· Researching your family history · RootsMagic Family Tree Software

Why I prefer to search for records, and update my tree, manually

In my post, Getting organized for my genealogy do-over, I had incorporated using hints to find records, and for attaching hints to my Ancestry tree.  After doing this for my 2 grandfathers, I determined that the best way to find all the records for them was to search manually.

There were no hints for my grandfather John Ernest Whimpey from MyHeritage, which has the Australian Newspapers collection.  I had previously found newspapers articles for him on Trove, but these had listed him as Jack Whimpey or J E Whimpey.  Record hints tend to only find results based on the name and dates already in your tree.  To find other newspaper articles, you need to modify your search criteria – which means searching manually.

Ancestry does better at finding records for alternate names, as it picked up the records for John E Whimpey in the Australia, City Directories, 1845-1948 collections.  However, I have attached 6 records to my tree so far, and there are 27 more hints – I had found 60 records on Ancestry by searching manually.  Most of these I only found by using my checklist to see which records were available, and then browsing the images to find the entries a name search hadn’t picked up.

Also, the hints only pick up records that have been indexed.  One of the record collections that my ancestors appear in is the Australia, Newspaper Vital Notices, 1841-2001 collection, which is browse only.

Another reason to search manually, rather than rely on hints, is to be able to make comparisons between people with the same name. To determine whether a record is for the person in your tree, you need to see if there was anyone else with similar details that the record might also be for.  For example, I had a hint for Eliza Sharp, age 19, marrying John Smith in February 1860 at Thornes in Yorkshire, and her father’s name was William.  The Eliza Sharp in my tree was born in 1842 at Wakefield, and was the daughter of William Sharp and Sarah Crossley.  I needed to check whether there might have been another Eliza Sharp born about the same time with a father named William that the record might also have been for.  This meant doing a manual search, rather than just looking at the suggested records.

I had thought that to make it easier to enter information into my tree, I would use the Merge feature in Ancestry

The problem I found when merging the records from Ancestry into my ancestry tree was that for the directories, the only information that transfers across into my tree is the year and the state – if I want the address (and occupation) to show, I need to add these manually.  For Electoral rolls, the entries show the Subdivision and Division as well as the state, but I still needed to add the residence and occupation manually.  Also, the Subdivision and Division, as well as the page number, should go in the source details, rather in the location, since they are just for electoral purposes, they’re not the actual place names.

Today, RootsMagic released an update, which introduced TreeShare between RootsMagic and Ancestry, as well as web hints from Ancestry.  I decided to download the new tree I had set up on Ancestry. These are the entries for my grandfather.  At this stage, I haven’t added many of the hints to my tree:

John Ernest Whimpey RootsMagic

The highlighted entry is from a directory – I had added the residence manually to my ancestry tree.  The entry should be

  • Place: Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
  • Place details: 63 Brown St

Also, the source details don’t seem to provide enough details about where the information came from


This only provides the details of the collection the entry was found in, it doesn’t name which directory, which year, the page number, or the name of the person as it appeared in the record.  This would make it difficult for someone else to find this entry for themselves, which is what sources are supposed to do. The page number is especially important for the directories, which have 3 parts: alphabetical, occupation and locality.  Since my grandfather appears three times on the directory, I need to indicate which pages he appears on.

I also found that, because Directories and Electoral rolls were released nearly every year, I would have quite a lot of events if I were to include them all individually.   It makes more sense to enter each residence just once into my tree, with the time frame they were living there, and to add a summary of the directories and electoral rolls that provided the information in my sources.

I do think this feature would work well for someone who wasn’t doing a genealogy do-over though – it would make the job of finding new records, and updating your tree, a lot easier.


Background of featured image from Unsplash – Photo by
Alessio Soggetti