Things like this are why I wonder about the search algorithms at that generate search suggestions.

In 1870 and 1880, Irish native Joseph Neill is living in Saint Albans Township in Hancock County, Illinois.

His enumerations are fairly consistent and has transcribed them faithfully.

  • 1870-Joseph Neil, aged 27 (born about 1843), native of Ireland
  • 1880-Joseph Neill, aged 37 (born about 1843), native of Ireland.

And yet on when I pull up the “individual record,” there are no suggested records for either entry. It would seem that given the consistency of these two entries (living in same location, same year of birth, same nativity) that each one would be suggested on the other.

The places of residence are actually entered in differently (based on how they are on the actual census record). In 1880 the location is “Saint Albans” and in 1870 the location is “St. Albans.” But both are correctly located in Hancock County, Illinois. It would seem that the automatic matching process at should catch these as suggested records for the other.

1880-joseph-neill 1870-joseph-neil

Joseph is also enumerated in the 1900 US federal census, again in Saint Albans Township. His age is off by ten years, but the other details are the same. still doesn’t suggest the 1870 and 1880 enumerations (which would be for a Joseph Neill in the same place, born in the same place, but born about eight years earlier).



It is “automatic” search results like this that make me question how the search algorithm is programmed.

It’s also why I don’t rely on the automatic searches at





5 Responses

  1. The suggested records that often appear on the right are usually from some other tree’s record attachment as interpreted by Ancestry’s search engine. They are often quite erroneous (such as attached to a person other than the one you are searching for, albeit with similar name).

    The suggested records also may already have been attached to your own tree.

    • Thanks, Jade.

      That could explain it in this case as this Joseph has no living descendants and there really isn’t anyone actively working on him other than me (his brother is my ancestor). The ones who have done “work” on the brother have usually been those who have had a fleeting interest in the family or who have been so remotely related that they never really searched enough to locate this Joseph as a brother.

      Another uncle who was a US marine between 1920 and the late 1940s has a long list of suggested records is in an online tree where someone has connected those records. I didn’t check another relative who was alive at about the same time and was also in the service, but it appears that suggested records do come from online trees–at least some of the time.

      That would explain why some of these suggestions are questionable–and somewhat disconcerting that someone’s linked together some really off the wall stuff, but that’s a topic for another post.

      I just don’t like knowing where the suggestions come from because I like to know something about the search process, but maybe that’s just me.

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