selecting a central event, e.g., birth, christening, (3) computing the distance from the central event to each event in the rest of the cloud, (4) sorting the events in the cloud by date, (4) re-sorting by distance from the central event. This process would maximize the accuracy and usefulness of hinting.