Evaluate Those Hints from Ancestry.com

by , under Ancestry.com, Books, Internet, Online Research, Social Security, Vital Records

Yesterday, I received via Ancestry.com’s messaging service an email from a cousin. Here’s what she said:

Hi Wally, I started my family tree on Ancestry.com, but am not sure of the best way to balance info vs. privacy.

Also what is the protocol for entering female’s names…maiden vs. married.

Also, from hints I am finding mistakes in my parent’s info. (Bday, birth & death places) How do I request corrections?

I am entering basics, until I am sure of the exact dates! You aren’t kidding! So many hints!! Who are these contributors??

I wrote back to her this morning with this message:

First, let me put you at ease about privacy: any person entered into an Ancestry.com tree who does not have a death date is hidden from view by all but the owner of the tree and whomever she/he invites in as observer or editor. That includes all info for you and your sibs.

Always enter a female by her maiden name. Add her married name as an alternate name.

The Ancestry.com “hints” come from records in Ancestry.com’s database collections — AND from family trees created by other members. You have to look at each hint and compare the data with what you know to be true. You WILL find mistakes among the hints. Enter only what you know to be correct in your tree.

If the hint with an error came from an official record in one of Ancestry’s collections, you can go through a process to add alternative information to that record. The record itself won’t be changed. There is no way to request corrections to official records. You will notice that Social Security death records don’t get death places exactly right. Don’t waste any time worrying about it. Let me say again: you can’t change mistakes in official records; you can only offer alternative info.

If the hint comes from another family tree, you can get in touch with the owner of the tree and inform them about what you believe to be an error. That includes me–i.e. if I have made a mistake in the Huskonen-Dingman-Van Court-Scheppelmann tree, please let me know.

In summary, hints offered by Ancestry.com are called hints for good reason. It’s up to you to evaluate them and add to your tree only those that make sense. It’s a fact of life in genealogical research that some information out on the Internet, in books, and even in records, is simply wrong!

Happy tree growing!


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