• Devon Noel Lee

Stop Making Messes on Your Ancestry Family Tree


Ancestry.com is one of the largest genealogical family tree database in the world. It’s a great place to build or extend you family tree. But, you can quickly create a mess if you’re not careful.


If you slowly and carefully build your family tree so that you won’t create a Big ‘Ol mess.

But first, did you know that Ancestry has a number of helpful tutorials on getting started? I want to direct you there if you have not created anything.


Once you have started something, no matter how small or large, let’s dive into building your family tree in an organized way.





Start From a Profile


As much as I love Ancestry’s hint feature in the upper right corner, I recommend working from a person profile page.


If you’re a beginning genealogist, I would also recommend you chose a more recent ancestor and work your way to the past.


Review what you currently have available on this profile.


In the video linked, I chose Charles Patrick Moss. His profile had no sources attached to him. I obtained this information from family sources. The next step involved validating that Charles is indeed married to Annie or the parents Austin and Mary Catherine.


I have two choices.

  • I could use the search features on Ancestry

  • I can leverage hints.

Since Ancestry hints often offers low hanging fruit, I would recommend you take a look at hints.


Reviewing Ancestry Hints


Click on the hints menu option, below the name of your ancestor in their profile.


You will then see a list of collections and content that Ancestry thinks relate to your ancestor based on what you have already added to the profile.


Ancestry Member Trees


I recommend that you ignore the Ancestry Member Tree hints. If you want to look at them later in your research, fine. At the onset, ignore these hints by clicking the “Ignore” button in the hint box.


After clicking the ignore button, you should notice that beside the word “Ignore” you will see a number. At a later date, you can review the hints you ignored if you think it will assist your research


User Added Photos


Next, you may see some images that other users have uploaded to Ancestry. Some images may include portraits, candid photos, artifacts, or documents. Use your discretion whether you want to save these images to your family tree or not.


Some profiles have numerous copies of the same photo. Try to find out when the earliest photo was saved because that MIGHT be the original person to upload the image. The original person is likely the person who has access to the images and with whom you’ll want to be in contact with.


If you want to keep a photo, click “Save.”

Click “Ignore” to not save them.


User Added Stories


You might also see user added “Stories” to an Ancestry profile. Unfortunately, the ‘story’ I showcase in the video above only shows another version of a death certificate which is already in the attached as a source. This isn’t very helpful.


However, some researchers share great stories that piece research details together.


Review those to be sure and save the ones that do not add clutter to your family tree.



Compare a Hint to Your Tree


After the member photo hints, you may see hints for records available on Ancestry. This is where you will want to spend the most of your time building your family tree. Records are the backbone of accurate genealogy research.


Ancestry Hint Quick Compare
Ancestry Hint Quick Compare

In this Ancestry interface, you have the option to quickly compare a hint to the content in your family tree without having to navigate back and forth between the hint and the profile view.


To open the box similar to the above image, toggle button beside the words "Quick compare." What data is the same and what is different?


In this Census Record notice

  • the names are different. Is this a problem?

  • The birth years aren't the same. Which is more correct?

  • The birth place is different. This is a battle of historical vs modern place names. Which should you keep?

  • Residence is a new fact, do you want to bring it over?

  • The children's names are different. Which one is correct?

If you can determine the hint pertains to your ancestor, even if some of the details between the record and your tree conflict, then begin the process of saving the hint.


If you think it doesn't match, click the ignore button below the hint. Remember, it will go into the ignore tab and you can review it later if you think you might have made a mistake.


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Save the Record To Your Tree


The next step is what Ancestry calls the "Review" screen.


When you click on the review button, a side panel opens up and you could work through the record saving process from here.


However, I HAVEN’T looked at the actual image behind the quick compare. And, I want more control over the saving process. Ancestry has made a change that I do not like since making the video above. It's taken off the link to the record at the top of the page.


Instead, you have to scroll down that pop-up panel until you see something like this:


Scroll down the Hint Review Panel to access the Record Page
Scroll down the Hint Review Panel to access the Record Page


Once the follow page opens, notice all of the information available from this view that was not available in the quick linking option.


Ancestry Hint Review Page
Ancestry Hint Review Page


BEFORE you click yes here, please review the actually image


If after looking at the actual record you are confident this source provides evidence about your relative, now you can click the “Yes” button.



How You’re Messing Up Place Names on Ancestry


Once you arrive on this page, it's time to SLOW DOWN and carefully process the information from a record into your family tree.


Add New Information to Ancestry Tree Screen
The Ancestry Screen Where Mistakes Happen Often

This is the place where your tree can become a muddled mess of epic proportions.


It's best to watch the video linked above starting at this time stamp. There are numerous decisions to make and showing is better than telling in this case.



Extra Details in the Place Field


One caution to avoid messing up your family tree is to pay attention to any 'extra' details in the place name.


In the video, a census record for Charles Moss has a location with "Precinct 1" in addition to "Tucson, Arizona."


Mapping programs have trouble plotting out Precincts and Electoral Districts and other non-standard place name divisions


To prevent yourself from messing up your family tree, don't add place names that have the 'extra' details in the location.


Instead, move that text to the description field. This is valuable information, it's just in the wrong spot.


(Ancestry doesn't always allow this option from the review screen. You might need to save the details to your clipboard or a digital note pad, to place it in the fact on the 'timeline' view.)


One thing to keep in mind, Ancestry doesn't often change all the place names to match the person you changed if a record documents more than one person. You'll have to fix the places for each person.



Clean Up Your Ancestry Family Tree


A cleaned up family tree ensures that you're doing accurate genealogy research. By slowing down and processing tree hints, you will improve the chances that you're researching the correct persons and linking them together.


What other small but important changes would you suggest that we all implement to improve the quality of our family trees?


More Ancestry Family Tree Tips

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