Online Trees

Is organization one of your 2020 goals? If so, have you been following the tips in The Genealogy Guys Blog? Today’s post, ‘Organizing Your Online Trees,’ is a challenge for me.

It is a challenge since I never considered having to ‘keep  them up to date.’

For years, I have shared my work with others either thru a website, thru my Ancestry tree or thru a gedcom file. Since having my DNA tested, I have used gedcom files to share my tree with the various sites where my DNA data has been uploaded.

Thanks to hosting site and software changes, some of my early attempts at sharing are no longer easily accessed. This would include my original website hosted on GeoCities. About the time GeoCities was being discontinued, I had transitioned to using The Master Genealogist for my genealogy research. Thus, I was able to take advantage of John Cardinal’s software, Second Site and his hosting service to continue sharing my work online.

When support for The Master Genealogist was discontinued, I converted my data to RootsMagic. One of the ‘selling’ points for RootsMagic was the ability to publish my data online. Thus, I switched my online file from Second Site to RootsMagic’s.

Since the release of RootsMagic’s TreeShare, I have had my RootsMagic data connected to my Ancestry Tree. I’ve also been taking advantage of the ability to connect individuals in my RM data to Family Search.

Thus, my primary online trees include

For DNA purposes, I do have some of my data on the following sites:

Since my GedCom has been shared in many ways, I don’t have a complete list of where my data may be available online. Thus, the challenge!

Since most of my current research has not involved new DNA ancestors, I don’t feel a lot of pressure to update my GedCom data on My Heritage, FamilyTree DNA or GedMatch.

In terms of updating online trees, my focus will be on my Ancestry tree, my ancestors on FamilySearch and my RootsMagic online data. Thank you ‘The Genealogy Guys’ for the challenge!

Member Search

Have you seen it? Ancestry recently released an improvement to their ‘Member Search’.

I played around with it a little yesterday, and this feature has a lot of potential. However, I think a better understanding of how the search works is needed before I can use it effectively.

To access the ‘Member Search’ feature, pull down the SEARCH menu on Ancestry’s screen.

Click on MEMBER SEARCH at the bottom of that menu. The Member Search screen will open with the default search for a member by their name or user ID.

In the past, one had to pretty much know the exact name or user id in order to locate that user. This is one of the areas that has been improved. Instead of needed to know the exact name, one can search for part of their name.

While experimenting with this expanded search feature, I discovered what I believe to be a clue to a DNA match in the list of results. As part of the icon for the user, there is a small symbol for DNA on the bottom right of the circle.

I also discovered that when searching for a user by their surname, the results can be very numerous. For the following illustrations, I searched for users with a surname that I am researching to help protect the privacy of Ancestry users.

A search for CRAWFORD produced too many results – 9, 839 of them!

I then searched for BRILES. Since most BRILES families descend from Conrad Broil of North Carolina, I was hoping this would be an easy way to identify those researchers.

Not only did this pick up the Briles, but it picked up what appears to be SOUNDEX variations of the name. In addition, it pulled users with a first name of Brilee. 
A search for the Wells surname pulled up names that contained ‘well’ such as Honeywell.
The search for a member by name is an improvement over the older functionality. However, it could be improved by using fields (first name, last name, userID) along with exactness choices (exact, soundex, …)
Besides the broadened capability to search for a member, there is a new feature: the ability to search for a member by research interest. Getting to this feature is a little hidden. Note the ‘down carrot’ to the right of ‘Find a Specific Member’. That indicates there is ‘more’. Click on ‘Find a Specific Member’ to reveal the other option.

A box containing additional information is revealed. Unfortunately, it is NOT obvious that there is a second option. The faint line dividing the box into 2 parts is the only clue. Click on the bottom half of the box to get to the screen to ‘Find Members by Research Interest’.

This screen looks promising. When I first heard about this capability, I thought, ‘GREAT! now I can find others researching members of my FAN club.’

