Using ‘My Tree’ Hints at Ancestry, by Michael John Neill

Earlier this month, I wrote about using an obituary located on Ancestry and the research clues and future research suggestions I was able to extract from it. This week, I took my findings a step further and experimented with the automated search feature of the “My Trees” tool at Ancestry, creating a new tree for Conrad Krebs using only the information I had gleaned from his obituary.
Three of the “hints” Ancestry found were records I had located previously on this family. The nice thing about Ancestry locating these “hints” for me was that adding them to a person in my tree was relatively easy and the source information was added along with the records, saving me an important step.
Even though I had located these records previously, I still looked at the images to make sure that they were in fact for the correct records. Just because it looks right in the index doesn’t mean that it is not just a similar entry, so don’t ever attach records to a person in your tree without first viewing them for confirmation.

This is what I had found:

  • 1854 Passenger manifest (the Juventa, arriving in New York on 19 June 1854 
  • 1870 Census for Davenport, Scott County, Iowa 
  • 1880 Census for Davenport, Scott County, Iowa

Tip for Attaching Records
When you’re attaching a record to a person, make certain you chose the option (in the upper, right-hand corner of the screen) to “show advanced options.” This should be done to ensure that you attach the information in a way that is accurate. In my database entry for Conrad Krebs, I had a birth date of 7 October 1818 in Goldbach, Bavaria. The census enumerations all provided an age for Conrad and a birthplace in Bavaria (obtained from his obituary). Neither census provided that specific detail.
Since the records provided an age and birthplace, they could be used as sources for Conrad’s date and place of birth. However, they should not be used as a source for the birth date of 7 Oct 1818 in Goldbach as neither provides that exact piece of information. What I needed to do was add 1818 in Bavaria as an alternate date and place of birth from the census enumeration. When attaching the census and manifest to Conrad, I chose to “view advanced options” on the “Review and save changes to your family tree” page in order to do this. That way I could add an alternate fact for the birth and the place based upon the census data.
Why Have Alternate Places of Birth?
It may see a little silly or confusing to have alternate places of birth for a person when most records are fairly consistent. However, it is imperative to track exactly what a record says for later comparison purposes. In this case the census does not really conflict with the place of birth listed in the newspaper. It is just not as precise.
Attaching Other Records
For most of the other “hints,” the details did not appear to be consistent with my Conrad Krebs, and it appears these records belong to unrelated individuals. However I could still perform “manual” searches of databases at Ancestry and add specific search results and images to Conrad’s tree. To do this, click on the “Save” button in the image viewer and select “Attach to someone in my tree” for images, or you can attach textual or index entries through the link to “Save record to someone in my tree.”
Where Was He in 1860?
Based upon the chronology I created from Conrad’s 1899 obituary, he and his family should have been in Davenport, Iowa, for the 1860 census, so I’ll start there. My theory was that Conrad was in Davenport hiding under a variant spelling. Before I resorted to a manual search, I experimented with search terms and was able to locate him.
The successful search I used was:
      First name: Conr*
      Living in Scott County, Iowa.
      Born within five years of 1818.

There were only five results to this search and the forty-year-old “Conrod Kraper” appeared to be my relative. After I had looked at the actual census image and analyzed it, I added the record to Conrad’s information on my tree, making certain in the online tree to connect the census reference to the date and place of birth that matched what was listed on the census enumeration.
The same search technique was used to search the Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925, where I found him in 1856 and 1885–again in Davenport. Once it was determined these entries were for Conrad Krebs, they were added to his entry in my tree.
What’s Next?
Next, I’ll be adding children, but I’m going to use some pencil and paper first because that works best for me. I still like to do some analysis outside my genealogy database application. It cuts down on errors in determining relationships. It also reduces the chance that I’ll accidently merge individuals who are separate people, or create two people where just one exists. Of course, pre-1880 census records and manifests do not technically indicate a parent-child relationship, and even the 1880 census only indicates relationship to head of household, so it’s important not to make any hasty assumptions.
My analysis indicated five potential children, two of whom appear to have died before the 1860 census. Armed with the names of the children, I will add their information to Conrad’s entry in my tree. Then I will begin to look for other records on this family. Using the records at Ancestry has given me an outline of the family and gotten me well on my way.
Conrad’s tree can be viewed here.

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Michael John Neill is a genealogical writer and speaker who has been researching his or his children’s genealogy for more than twenty years. A math instructor in his “other life,” Michael taught at the former Genealogical Institute of Mid-America and has served on the FGS Board. He also lectures on a variety of genealogical topics and gives seminars across the country. He maintains a personal website

6 thoughts on “Using ‘My Tree’ Hints at Ancestry, by Michael John Neill

  1. Michael:
    You forgot one important step. Put the name correction in the Comments and Corrections site at Ancestry so others can find this individual and the index can be corrected. I checked 1860 and it had not been done. I did not check the other censuses you mentioned as these are not included in my subscription (but I believe state censuses should be!)

  2. Marilyn,
    I will make those corrections as suggested. I got so involved in meeting my deadline and getting other details correct that making those passed my radar. Thanks for mentioning it. It is a good suggestion.

  3. Because of complications, my oldest granddaughter was born in a hospital forty miles from where she grew up. What should be her listed birthplace? (The complications did not become a problem, and she got married this summer.) Roy L. Howard, Chattanooga.

  4. I really wish that the Advanced feature for adding a Census record as a Source to a family would only ask for the Residence Date and Place ONCE — as all members of the family that appear on that page will OF COURSE be enumerated on the same date at the same location. If by some odd chance a member of the family is enumerated on a different day, their entry could be manually changed once the Source is saved.

    Also, could Ancestry have the World War I Draft Registration Cards default to the Date according to the Card type presented?

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