03 May 2024

Ancestry Hacks: Ancestry Hints by Specific Record Collection

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay
I make research plans and I carry them out...for awhile. I tend to get restless and bored doing the same thing day after day.  I like to switch up how I'm attacking my research, and I generally like to keep working on all branches of my tree (backward and forward) at the same time. Some days, I work on a specific person until I'm done with all the green leaves and suggested hints. Sometimes, when I'm pressed for time, it's working through a few photo hints or other user trees. When I have good mental energy, it's attaching census records or obits (though they tend to take longer). And some days (like today) I choose to concentrate on a specific record collection. When I'm "in the zone" on a specific set of records, I feel like I can fly through hints (while still making sure each is correct and documented). 

One of the best "secret genealogy hacks" (ok, maybe not super secret) I've come across is Mining Ancestry.com Hints by Specific Record Collection - Updated by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings. This tip has been around years, and it still works! It's a trick I use quite frequently. He outlines how to search a specific record collection on Ancestry.com to find the people in your tree who currently show hints available in the specified database. This is done by using your Ancestry member tree number (treenumb) and the database number (dbas) in a carefully crafted URL. I won't go in to the specifics. Randy does a brilliant job of explaining the steps and I encourage you to read his post. It's a very simple trick to use. I want to tell you some of the reasons why I like it searching this way.

Have you ever wished, for instance, you could find all the yearbook hints? Those are fairly quick and easy to attach. Working thru quite a few in a single sitting is liberating (though still requires diligence to be sure you have the right person). Or Social Security Claims and Applications? Often a way to verify the child for a set of parents, along with the birth date, birth location, death date, social security number - and for females, potential other husbands surnames (from the notes). With a confirmed Social Security Number it makes working with SSDI records a breeze (cause you can easily confirm the SSN matches) and you often get the added state where the number was issued (and when) as well as the last residence/benefit address. Social Security records are some of my favorite record sets to work with when I want to make a small dent in my ever growing list of hints! Or all the FindAGrave entries or draft cards or....ok, ok, you get the idea. You can search for any database you want, so long as you know the number.

Any record set can be extra useful when narrowed down. Are you working on a specific branch of your family and want to see all the census records for a specific year? Perhaps you want to see who lives near who...or who moved away since the last census. Once you've narrowed to the specific database of interest, you can further narrow your search by first name, last name, or most recent hints (just like you can from the main list of all hints). This is a great way to focus in on specific parts of the family within a given dataset. Even public records, with the numerous addresses, when narrowed down, can help you figure out if the various people are all falling into the right place (pun absolutely intended). This isn't a magic solution to find elusive hints. Everything this search returns is already shown somewhere in your "all hints" listing. It just makes it easier to find the hints by filtering out the noise and letting you focus on a specific database for a period of time.

Randy provides a really good list of various database numbers to start you off. As I work, when I encounter a new database I'm running across frequently, I'll add the database number to my running list so I can go back and use it whenever I want. This "trick" has been around since at least 2013, and with a few tweaks to the original method over the years, it still works extremely well. It's definitely something you want to have in your genealogy toolbox. If you've never tried searching using this particular method, give it a go and see how you like it. Personally, I'm as excited about it now as I was when I first discovered it. Connect with me on social media (or leave a comment) and let me know how it works for you.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

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