Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on September 29, 2015 in Ask Ancestry Anne

Is there a way to filter the little green leafs? –Gery

While there is no way to tell our hint machine what types of hints to send you, you can use the All Hints page to help you manage your hints and find the ones you are most interested in.

When you are looking at your tree, choose Tree Pages and then choose All Hints:

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You will find yourself on the All Hints page:

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From there you can look at hints by date, surname, or basic category type. I recommend checking in on your photo hints every so often.

If you would like a quick demo, check out my video Five Minute Find: Are You a Hints Power User? for more details.

A hint, is just that, a hint. Our algorithms have found enough matching information in the record to suspect that it is related to your ancestor, but you are the expert on your ancestor! Always check the record and make the judgement for yourself.

Do you have a question that you would like to see answered?  We can’t get to all of them, but yours might be selected! Send your question to Ask Ancestry Anne, and you might be featured in an upcoming column.

Happy searching!

Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.

86 Comments

  1. Lisa

    Please, please make the phantom hints go away.
    Also, I’d like the ability to filter to show only direct ancestors.

  2. Larry Wernle

    1) Yes, please remove my HUNDREDS of phantom hints.
    2) How about leaving “ingored” hints as IGNORED, until I go back and get them?? How many times must I ignore the same hints? You do some kind of reset, and I get the same THOUSANDS of ignored hints, over and over and OVER.
    3) And/Or how about giving me the ability to BLOCK a particular data file? How many times must I see “hungarian catholic church records”. The hint sensitivity is crazy. Because it matches two letters on a last name, and the first name of a spouse, I get a completely CRAP hint?

    Please allow me to filter what I see, or get your act together on algorithm sensitivity. You must do better or allow me to do it for you. OR I WILL UNSUBSCRIBE.

  3. Monika

    The “hint” sensitivity is particularly insensitive when it comes to the European ancestry.com sites like “ancestry.de” or “ancestry.fr”. When I attempt to discover whether ancestry can come up with just ONE record of my European ancestry (e.g., an ancestor in France), and I check for birth records, the hints that come up are birth records for Belgium, Holland, Germany…you name it. Europe is not the United States of Europe, where somebody could have been born in Nebraska or South Dakota. When you were French you were not born in Holland. So, I am ignoring all the records that these sites are giving me “hints” on. Just use these sites to create my trees in a language my relatives can understand when they are invited onto my trees.

  4. I have been doing some research on my family tree and my grandfather Harland Francis Lancaster was born on April 16th 1903 in Danvers Massachusetts and died April 4th 1969 in Orchard Park New York!His parents names were Geroge M Lancaster who was born in Beverly Massachusetts and Nellie E Huntress was born in Groveland Massachusetts!

  5. Kay

    Whenever I filter the hints using the options on the hints page, i.e. records, and after reviewing the hint it takes me back to all hints. On the old Ancestry it took me back to the hints option I selected, i.e. records. I take it that this is a teething problem with New Ancestry and that it is being looked at?

  6. Carol

    I just looked at some hints the other day – and they were automatically added to my tree. I didn’t click anything – no clue as to how or why it happened. AND – to make matters worse – one of the additions is a woman who DIED before her son was born the following year. HUH???? How is THAT even possible?

  7. Jane

    I’d like to see some filtering that prevents information or pictures that were originally submitted by me from popping up as hints to me.

  8. Shawrone7

    I’m curious what some of you refer to as ‘phantom’ hints? I agree with many of your complaints, however with ‘hints’ showing up with absolutely nothing in common – often the ‘hint’ is several centuries off. Ridiculous; I also wish Ancestry would get their ‘collection’ coordinated; One can open two or three Marriage records with totally different results. Which one is the correct one? Same with the other collections.

  9. jnk

    I agree with Maxine,”It would be great to do away with DUPLICATES. I’d like to see Ancestry.com let you know “You can’t add that it will create a duplicate”!!!”
    It is so time consuming to go over and over the same hints, not to mention frustrating.

  10. Yvonne

    When I add children of or siblings of and one of the parents I get a separate listing under spouse with no name and/or half siblings. What must I do to prevent this?

