Ancestry.com is famous for its record hints – those little green leaves in your family tree that give you fact suggestions from records and other family trees. These hints are such an important part of research on Ancestry that people become members just to take advantage of them.
Here at Family History Daily we even dedicated an entire section in our Unofficial Ancestry Crash Course to how to best make use of hints (as well as important things to avoid).
But what many people don’t realize is that Ancestry is not the only genealogy research site that offers hints and record suggestions. This feature is available on quite a few others – both paid subscriptions sites and free offerings. Below we have shared several of the best options with you.
Please know that we have an relationship with some of the sites on this page and may receive a commission if you choose to subscribe from our pages. This helps us support our work but does not influence our opinions.
Before we begin to explore some of the websites that offer hints we would like to offer a warning. As we point out in the Ancestry Crash Course “…as powerful as this feature can be, it can also mislead the unwary researcher – causing confusion, incorrect assumptions and inaccurate trees.”
While this type of feature is becoming more and more common, and can be an incredibly fun and helpful way to build your tree, you must always view these suggestions with caution. A hint on Ancestry, or anywhere, is just that…a hint.
Assuming that a record hint is correct will certainly lead you to many errors in your tree. And, in fact, even suggestions that seem like a perfect fit at first glance may prove to be false.
Always consider hints, discoveries and suggestions on sites as a helpful tool in your research and nothing more. Every single detail that you feel is a plausible addition to your tree should be carefully examined before deciding on its value and accuracy.
And when it comes to hints and suggestions from other people’s family trees, be extra cautious. We never suggest that you add information from someone else’s tree directly into your own. And each detail you choose to consider for manual addition should undergo intense examination. Remember that many online trees are highly inaccurate.
Still, using hints can sometimes provide a relatively fast way to scan sites to see if they contain records about your ancestors. And although they will not turn up all of the records available, they usually do a good job of showing some of the most important ones – like vital records.
Again, we cover all of this in our Ancestry Crash Course if you want to find out how to improve your research and learn techniques for making better use of these features. The help in that course can just as easily be applied to research on many similarly structured sites.
Now that we have given you this important warning, let’s explore how you can take advantage of the hints on other sites to build your tree.
4 Places to Find Record Hints Outside of Ancestry.com
Because we love free research sites we’re going to start with two no-cost options and then cover two paid subscription options (both have free trials though so you can try before you commit).
1. FamilySearch Record Hints
FamilySearch offers the largest database of free genealogy records on the web, as well as numerous other collections that are available to view digitally at a Family History Center. In fact, many of Ancestry’s indexes are pulled from the original records of FamilySearch. FamilySearch can be searched at no cost and the records viewed by anyone.
They also offer an enormous, collaborative family tree and those who use it can take advantage of hints from FamilySearch’s databases.
It’sIvery easy to start a tree on FamilySearch, but you cannot upload your current tree as a GEDCOM as you can with most sites.Since FamilySearch’s tree is a community project – it is not private and other people can edit it – they do not allow people to upload their trees. You can read all about FamilySearch’s family tree in our Guide to the Best Family Tree Programs.
Still, you could add your ancestors’ basic information manually and you may find that some ancestors have already been entered by others. You can copy new details and sources you discover over to your main tree on another site. Or, if you are using RootsFinder, RootMagic or Family Tree Maker, you can sync your FamilySearch tree with your current tree.
Here’s what a record hint looks like on FamilySearch:
The above image is from FamilySearch’s guide to using their hints. You can find that here.
To start your tree on FamilySearch visit their site and create a free account. This will allow you to search and view free records and will automatically provide you with a free tree you can begin adding to. You’ll find the tree area under the “Family Tree” item in the top menu bar.
If you want to take advantage of FamilySearch hints, but this all seems a bit difficult, then you might consider utilizing the next option instead.
2. RootsFinder Hints
RootsFinder is a new, free online family tree program (owned by Findmypast as of early 2019). We really like it and wrote all about it in this article. If you’re looking for a powerful, nicely designed family tree program we suggest that you check it out.
One of the nicest things about the program is that you can receive hints from a variety of sources when you upload your tree. Unlike all of the other options in this article RootsFinder does not pull hints from its own databases – but instead provides them from outside sources.
This includes direct hints from FamilySearch, Findmypast, American Ancestors and Newspapers Archive and integrated, prefilled searches for Ancestry and MyHeritage.
FamilySearch hints are free but you will need to allow FamilySearch to store an uneditable copy of your tree on their site for this feature to work. The rest of the hints come from mostly paid databases. You will need to have a subscription to the paid sites to take advantage of hints but it is really nice to be able to receive suggestions from several sources like this.
We noticed that most of the paid hints in the tree we uploaded came from Findmypast, but we also received hints from American Ancestors and Newspaper Archive. The prefilled searches for Ancestry and MyHeritage based on your ancestor’s information are also very useful. RootsFinder will hopefully continue to improve in this department and add more sources and better results.
Here’s what a tree with hints looks like on RootsFinder. The green numbers denote the number of hints available.
Do take the time to read our article about RootsFinder for more help using this site.
3. MyHeritage Discoveries
MyHeritage has a very well-developed and easy to use hints system which they refer to as Discoveries. We wrote all about how to use MyHeritage for this purpose in our article How I Finally Solved a 10-Year-Old Genealogy Mystery in 10 Minutes. The article demonstrates how quickly brick walls can be broken down when using these types of systems.
Although MyHeritage is a paid site you can upload a tree for free by starting a free account on their homepage, or you can get 14 days of free access to their site and use that time to upload your tree, view and access hints, and add new details you discover to your records. If you decide to keep subscribing after that time their prices are much more reasonable than most competitors.
MyHeritage offers two types of discoveries – Smart Matches (which come from other people’s trees) and Record Discoveries (which come directly from records and other related collections). We suggest you focus on Record Discoveries since copying from other people’s trees is very seldom a good idea.
Here is what Discoveries looks like in a family tree on MyHeritage. The green circles represent smart matches and the brown records are record matches.
To start using MyHeritage hints, head over to this page and start a 14 day free trial. MyHeritage will walk you through starting a tree, or uploading your tree as a GEDCOM, when you start a trial. If you need more help you can read this article.
Or you can start a tree without a trial here. You will not have access to most of the records but you will at least be able to see what matches you get.
4. Findmypast Hints
Findmypast is a unique site that specializes in providing records for UK and Irish research – although they do offer many U.S. records. One of their collections, PERSI, can’t be found anywhere else. If you’re researching an ancestor that arrived from England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland at any point you’ll want to give Findmypast a try.
Like with Ancestry and MyHeritage, Findmypast offers a free family tree with record hints. If you are not using RootsFinder for hints as explained above, and would like to take advantage of hints from Findmypast, you can create a free account on their homepage.
If you would like to be able to access all of the records the hints pertain to for 14 days you can get a free trial here. Once you sign up you will be given a tree and will be able to upload your GEDCOM.
If you need help downloading or uploading a GEDCOM to Findmypast, MyHeritage or Ancestry read this article.
Here’s what hints look like on Findmypast:
We hope this article will help you discover new information about your ancestors. If you’re looking for even more sites to search and explore check out all of the options in our Free Genealogy Resources section.
By Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily Editor
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