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How to Evaluate FamilySearch Record Hints

FamilySearch Hints with title how to evaluate them

Hinting on FamilySearch may help you find records that document your ancestors without you having to do the hunting.

FamilySearch serves up some of what we call the ‘low hanging fruit’ of genealogy records which include: vital records and census records, as well as a few others. I reviewed these records in the post Which Easy Records Am I Missing in My Research?

In the Research Over My Shoulder series, I have sought to learn about G Winfield Underwood and ultimately determine the identity of his parents, and clean up the FamilySearch Family Tree along the way. During this research, I discovered three hints on FamilySearch, all of which were about marriage records.

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Let’s examine each one further. Before that, we have to review previous research. Previous research established that G Winfield Underwood married Rhoda Kelly and had several children. They lived in Grayson County, Texas but the couple married on 4 September 1885 in neighboring Cooke County, Texas.

Evaluating FamilySearch Hints for Winfield Underwood

The first one is for G. W. Underwood and Rhoda Keely. Spelling is fluid in genealogy so Keely and Kelly could be the same person. The marriage date on this indexed record contains the date and place we had suspected. This index should be based on an original document and it may contain inaccuracies, but it is worth considering for the case.

Source Linker Page on FamilySearch

Look for quick links Record or Image on the Source Linker Page to know what the source is based on.

We know this hint is an index rather than based on the original image because there is no quick thumbnail for an original image. Additionally, when we click through to the “Attach to Family Tree” we don’t see a reference link that says “Image” beside the “Record” link.

With this source, we should attach this record if we believe it’s about our ancestors. If we are unsure, we should gather more sources until we are certain.

Marriage record hint on FamilySearch for Winfield Underwood

The second hint is yet another extraction of the same marriage of Winfield and Rhoda, but this time the last name of Rhoda is accurate. Again, if the hint supports previously gathered information, then attach this hint to a Person Page as a source. If you’re uncertain, then hold off until you collect more information.

Index to marriage record on FamilySearch for Winfield Underwood

Hint #3 looks like another marriage record entry for the same couple. When we click through, there is an image and the option to attach the hint to G Winfield’s page.

Unfortunately, this marriage record is typical of those from the time period. There’s not a lot of detail. Darn. I was really hoping perhaps, just perhaps the indexer didn’t capture everything. But alas, it’s not so.

Since again, this original record supports the previously discovered marriage date and place, we can attach this hint to the Person Page as a source. This is our primary evidence about the marriage of Winfield and Rhoda.

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What happens if the FamilySearch hints don’t match your relative?

Not all hints match the relatives you are researching.

Sometimes the hints are for people of the same name and the same age but in the wrong place. Sometimes the hints have the wrong parents, spouse, or children.

Sometimes the dates and locations do not match at all. Your job is to evaluate the record to see if it is a match and only accept the matches that can be explained logically.

If you can make the case that a hint is about your ancestor or the hint is wrong, you can mark them as “Not a Match.” Be very careful about what you accept and reject.

What are the key takeaways?

Now, much of the evaluation strategies we need to apply to FamilySearch hints depend on the content we are researching. The fundamental principles are these:

  1. Is the hint an original record or an index?

  2. Does the hint support previously supposed information?

  3. Does the hint contradict previously discovered information?

  4. Is the hint relevant to your ancestor?

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