I use the leafy hints and suggested matches at Ancestry.com for the occasional clue, particularly if it is someone in whom I have a peripheral interest or if I’m trying to get quick “background information” on, etc.
But they are used as potential clues simply to save me the time of searching those databases separately. The vast majority of my “search time” on Ancestry.com is in using specific databases.
When using any leafy clue, I compare to make certain that:
- the name is a relative match (should “sound” the same–usually);
- the age is a relative match (within 5 years–usually);
- the other identifying personal details are a relative match;
- the location is right for the time period in the person’s life;
- other extraneous details are consistent with the person.
Of course “relative match” is a vague term because things do not always match–even relatively. People can move, even if temporarily. And I don’t always know all the extraneous details. But I look at the information on the leafy match as I would any item I searched for myself. But I don’t use the leafy matches very often on people I’ve researched for some time.
This suggestion match from Ancestry.com is the reason. The relative of mine was Marie Gerdes Bruns, born in 1831 in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany to Gerd Bruns Wilken and Nanke Albers. The suggested match:
These hints usually come from automated search results and online trees of other users. Personally the hints would not bother me so much if they only came from automated search results. This is why I rarely use the hints and why when I do, the five bulleted items listed earlier are extremely important.