How I Debunked an Online Tree Hint

Geoff Rasmussen
Jun 10, 2022
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Case Study
6m 08s

About this webinar

Hints in online trees can provide genealogical treasures, but if you’re not careful they can lead to genealogical regret. In this quick video, Geoff Rasmussen shows why hints should be explored, scrutinized and evaluated.

About the speaker

About the speaker

Geoffrey D. Rasmussen is the father of four budding genealogists. He graduated with a degree in Genealogy and Family History from Brigham Young University and has served as director and vice-president of the Utah Genealogical Association. He is th
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  1. JC
    John Colin McRae
    2 years ago

    I have always accepted hints as being true. Great video and will definitely change in future

  2. JG
    Joseph Graham
    2 years ago

    Yes, very good. Do Not Accept Hints with out checking the details.

  3. LL
    Lashann Lunnon
    2 years ago

    On point!

  4. LS
    Lucy Simpson
    2 years ago

    Great article—-yes, yes, yes hints should be explored, scrutinized and evaluated! Also, I suggest equally as important for the elusive “person of interest” you should look at the other ancestor trees I have looked at every tree (even if there are 100 or more) just to see if there is one date, place, etc. is a “hint” to help me find information. And I could write a book on what I have discovered. Even names to attach to photos that I own without identification
    And love the photos–others have posted. I always check out who posted it originally—many people download the pictures I own or added to and then they add them to their tree. It is better to find them on ancestry tree by the original owner. Sometimes i added them many years ago, but the new person makes the hint appear—sad to do this. I like it when many people have added my photos—then I can see their connections, etc.

  5. DC
    David Casassa
    2 years ago

    Great reminder! I’ve been down a few such rabbit holes myself, most especially when the hint was based on a user-submitted tree. Fortunately, your case study cited a source that was dispositive in the end. Often as not, these trees are unsourced, which doesn’t seem to impede the hinting algorithm at all.

    Still, there may be a golden nugget buried in the hint. In one fateful instance on FamilySearch, I drilled down into a person who was not a match with my ancestor, except for his rare surname.That led to a passenger manifest listing the stranger’s origin in unusually specific terms: a tiny (pop. < 1000) Italian village, unknown to me, which was virtually the only place where the surname existed. In the span of an evening, this led me to the Antenati site and the baptismal records of my great-grandfather, his six siblings, and the definitive names of their parents, which had been scrambled by my family's oral tradition in just 3 generations.Quite a productive little rabbit hole that!

    1 Reply
    • LS
      Lucy Simpson
      2 years ago

      Great response that I whole-heartedly agree with! When I see Ancestry Trees with a name I am puzzled over and have little data, I check every tree for that person. And I check their sources for that person. I have found so much information this way. For example: I have researched census records for a person for a long time to no avail or for ship record or????? And I have found by looking at their sources and actual documents, they have found the exact person I wanted to find. but (the spelling was off or other mistakes were made–age, spouse, etc but they WERE the person I have not been able to find.

  6. GC
    Gay Campbell
    2 years ago

    Excellent! Now, trying to convince everyone to follow is the tricky trick!

  7. JB
    Joanne Black
    2 years ago

    Geoff, so well explained/shown. I wish it were “required” listening for everyone who has an online genealogy site membership. Love Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Joanna

  8. KG
    Kirk Graff
    2 years ago

    Yeah, someone has been editing my family in FamilySearch and now my grandma is my mother. No idea how to fix it.


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