So today I’ve begun the arduous and long overdue task of trawling through my “shaky leaf” hints at ancestry.co.uk. This post is not intended as a critique of the feature, just my own personal thoughts.
I have mixed feelings about these hints generally. In my opinion there is no substitute for searching the available records yourself and making an informed decision based on this research. However, in many cases these hints can lead you to records you might not have thought to consider and thereby send you off on a whole new research adventure. To the practiced eye they can be a useful shortcut to records you would have searched for anyway, but its easy to see how less experienced family historians could be led astray, ending up with entirely the wrong family on their tree because Ancestry’s algorithm does not “think” like we do.
In my case I usually consider and accept or reject the hints that are suggested as I’m working on a particular person or family, but Ancestry is always working in the background looking for hints on the other couple of thousand ancestors in my trees. So today I am faced with 1483 hints to sort through and so far the results have been as expected. A fair few confirmations and sources for dates already entered from parish register searches conducted many moons ago (before Ancestry had such records). Plus a gem of a photo, shared (and verified to me) by a distant cousin, of my 2x Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon.
The only thing is that I keep getting sidetracked as I learn something new. I now have a long list of ancestors to research that I’d left hanging on their family tree branches, neglected and (temporarily) forgotten.