So, I started searching. My first search was for CRAWFORD in Preble County, Ohio. I quickly discovered that the YEAR info would not accept a range of dates. Since I didn’t know exactly which date to use, I opted to not put anything in the year field. There are two distinct CRAWFORD families living in Preble County Ohio. I know of at least three other Ancestry users who are actively researching one of these lines. Thus, I expected at least three results — and I got zero!

I then tried a search for CRAWFORD in Warren County, Indiana. Since both families had descendants move from Preble County, Ohio to Warren County, Indiana, I expected at least the three results. Again, I got ZERO results.

Not one to give up, I decided to try CRAWFORD in Ford County, Kansas. Again, both families had CRAWFORD descendants in Ford County. Since my line was in Ford County from about 1884 to the 1970s, I expected the results to include my cousins who not only have had their DNA tested, but also have trees on Ancestry showing their Ford County Crawford connection. Again, the results were ZERO.

So, the BIG question is where is the data being pulled from for this aspect of the Member Search since it does not appear to be pulling from member trees. My theory is that this search feature is pulling from the ‘Research Interest’ section on our profile pages. Based on that theory, I added several ‘CRAWFORD’ interests to our list of 14 Research Interests yesterday.

Thus, I turned to my ‘free’ account to test this theory. If my theory is correct, then the ‘Find Members by Research Interest’ search from my free account should pull up my paid account.

However, when I performed a search from my free account for Crawford in Ford County, Kansas, I got ZERO.

Thinking that there might be a ‘lag’ in the indexing of my changes, I then tried to search for one of the listings in ‘Research Interests’ that was there before yesterday on my paid account, userid: philbrick.

When I searched for Griffith in Kansas from the free Ancestry account, I got 2 results – neither of which was our Ancestry account.

When I looked at the first profile, Griffith was listed but there was no mention of a place.

When I looked at the second profile, Griffith was listed for Grand Rapids. Again, Kansas did not appear in the list of ‘Research Interests’

When I searched for Griffith, the ‘philbrick’ profile did come up in the first 50 hits. 
I tried a similar search for Jerby. When I searched for Jerby in Kansas, there were ZERO results. When I searched for Jerby, the only profile that came up was our ‘philbrick’ profile.
I then tried a search from my free account for a surname that is listed in our profile but not listed in the ‘Research Interests’: Minnick. There were 80 results. None of those results were our ‘philbrick’ account. I spot checked several of the results and they had ‘Minnick’ listed in their ‘Research Interests’

  1. It appears that the ‘Member Search Results’ for the ‘Find Members by Research Interest’ is pulling from the information in the ‘Research Interests’ section of a members’ profile.
  2. However, it also appears that there is an indexing lag of at least 24 hours and likely more.
  3. It does NOT appear that this search pulls from the ABOUT YOU section of a member profile.
  4. It does NOT appear that this search uses any information from a tree for these results.
  5. There is a designation for DNA matches in the list of results from these searches.

Thus, I need to do a whole lot more editing of my Research Interests if I wish to be found thru this search method and hope that the indexing catches up.

Fabulous Find

Do you use in your genealogy research? If so, have you checked out one of their newest sources of shaky leaf hints: Obituary Index, 1800s-current? Randy Searver’s instructions on how to access just the hints from this one source in his Using the ‘Mining Hints from a Specific Collection’ Tool makes it easy to pull these hints. 

I’ve been using this tool with great success — but have gone one step further: filtering by name. Since my recent research has centered on the descendants of James and Rebecca (Anderson) Crawford, I entered one of the descendant’s surname: Guthrie.

