02 July 2024

OCD and the New Hinting for Ancestry Member Trees

Image by Patrisia Novianti from Pixabay
I've written before on my opinion on The Value in Other Member Trees. I still feel they have merit (personal opinion). I know many people don't care for them. But I have a HUGE gripe about the way Ancestry recently changed the hinting for these trees.

I was fine getting three member tree hints in one. I'd check the first one for parents, siblings, spouses and children to be sure it looked like I had everyone. Then, I'd accept all the trees, but I always unchecked all the boxes so nothing was added to my tree other than the source. It was fine. It let me have a quick double check and gave me some future sources if I needed them. Occasionally, another member tree hint would pop up randomly for someone, but it was absolutely manageable.

Now, they pop up like Wheat Thins....one after the other! (For those of you who remember the Sandy Duncan commercials...Oh, how I'm showing my age!) For someone with OCD this is absolutely maddening. I happen to like numbers (preferably even numbers, but 3 hints in 1 was ok). When I set out to research, I generally try to drop my hints by 20 per day, as it's also a way to remove one full page of hints (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't). But I have a goal - one fitting into the time I have to spend on Ancestry in the evening. One I can usually attain in a few hours. I usually flip between types of hints, but when I'm running out of steam, I'll pop over to member trees for a quick way to reach the magic number and cross the daily finish line.
Now, I accept a member tree, only to be presented with another, and another. So it takes me three times as long to work thru what appears to be 20 of this type of hint. It's ridiculous! Over on the Facebook group, there have been numerous complaints. Supposedly, Ancestry did research and found one by one had the best interaction. (Of course it will if there's no other choice...sigh.) I don't know who they were talking to, but I don't know anyone who prefers to do something 60 times rather than 20. If they actually contained truly relevant and different information, sure. But they don't. The last two hints are typically the same as the first and since information is often unsourced, they're best used for reference only. 

I suspect they're trying to get more users to click thru to other member trees. Guess what? I check the first one and I just plow through the next two. It's no different than before in this respect, I'm just angry while I'm doing it. Sure, I could ignore all these hints entirely, but I actually do want them in my tree. And guess what else? If you look in your sources, Ancestry apparently doesn't want to store three times the data. They merge it into one source where you still click the same link to see all three trees. All they've done is increase the work and frustration for users of the platform. And I rather suspect, more people will turn them off completely (or totally ignore them) to avoid the hassle. 

If they're angling to have a slowdown in use, so they can justify removing them entirely - then just do it. If they really want them to be valuable enough for users to spend three times the time on them, then check the accuracy and validity of the trees. Don't just present me with user trees with no documentation (or only other member trees as sources). How about Ancestry uses them there Top Tree  badges they've created to filter out the less helpful trees and give us something worthwhile. I might praise the change if they did so, as it might actually point me to where some of the (currently) unsourced information comes from. 

I know I can be awfully opinionated at times. But really? This is what they're using our membership fees for? How about some new collections. Or how about a full text scan on unindexed collections, like FamilySearch released. How about doing something to improve user experience with member trees? And I can't help but wonder, is this change what's causing the hinting feature to be unavailable so often? The last week or so (right about when this change rolled out to me) I started spending a lot of  time endlessly refreshing trying to get hints to load. Maddening! Maddening I say!!  

Image by Patrisia Novianti from Pixabay


  1. Opinions are fine. Ancestry (and others) may note them and pass them around at their offices. I don't attach Ancestry sources to my Ancestry Member Tree because it is wasted effort on my part - I put up a new tree every two or three years using ReootsMagic TreeShare to correct all of the errors that the API made over time (I have some unconnected people in my AMT). Also, the Ancestry sources suck. I craft my own citations using EE templates. I do look at sourced Ancestry Member Trees for the same reason you do. I check the sources to see if I've missed something. I rarely find that I have, at least for mature profiles. New profiles in my tree - checking the sources really help, but I judge the veracity of the conclusions for every profile.

  2. Agree with Randy: Opinions are fine. Yes, I look at Ancestry trees for clues--clues!--not to copy and paste. If there's a source, I check it myself. If no source, but specifics (date/place), I plug those into a search to try to find a source. Clues are great, unsourced trees are meh.

    1. When I first started my tree, I learned the hard way about copying from other user trees. By the time I realized the huge error I'd made, the best option was starting from scratch. It was a hard lesson, but one I'll never forget. Doing your own research is the best advice I could ever give to someone embarking on a new journey in genealogy.

  3. I too use trees as clues, but never copy directly from them onto my own tree as I always do the research myself to make sure the information is actually correct.


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