  11. Joseph fisher

    I put my step grandfather instead of his actual father of his mother because I did not have the correct info when I started the tree. Do not know how to correct this. Had to create a new updated thee. Can I correct the original tree without too much trouble?

  12. Ed Braswell

    I agree Lisa & Larry, these phantom hints are so annoying! And thanks Tom for your info! So good to know!

    Would be nice if all the nuisances would be fixed instead of creating new versions that make matters worse. I’m seriously looking at Mocavo and My Heritage. This new ancestry requires more time to do the same tasks and has so many distractions (like the arrows going everywhere). Obviously looking to attract new customers who have never worked a tree instead of keeping us long-time customers happy with more efficiency.

  13. Candace

    You make alot of references to items related to immigrants. What about the African Americans who would not be part of those records? What resources are available?

  14. I love to follow the hints…with one exception. There is another member who posts most of my photos as her own. So… I get excited about finding something new…only to discover the copy cousin has stroke again! Really discouraging. Even my comments are copied.

  15. Marsha

    Joseph Fisher – In the New Ancestry go to the person you that you need to correct their parents. In the upper right corner it says “edit” click and then go to “edit relationships” Here you can easily change the person’s parents. Works so much better than the old Ancestry.

  16. Pattyannbeyer

    Hints…another issue…I can clear out a bunch of hints for a person..go on to the next and another stupid hint that has no bearing on my person shows up. Why?

  17. Lauren M

    I would like to click on Ignore Hint and have it go away, permanently. Otherwise, I am in Click on Leaf Hell and never know if it is a new hint or an old hint. Seems easy to fix, no?

  18. Dana

    While searching for information about an ancestor, why does your search engine completely disregard the information I know. It gives info for people in other countries, born before my ancestor was born or after they died, of completely different names, etc.

  19. Monika

    @Shawrone7 and @Beth Cloninger. A phantom hint is when one of your profile pages claims that you have hints for this person. Then you press on “hints” and there is nothing there. I have e.g., one ancestor that currently has four hints, but when you try to obtain them they do not exist/there is no data there. At least that is what I call “phantom hints”.

  20. Dana

    Another problem in searching…the inability to search for maiden name OR married name(s). Your search engine isn’t very “smart.” It doesn’t corollate age with name or name with date. If I’m searching for an ancestor when she should be a child, it doesn’t search for her maiden name.

  21. The hints are like kudzu. They spew out after you get a new collection and despite the fact that the country is wrong, the dates are wrong and there are practically no usable ones to help out, they pile up and you send me emails about all the wonderful hints I have. What I would like is a better hint algorithm – one that will not include really Bad matches

  22. Christy

    Dana, there is a work around for the maiden or married name search. After you hit search records and you go to the search results on the left had side is another opportunity to edit the results. Click the Edit button and wipe out the maiden or married name and click search. The search results will give you the last name you are most interested in. I have used this method very successfully.

  23. toni

    Joseph fisher, in Old Ancestry,
    Open your person’s page. Click “edit this person”. There is a tab called relationships. Click that. At the top is Father. Right under it is the adoptive father’s name. Under that is the phrase +Add an alternate father. Add your alternate father. Click set as Preference. When he’s added go back and click the “delete” by the adoptive father or set your drop down to adoptive

    Marian Ruth Packard
    I share your pain. I wonder if her name is Barbara?

  24. Linda

    Please! Stop sending duplicate hints! Once a hint is considered and either entered or ignored, that should be it. We should not have to deal with the same hint over and over, every time we log on to Ancestry.

  25. jeanne bristol

    allow filters to sort by the degree of relation, first cousin, second etc. So that I don’t see aunt of brother-in-law of second cousin as an equal to a great grandfather. My aunt is also my step mother, how can that be defined. The 11 children of this stepmother are my cousins as well as my stepsister/brothers.
    I DO NOT like the ‘new’ way of presenting data. Please allow the old way to continue.

  26. Sallie

    Question. How does a pic show up on your tree when you did not put it there? I opened my tree the other day and there was a pic of an elderly couple in rocking chairs circa late 1880′ attached to me as my picture. I do not who there are, they are not related to me. Haven’t a clue. The only way I could get rid of it was to delete me out of the tree. How did this happen?

