Sunday, September 11, 2016
Can't Take Those Hints
Admittedly, there are some advancements in the genealogy world that I'll never complain about, digitization of previously-microfilmed records being prime in that set of gratitudes.
Still, the computerized world of genealogical research brings with it some lesser advancements for which I don't hold as much respect. In particular, I'm ambivalent about the world of "hints."
Granted, I've worked steadily on my family trees for decades. According to Ancestry.com, I've been a member there since 2000, although admittedly, I've flirted with the system incognito from the anonymous confines of my local Family History Center for a few years before that. And gone unplugged before that, piecing together the family's story on paper, ever since finishing college.
As you can imagine, by now I've amassed quite a few names on my family trees—which I have divided into four camps, paternal and maternal for my husband and myself, respectively. To date, that means a count of 1,051 individuals for my husband's father's line, 8,474 for my husband's mother's line, 345 (and thankfully counting) for my own father's obliterated past, and 8,608 for my mother's colonial-to-Mayflower roots.
It's understandable that Ancestry.com has found it possible to generate more connections to persons of interest in the general subscriber's family tree. After all, every time an as-yet-undiscovered distant cousin posts a photograph under the name of an ancestor of mutual interest, I'll get a notification of that occurrence. And every time another as-yet-undiscovered distant cousin decides to copy that photo, I'll be notified of that event, as well.
These things tend to have a boomerang effect—a not-so-felicitous bit of news which may strike some unsuspecting researchers as burdensome. Yes, I know I could switch off some of those occurrences, and I have. To no avail. That option may have been retracted.
So the hint count keeps mounting. Out of the two which are my largest trees, my mother-in-law's eight thousand relatives have encumbered me with a rising hint count that has currently included nearly half of that count of people in a total of 17,137 record hints. My own mother's slightly higher eight-thousand-plus count has seen about the same impact for the same number of individuals, with 19,425 record hints total.
Perhaps it all comes down to a function of the size of the tree. While that may seem a reasonable conclusion, it does seem unwieldy. Still, how else are we to be notified when an automatic search algorithm is working in our favor? For the hints bringing good tidings of actual documentation, I'll welcome them with open arms.
Part of the cause for the large number of people in each of my family's maternal trees is owing to that desperate attempt to document all these DNA "matches" that don't seem to have a corresponding match on paper. Predictably, my mother-in-law's hefty tree is matched by an equally immense count of 836 DNA matches on Family Tree DNA and 156 at AncestryDNA. Likewise, my mother's matches keep escalating, with the most recent count—as of September 9—giving 1,333 matches at FTDNA and 364 at AncestryDNA. Of that number, in each case, I've only been able to figure out a handful of them.
Still, even though there are some matches I can't yet figure out, receiving notification of these connections is important—if, that is, the match is backed by a real live researcher who is willing to correspond, compare notes and work together with me to figure out the connection.
When that does happen, it is a treat, even if the answer isn't immediately apparent. Just recently, in fact, I got an email from a researcher about a match from a most unlikely place. And though we can't yet figure out the exact connection, we know it has got to be there.
Now, that is one area in which I could use a few hints...