By using the mining tool for the obituary index and filtering the results by the surname Guthrie, I found a fabulous obituary for William Anderson Guthrie:
William GuthriePark Leader, Dies
Former Senator Recently Honored at Clifty Falls Ceremony on 85th Birthday

Dupont, Ind., August 6 (spl.) — William A. Guthrie, age eighty-five, for many years a member of the Indiana conservation commission and a former state senator, died at his home here last night.He was one of the early leaders in forming the state park system and because of his activity in establishing Clifty Falls state park near Madison, a plaque was placed on the new south gateway of the park in his honor. It was unveiled with ceremonies on his eighty-fifth birthday anniversary, with Governor Paul V. McNutt as principal speaker.Mr. Guthrie was born in Dupont, May 13, 1851, the son of Anderson Crawford and Anne Wilson Guthrie. He received his education at College Hill and Moore’s Hill College, which is now Evansville College. He married Sarah Lewis on October 28, 1875. Mrs. Guthrie died in 1925 in Cairo, Egypt.Lifetime RepublicanMr. Guthrie, a lifetime Republican, was active in the affairs of councils in Indiana and was one of the small coterie of state senators who brought about the first election of Albert J Beveridge to the United State senate. During this session, Mr. Guthrie devoted much time to obtaining passage of the pure food bill. In 1908, he was a delegate to the Republican national convention and a presidential elector in 1916 and 1928. During the world war, he served as vice-president of food production in Indiana and a short time later was vice-president of the deep waterway commission of Indiana.Mr. Guthrie was a Baptist. He was a member of the Academy of Science, an honorary member of the Nature Study Club of Indiana and of the Rotary Club of Madison.Mr. Guthrie was a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Odd Fellows, Mystic Shrine, Audubon Society, Columbia Club, Pioneer Society of Indiana and an honorary member of the Historical Society of Jefferson County.He served as vice-president of the Belt Railroad and Stock Yards Company and a member of the executive Committee. He held positions in the Fletcher Avenue Savings and Loan Association, the Guthrie-Thompson Company, the Federal Timber Company, and the Florida Orchard Company. He was president of the Freehold Company.For many years Mr. Guthrie had come to Dupont to spend the summer months at the family home here. He spent the greater part of the year at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis, where he had lived many years. He is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Lucy Guthrie Crecraft of Akron, O., five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. W. B. Guthrie, a grandson is proprietor of Turkey Run hotel at Turkey Run state park.
“William Guthrie, Park Leader, Dies,” The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, IN), 6 August 1936, page 8; digital images, ( : viewed online October 2019). 

Check it out for yourself !

 See what fabulous find you can make!

Media Issues

Have you seen DearMyrtle’s challenge?

When I first saw the challenge, I thought I should be in pretty good shape. After all, I scanned the family photos and attached them in my The Master Genealogist software several years ago. Since I’ve worked my way thru 5 generations of data review, I figured I should be set.

That was until yesterday when I was verifying descendants for a thru-lines DNA match on Ancestry. As I was working with a known first cousin twice removed, I decided to check FamilySearch to see if there were any additional sources attached to this cousin.

To my surprise, I found a slightly different set of parents than expected. I expected to find John Frederick Mentzer and Anna Wells Mentzer as the parents of a family of 8 children, including Mildred Mabel Mentzer. Instead, I found Fred Mentzer and Anna Wells Mentzer as the parents of one child, Mildred Mentzer. After digging thru my Mentzer records to verify that John and Anna did have a daughter named Mildred and that said daughter was married to a VanValkenburg, I merged Mildred and the two sets of parents.

Knowing that someone could object to this merger and undo the merge, I wanted to add supporting documentation to support the merge. Thus, I (thought I) added an image of the obituary for Fred Mentzer. The obituary clearly indicated that Fred Mentzer was also known as John Frederick Mentzer. It also listed the children and their residency at the time of Fred’s death. I also added a page from a Woodson County Historical Society publication that included a picture of the family when the children were young and a list of the children and their spouses.

Since my attempt to create an image of the obituary from a PDF file, did not include the entire obituary that attempt was a failure. Thankfully, I discovered the problem and have since uploaded an image showing the entire obituary.

Besides the images, I transferred 9 source records from my RootsMagic program to FamilySearch for John F. Mentzer. However, it is the images that connect the John F. Mentzer of Woodson County, Kansas to Mabel VanValkenburg of California. 