  27. Welton Simpson

    I am sorry that you changed up the program the last few months. I will probably unsubscribe if the new format stays in place.

  28. Jack Quinn

    Someone else asked the question, but I did not see an answer: What is a “Phantom Hint” that is mentioned in many of the messages?

  29. Diane

    A few days after I add new information to my tree, I receive hints with the information I just added, plus any pictures I added. This is irritating, but not as much as getting hints for people with similar names who lived in different centuries and countries where my relatives did not live. I also object to having a photo of Gen. William T. Sherman attached to my 2nd great grandfather, who I admit was in the Union Army, but was a private who probably never even saw Gen. Sherman. This is something Ancestry is doing that I absolutely hate! If I want a picture or story attached to my tree, I should be the only one who can add them.

  30. Robin

    Please develop a way to search for all duplicates so we can clean up our trees. I usually have to “stumble” on a duplicate then combine the two.

  31. Roger Steinbach

    Yes to all those comments! You *should* be able to ignore a hint and have it stop appearing. Otherwise what is a “cool” feature becomes a worthless annoyance. How hard can it be to establish an “ignore this hint” option?

  32. Tom Loughran

    If Ancestry offered a download .csv file of hint summaries (ideally, with one column filled with urls for quick connection), users could download and filter their own hints, and work selectively through them.

  33. Lykins_Kate

    Ancestry keeps trying to entice me to having a paid membership again but I doubt I ever will do so because I’ve already spent hundreds of dollars over the past twenty years or so and traced some branches of my family back as far as the 900s, which is really more than I dreamed of finding. But I am very unhappy now because the last time I looked for some of those ancestors, they had disappeared from my list of all family members. I don’t put anyone in my trees unless I have good verification of their relationship to me. Your new, improved site is not an improvement at all, but has caused all sorts of problems. Most “Hints” have never applied to the people they were suggested for, in my experience.

    Also, I have tried for years to trace my husband’s ancestry and can’t understand why I can find no birth record for my husband’s father’s father, and so no record of *his* father’s name, making it impossible to know the origin of the family. I know my husband’s grandfather’s exact name, his approximate birth year from Census records, his exact date and place of death, exact name of his wife, date and place of their marriage, and the birth dates, birthplaces, and names of her DOB and DOD, the names, DOBs and DODs of all of their children. All of these people were born and died in the US, only leaving if doing military service. But if I do a search using my husband’s grandfather’s first, middle, and last names, exact date of death and exact place of death, I don’t get anything about him, but pages about other men with the same first name, and it’s not even a common first name! I don’t know why your search algorithms don’t work any better than that but they should.

  34. Lisa

    Add me to the list of people who want IGNORED hints to disappear. I have a ggf who lived in 2 counties, 1860 with my ggm in one county, 1870 in a second county (from then on) as a widower with his surname spelled with a C instead of K and 1880 as remarried and surname again mis-spelled. Ancestry keeps throwing out hints that he lived in New York in 1870 and Baltimore in 1880, even though the names of half the children are wrong. I hit IGNORE but do you know how many people have accepted these hints as gospel on other trees? Once upon a time you could write notes next to the hints on the main Ancestry index page and I would say please remove, not the right person, but I haven’t been able to pull this function up in months. BTW, I gave up my Ancestry membership because of all the stupidity. FamilySearch is free, even though you can’t see everything Ancestry has. After 25 years of research Ancestry is mostly throwing bad info at me.

  35. Joy

    I agree that it would be great if Ancestry would automatically alert me if there was a duplicate profile for that person.
    What is also very annoying is that if a photo is attached, the system automatically puts it in as main photo, then there is no way that allows to edit (even when edit is opened) and remove that photo as main photo. The old system allowed a choice, but the new Ancestry system will not allow photo editing. Please correct that edit feature so it’s available for every photo.

  36. Sue

    I have 1522 PHANTOM HINTS!! A day does not go by without out 1 or 2 more showing up. Every time I call customer support “we understand there is a problem the team is working on it”. Really? I do check all my hints on the “All My Hints” page every day because “real” hints simply just disappear and “voila” they show up on the all hints page. It is beyond annoying – I just hope they all don’t all show up as real hints on the same day!!

