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Monday, January 5, 2015

FamilySearch Family Tree Updates its Hinting Feature

Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch posted an article entitled, "More Names Now Available with Family Tree Hinting Updates." This post outlines the history and recent changes to the Family Tree program. In making research hints, joined both and in providing a feature that had been available for some time on these other websites. Before getting into the discussion of the new features, it should be obvious, but not well publicized, that none of these hinting features on any one of the three programs can find records that are either not indexed or not in the programs' collections at all. This is a significant fact for because so many of the records are available only as images and are waiting to be indexed. It also points out the importance of the FamilySearch Indexing program.

That said the hinting feature is a hugely valuable addition to the Family Tree program. Bob outlines the history of the feature with this statement:
On June 17th, 2014, FamilySearch released a public preview of the record hinting feature. With this new feature, users can view the details page of any ancestor in the family tree and see suggested records that have a high confidence of being applicable to that specific ancestor. These hints are identified by comparing the ancestor’s vital information, relatives and the relative’s vital information against all the historical records published on FamilySearch database. 
During the public preview phase, significant enhancements will continue to be made to the quality and capability of the hinting software. An update system is also being built to provide new hints more quickly. The hints data will continue to be updated as new records become available (more or less on a monthly basis). That means that as new people are added to the tree, they may not show record hints until the next data update. When the update system is complete, new hints will be generated anytime a tree person is added or significantly changed.
The new additions are explained as follows:
On Tuesday, December 23rd FamilySearch released a new update of the hinting data viewable on an ancestor’s detail page and in the descendancy view in the Family Tree. In this data update newly added or changed persons in the Family Tree have been hinted using all the newly available information. It also includes important new record sets, such as the Find-A-Grave collection, that have been recently published. Additionally, engineers and architects have made numerous advancements in the software algorithms which makes it possible for more than 14 million new hints to be identified. Users of the Family Tree may wish to visit their ancestor pages again and see if any new hints are displayed.
It is also important to understand that hints are only helpful and accurate if the information in the FamilySearch Family Tree program is accurate. If you have a wrong link in your pedigree, i.e. an ancestor is incorrectly identified, then then the Research Hints will not be much help unless you have verified, with sources, all of the individuals leading up to the mistake. In addition, the Research Hints are only as accurate as your own ability to evaluate what is suggested to make sure you are attaching the record to the right person.

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