Thus, I’ve been thinking about DearMyrtle’s challenge and this experience with FamilySearch. Although I do some work with the FamilySearch tree, I primarily share my work via my Ancestry tree, Heartland Genealogy, and via my RootsMagic site. Thus, I was curious whether the images I have tagged in my RM database transferred to my Ancestry tree and/or my RootsMagic site.

What I discovered is that some but nowhere near all images have been uploaded to either location. I’ve also discovered that if I have already uploaded a source to Ancestry, any changes to that source are not uploaded to Ancestry. In other words, if I go back and add an image to a source, that isn’t seen as a change. Thus, the option to update the source is not present.

IN addition, I discovered that I have been lax in working with images in RootsMagic. I have tried to add an image or pdf file to my sources. For some reason, I was apparently assuming that the image was also being attached to the event and person. The lack of green check marks in the camera column proves that I was making an incorrect assumption.

Knowing that I obviously needed help with images, I’m re-watching the video: Pictures and Media in RootsMagic.

So, I obviously have work to do!
My plan of action is slightly different from DearMyrtle’s.

  • Work with one ancestral couple at a time
  • Verify that I have images attached to sources
  • When appropriate, attach an image to an event
  • Verify that I have photographs (already scanned and on my computer) attached to the individual with one photo selected as the primary image
  • Verify ‘Scrapbook’ report contents
  • Run RootsMagic’s TreeShare to update my Ancestry Tree
  • Download any photographs I’ve saved on Ancestry and attach to RM tree
  • Use RM’s ability to connect to the FamilySearch tree to upload sources to FS
  • Upload images to the ‘Memories’ section of FamilySearch
  • Verify that notes exist for an event and copy/paste into the NOTES on Ancestry.
  • Work thru the children of the ancestral couple, repeating the above steps

Thanks to Cary Bright who shared a checklist on DearMyrtle’s challenge, I can follow her lead and create my own checklist.

So, why am I going back over work I’ve already done (again)?

  • Improve accuracy of the data in my tree
  • Improve ability to connect with DNA matches
  • Improve quality of FamilySearch tree by sharing sources and images
  • Preserve images by having them on Ancestry and FamilySearch
  • Connect with other researchers
Join me and others in this challenge to update images! Another example of why a genealogists work is never done!


I just watched Blaine Bettinger’s video, Sub-Clustering Shared Matches. As I was following the video, I was also trying to do this with my brother’s DNA matches.

The match I started with is listed on my match page as a second cousin. In reality, she is a first cousin once removed. Our common ancestors are Judson Crawford and Josie Hammond.

Her shared match list contained 157 matches. I marked them all with a yellow dot labeled: ICW EB.

When I got to the part about creating Sub-Group 1, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Other than my brothers, the first match on the list was a first cousin to ICW EB. The next 4 matches are listed as 3rd cousins. They are all known descendants of my great-grandparents.

Unsure on how to proceed, I searched the Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Tips & Tricks, for the term sub-group. That helped me find the original post on May 1 about the video and this technique. In the comments, I found the answer to my question about using these close cousins to create subgroup 1.

Thus, I skipped my second cousins who I know descend from Judson and Josie Crawford. To create sub-group 1, I started with the first match after these cousins. My brother shares 143 cM with this match and has 27 shared matches with her. These shared matches were marked with an Orange dot labeled, “ICW EB – Sub-group 1”.

For ‘sub-group 2’, I used the next match that does not descend from Judson and Josie Crawford. This match descends from Judson’s father, Washington Marion Crawford. These 32 shared matches were marked with a Green dot labeled, “ICW EB – Sub-group2.”

I skipped another match with Judson and Josie as common ancestors for ‘sub-group 3’. The next match was also a descendant of Washington Marion Crawford. I added these shared matches to Sub-group 2.

The next match is believed to be another descendant of Washington Marion Crawford. Since I haven’t been able to verify the ancestor of this match, I created another subgroup on this match.