  37. Lykins_Kate

    Actually, I do understand that the grandfather I mentioned above was born before most states kept birth records *but* the algorithm should give me information about men with the same first name, or same first initial, or first and middle initials, and same surname and approximately the same, if not exactly the same, DOD and place of death, and show those men on Federal Census records until their deaths, which would give me perhaps five Census records, one or more of which might give a clue as to his father’s name.

    Searches of military records show that Ancestry’s logarithms for those are also seriously flawed. I’ve searched for my father, his younger brother, my father-in-law, and his younger brother, all four of whom served during WW II, with my father making a career of the military. I provided full names, exact DOBs and birthplaces for each man. All I’ve ever found at Ancestry is one (1) muster roll with my father’s name on it. One record for a career military man who was in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the war?

    People should know that they can get military records from the government, don’t need Ancestry to get them The government was very helpful in sending me the records of my father’s first cousin, an Army medic who was KIA at age 19, trying to get wounded men off a battlefield while German soldiers were firing at him. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

  38. Betty

    I agree that is is useless to have the documents and photos that I post come up as hints to me. I am hesitant to post documents I find in local resources to my tree since I found that another member added my careful research to the wrong person with the same name as my ancestor.

  39. Doug Saucier

    First let me say the genealogical content of ancestry is great. Access to the online data banks of data is a great asset when doing research and has allowed me to grow my tree to over 3000 people when I only knew my direct grandmothers and grand fathers names.
    I have purchased Family Tree Maker and 6 DNA kits and very pleased with the results fro a genealogy perspective.
    Now the cons. I have years and years of experience with building applications and the usability design of these applications and I find the applications not intuitive and difficult to navigate.
    The management of any list is very hard and manual, not helpful, and obviously built to manage small lists. The hints are just one example.
    With the advent of the DNA functions has resulted in adding a lot of new member to my tree in a short period of time which aggravates the usability issues.
    I would encourage you to spend some time and money looking into usability with some focus groups and put new features on the back burner until the usability issues are brought up to industry standards.

  40. Sharyn

    Oh yes, “hungarian catholic church records was a doozy. I can’t imagine that others received it too!
    I had no idea what to make of it. I have not a single Hungarian ancestor, LOL

  41. Diane Miller

    Please, Please, Please come up with a way to combine trees on Ancestry.com! I spent weeks combining two trees manually a couple years ago, by eliminating hundreds of duplicates, but about a year ago I somehow wound up with a second tree that had the same name. Unfortunately, its not a duplicate of my original tree.
    One tree has the bulk of my nearly 2000 relatives, but the other has the bulk of the family photos I’ve added on Ancestry. I don’t know how this occurred as I never tried to create an additional tree. My Family Tree maker program (which synchs with Ancestry.Com everytime I open it) allows trees to be combined. Why can’t Ancestry do the same? Now, when I get hints, I don’t know which tree they apply to. That means double the work, checking both trees to see if I need to add the info to one or to both. Its become so frustrating & time consuming that I’m about ready to give up & cancel my membership!

  42. Diane Miller

    I sometimes find that spouses &/or children have been duplicated under a relative’s data page in my tree. I know I’m not adding this info in myself, so how is this happening?

  43. Diane Miller

    I found my father & his sister attached as children of both their father & stepfather. I was able to successfully eliminate the incorrect connection for my aunt, but when I followed the same process for my father, it eliminated him from my tree entirely. I thought, o.k. I can just add his info back in (annoying, but doable). IMAGINE MY HORROR WHEN I FOUND MY ENTIRE PATERNAL LINEAGE HAD BEEN ELIMINATED. MONTHS OF WORK & HUNDREDS OF RELATIVES DATING BACK TO THE 1600’S JUST VANISHED! THANK YOU VERY MUCH, ANCESTRY.COM!!!

  44. David Wilcox

    Did you know there are more than 14 million women in your databases who, according to OCR and possible other transcribers, are named Wasula? I didn’t check them all, but the ones I did are all Ursula. OCR was NOT a good idea; it’s bad enough with real people.

  45. Sherie

    I agree with the “hints problem”! Too many and too many duplicates. I liked the old ancestry much better.

  46. Bill Kern

    There are way too many duplicate hints, a big time waster. Having a way to filter them would be a big improvement.

  47. Douglas White

    I was hoping to see a selection control that would allow me to select that I do or do not want to see a DNA cousins tree if it is Private and locked.
    And since the advertising folks say ‘get the DNA test and find your long lost cousins’ and those folks never create a tree, well just how do they think Ancestry can help them find all these cousins? I want a selection control that allow me to block those folks without a tree and allow me to block those with a tree that is Private. Also, if your tree is Private then you should not be allowed to get information from my tree which is not private. I am fortunate in that when I have contacted a ‘cousin’ with a Private/Locked tree they have been very helpful, most of the time. There are others with a Private/Locked Tree that have never responded to an inquiry. All researchers are not made equal. Just buy the $xxx.xx DNA kit, sit back and let Ancestry find all of your relatives.

  48. Kathy

    I’ve been reading the 56 comments. What a mess! I can’t imagine signing up for your “service,” spending hours on research and then having it wiped out!

  49. Nancy W

    I don’t care for the new ancestry at all. It is not user friendly,very confusing, and not fun at all. I agree with the comment about private trees. If they don’t want to know present day “cousins” why be on a data base. I think I can save my money for a better site.

  50. Jerrell Rutherford

    The previous format was easier to use, why the change? I find the new format too difficult to navigate and the “hint” feature is awful. I enjoyed the previous format, the new terrible!

  51. Yvonne

    When I Click old ancestry, It is erroring because it says, Sorry to see you go. What is that all about?

  52. Monika

    @Yvonne – Please go to the various “weekly updates” (the latest one is October 4) and it will explain that to you.

  53. Babs

    The hints are interesting but it is true -some never go away. My concern is also to transfer all of the wonderful stories, genealogy list etc. that were on the old version to the new. They were so helpful and now on the new version I can’t find them. Why did they disappear??? How can I get them into the new version.

  54. fargo

    I agree with most of the comments, especially the one about adding new customers and not keeping the old loyal customers. Please add a way to separate the Surname from a city. Talk about to many hints.

  55. jef

    I would also like a way to filter out Hints as well. I especially want to not see the ones with the local directories, school year books, etc. but especially those local directory listing which are years old and not very helpful.

  56. Sandi

    I felt so alone until I read these comments. My biggest gripe with the “new experience” is that there is still no viable way to sort media universally. I resist adding each Dutch flag as a NEW picture. I connect common icons from ancestor to ancestor and this is next to impossible under the new format.

  57. After reading all the comments, I think I want to get my money back from Ancestry. I do not like the new format; my photos are not arranged like before (AND I REALLY LIKED THAT WAY), also, it seems when I try to find something, you just want me to subscribe to another portion of Ancestry! WHY? I’m not happy now with the way things are IMPROVED.

  58. Linda

    Please, oh please, let me ignore hints that I know are not right just ONE time. I THINK if some of my other relatives or in-laws of my relatives search and accept records and also attach public tree info. (just because there’s a shaky leaf), and so then they keep coming back to me as hints. I do not like the new format nor the results from my searches (15 year member.) As to showing factual info on family, I have only put in one or a few children and there’s more to do, but it shows it as a fact that and Mr. so and so had one or a few children. I found one deceased family member listed as being born in the 36th century. I also don’t like the way my pictures are shown now. Also, now I can’t go in and change photo preference for the one I want to appear as the main photo.

  59. Pam

    I haven’t had some of the problems listed here, but I found a lot of mistakes when looking at an ancestors history. In the “life story” paragraph, for instance, my ggm died in Longton Cottage Hospital in Staffordshire, England. You had her dying in some town in Florida! I had to go in and edit it. Now I feel I better check ALL my ancestors to be sure you haven’t changed my info. Personally, I preferred the old site and am not sure I want to continue my subscription.