I continued working thru these shared matches, creating 11 subgroups. The common ancestors of my ICW match are Judson Crawford and Josie Hammond. Thus, I expected to find subgroups for CRAWFORD, FOSTER, HAMMOND and RALSTON. The subgroups revealed CRAWFORD and FOSTER matches. However, the HAMMOND and/or RALSTON matches are not obvious in these 11 subgroups. 

This is an interesting method to study DNA matches.

Scroll, Click, Connect

Do you ever look at other trees on Ancestry? I know I do. I use them for hints. I also attach them as ‘sources’ so that I can get back to trees that match my ancestors.

However, I try not to add ‘new people’ from those trees to my tree. I also try to add additional sources to support the information in my tree. Some of those sources are obtained thru Ancestry and the hinting system.

However, some of my sources come from outside of Ancestry. Thus, when you search Ancestry’s Public Member Trees for someone in my tree, the number of sources attached to the individual will be shown.

When you go to the individual in the tree, the Ancestry sources will be shown first.

Only by scrolling down the page, will one find those ‘other sources’

Not only should one ‘SCROLL’ to find those ‘OTHER SOURCES’, one should also ‘CLICK’ on those sources.

Clicking, reveals the information from the source. When viewing the citation, please remember that the transcript on Ancestry does not have the paragraph returns and blank lines that were in the original transcription.

If you find these other sources and transcriptions helpful, be sure to use the MESSAGE button to connect with the tree owner. By working together, we can uncover more information about the people in our trees.

So —

  • Use Public Member Trees, 
  • Scroll thru and study the Sources, 
  • Click to View transcriptions and 
  • Message the tree owner to begin collaboration

DNA Stats

Have you been keeping track of your DNA statistics? I know I keep track of my DNA statistics. Prior to Roots Tech 2019, I tracked the number of pages of Ancestry matches.

Thanks to Ancestry updates, I can more easily track this information.

When I add in my mother’s DNA, I have over 350,000 DNA matches. Buried in all of this DNA data may be a clue to break thru my brick walls. Now, I just need time to work thru at least some of this data.

Ancestry Hints – New Beta

Have you been frustrated by Ancestry hints that seem illogical? I know I have. I seem to get hints for records from England when my ancestor was born, lived and died in the states. That’s why I’m excited about the new ‘beta’ tool to report those bad hints to Ancestry. Not only can I report ‘bad’ hints, but I can report ‘duplicate’ photos and explain why a hint is valid.

To enable this new feature, I had to ‘turn it on’. This is done by opening the EXTRAS menu

and pick ANCESTRY LAB from the bottom of the menu.

The HINTS FEEDBACK is the new feature. To make it work, click on ENABLE.

With HINTS FEEDBACK enabled, I am prompted to ‘tell’ Ancestry why I am ignoring or accepting a hint. For example, I don’t accept the hints for the flags, and other images that others have attached to their tree. Below is an example of a hint I would not accept

When I clicked on IGNORE for this hint, a window opened for me to indicate WHY I am ignoring the hint.

Since there isn’t a SAVE, SUBMIT or CLOSE button, I’m assuming that I can submit my reason and close the window by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window.
I also try to IGNORE hints for images that I have already saved in the individual’s gallery.

In this case, I just clicked on ‘I already have this information’

The above examples are for hints for photos. It is also possible to provide feedback for record hints. Below is a hint for Ida Angelina Briles Barr for a Kentucky will. 

To evaluate this record, I have to compare the information in this record to the information I already know about Ida Barr. Ida Angelina Briles Barr appears on the census records in Coffey County, Kansas from 1870 thru 1940. These census records indicate that Ida was born in Iowa. In addition, the census records for Ida as a child show her living in the household of Noah Washington Briles and his wife, Sarah. Since the suggested record included images of the Kentucky will, it was easy to read the will and determine that this Kentucky will is for a different BRILES family. 
Thus,  I will click NO to reject this record. Besides just clicking that the place and relationship was wrong, I added additional information to explain why this hint was not valid.

Not only can I enter information as I work thru new hints, but I can go back and enter information for hints that I had previously ignored. When I go to the HINTS page for an individual in my tree, I have the option of seeing hints I’ve already accepted and those I’ve already ignored. If I click on the Ignore link, I can see those ignored hints.

Then, I can enter the ‘reason’ I ignored each of the hints on this page.

Submitting this feedback to Ancestry will take more of my time. However, it should help Ancestry ‘fine-tune’ their hinting system to make it more accurate. The more information I can provide Ancestry about these hints, the better the hinting system will become.

Please join me in providing this feedback to Ancestry!

Reporting Census Extraction Issue

Do you just rely on Ancestry’s record information for census records prior to 1850? Or do you locate an extraction form for the census year to verify the interpretation of the check marks?

I have to admit that I often just use the information provided by Ancestry. I’m not sure why I decided to locate an extraction form and record the census information for myself today. However, I’m glad I did since I think the Ancestry record had one piece of information incorrect.

I was researching Isaac Crawford of Jefferson County, Indiana. I suspected he was living in Jefferson County in 1820 but hadn’t obtained a census record to support that suspicion. So, I searched Ancestry and was able to locate a record for Isaac Crawford in Jefferson County, Indiana.

The census image for Isaac Crawford also included Will Crawford a few lines up.

Wanting to record the information for both families, I opened my 1820 extraction form and recorded the information on my spreadsheet.

One of the things I noticed was that Will was engaged in agriculture while Isaac was engaged in manufacturing. Suspecting the two men were brothers, this puzzled me. 
When I looked back at the record for Isaac, it didn’t say anything about manufacturing. Instead, it indicated a slave under 14. 
I scanned the images to try and find an image with headings at the top. Unfortunately, none of the 25 images I scanned has headings at the top of the image.

After double-checking my extraction, I decided to report the issue to Ancestry. On the record screen, there is a link on the left to ‘Report Issue’.

I clicked on that link. On the reporting screen, I selected ‘Inaccurate Information’ as the issue I wanted to report.

On the next screen, I entered how I thought the information needed to be corrected.

What happens next will be determined by Ancestry. If Ancestry determines that there was an error, then my time will have been worth it. The ultimate goal is to have accurate information.

DNA and Descendancy Research

Do you try and connect with other genealogists to pick up tips and tricks? Living in rural America, I rely on connections over the Internet to pick up many of those tips and tricks. I’ve recently been watching one of the Barefoot Genealogists’ recent videos: Making Discoveries with the New and Improved AncestryDNA Match List.

About halfway thru the video (28:48), Crista explains why I should use actual names and birthdates for living people in my tree. I hadn’t considered that my ‘privitization’ of the names would prevent the computers from being able to match data in my tree with data in a match’s tree. Since I’ve had issues in the past with shared matches not working as expected, I have followed Crista’s advice and used actual names.

Watching this video, I also discovered that the method and terminology for shared matches has changed. Instead of being called ‘shared matches’, it is now called ‘common ancestors’. The terminology change is likely due to the change in how the ‘sharing’ is determined. I believe the shared matches was based on sharing Ancestry hints. With common ancestors, it is determined by comparing tree data.

That’s why Ancestry is recommending that everyone have a tree with at least parents and grandparents. Ancestry’s computers can take that small tree and compare it to all of the other trees on Ancestry. Thus, that small tree might have a parent or grandparent in a larger tree, like mine, that contains a lot of descendants. This is the same technology that is behind the new feature, Ancestry Thrulines.

I decided to test this on my own tree. I had a DNA match that I hadn’t looked at identified as having a common ancestor.

When I clicked on the ‘Common Ancestor’ link, it took me to a comparison page. This screen informed me that my match’s tree was private. However, along the left side of the screen was the suggested common ancestors: Albert Hutchinson and Julia Harding.

When I clicked on Albert Hutchinson, our two lines leading back to Albert Hutchinson were shown.

All of the white boxes on both lines were from my tree! Since I have researched the descendants of Albert Hutchinson, I had enough info in my tree to connect with my match – who only had 11 people in her tree.

Thus, all of my work over the years to research descendants is helping me identify my DNA matches!