  60. Miles

    I so agree with all the comments I have read so far. Can someone not this all the better? It seems every time ancestory makes a new way of doing and says it is better, guess what? It isn’t. That is why I stopped my searching on here until later. Still looking for a better site if there is one.

  61. Diana

    Diane Miller, your family’s still there. They are floating in the background. You unlinked your father and disrupted the line. Search by name and re link them thru your father. You haven’t really lost them

  62. Diana

    To set your picture to the profile picture you need to open the picture, then on the side where the names are listed in blue under linked to, hit the name and a drop down list appears. You can then set the picture to profile image. Hope this helps.

  63. Ron Crow

    I have found a way around the phantom hint. Go to the parents and add a child. Name the child Hidden Hint (same last name). Go to one of the children of the person that has the phantom hint and select to view in tree. Delete the parent with the phantom hint. Add a parent to the person you are viewing in the tree. Name the parent Hidden Hint (same last name). Select the Hidden Hint person and merge with duplicate. In one instance I had a father and son that both had phantom hints so I had to name the son Hidden Hint Jr. I wish that I had thought of this before; I have deleted a lot of my people out of frustration of hidden hints.

  64. Stephen

    I have a 1st cousin 3X removed named Mary Lou Mitchell 1855 – 1930. Her parents Marmaduke Mitchell and Paulina Pope Bacon and her siblings disappeared before 1860. She was adopted by William Benjamin Bryan and Minerva Root Bryan. How do I show both the natural and adoptive parents? I am using version 22.0.0.1404 FTM.

  65. BEE

    “PHANTOM HINTS” – we may be talking about two different things. What I am calling “phantom hints” as someone else wrote above, is NO hints. When I go to the list of people, it shows “7 hints”, but there is nothing there! No names, nothing. On the left in a column that says (hints 7) {in another tree it might be 2, in another, it might be 10} – then there is a list: All hints 7: People with hints 5: Records 4: Photos 0: Stories 0: Member trees 3 – which of course adds up to 12!! but who’s counting? While there is a drop down to “Sort by”, nothing appears! So that is what I mean by “phantom hints”. Sometimes the message was “Currently there are no hints in this tree. Try Please try another search” – even though it showed 10 people under “All hints” and “10 records”. At one point it had 198 “hints” that weren’t there! Believe it not, I just copied that information from a 2012 email to “support” where I sent screen shots of my “problem”. Here is the reply: “Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Our development team has looked at what’s happening closely and made some changes to resolve the problem. Please let me know if you find that the problem surfaces again” – YES, again, and again, and again, and again!

  66. Reading feedback from others is helpful in that I realize I have been frustrated/annoyed by many of the same problems. However, this is of no help. It would be very helpful to read Ancestry’s response to the problems stated. Is there a fix in progress? Are we missing a way to fix the problem ourselves? Is the problem due to our failure to understand some function? Once Ancestry has received numerous letters about the same problem, restating it over and over is useless. A solution would be so much more helpful and given the fact that we are all paying Ancestry, we should expect no less.

  67. BEE

    I may be missing something, but I haven’t seen a reply to our questions since: “Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on September 29, 2015”

  68. Linda

    I keep getting hints for information I have added, particularly photographs! I also agree that ignore should ignore hints in the future also. I really like the “maybe” choice on some of the hints. Also, why can’t ancestry search partial names in my tree when I need to go back to a relative? I have to enter the searched name exactly as it was entered originally in my tree. I agree with Judy’s comments on Oct 8 1:45pm. I would also enjoy being able to “like” a comment left by another researcher so ancestry can understand many people are having the same issues. THANKS!

  69. I don’t like the new ancestry. I could find everything I wanted from the main page. Now, I can’t find my pictures or when I click on hints there are none. I have put many years and hours into this and I hate to lose all that work. I’m computer illiterate and too old to be able to figure this out. Please give me back the old ancestry.

  70. Penny

    Donald White if you resent sharing your DNA test results then make your tree private. My tree is private not because of DNA. I love finding cousins . It is private because unknown people were stealing my family pictures and re-posting them under another picture title. Also because I do not want to spread undocumented information. I don’t have a piece of paper for every single person in my tree.

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