Ancestry Ghost Hints

It’s October and my surroundings are beginning to look creepy with Halloween quickly approaching. One thing that greatly disturbs me more than the skeletons and witches on every corner is my Ancestry.com ghost hints.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, a ghost hint is the term used for those pesky hints that were once available and no longer are. There are several reasons for their occurrence – an individual may have uploaded media and then removed it or made it private or Ancestry may have discontinued the database for the hint.

Every so often I go through the hints as sometimes I miss a new database that Ancestry has added and the hints can give me some information I may have missed. The ghost hints, though, remain and give a false number of the hints that are available. I’ve clipped below the grayed out hints that appear on my All Hints page:

As you can see above, there are 7 and all of them are records. When I look at the hint counter, however, it shows that I have 14 hints, 8 of which are records and 6 that are photos.

Clicking on Records or Photos just gives me the message ” You currently have no photo hints for Reset filter to see all hints ”

Also, look at the count over the leaf of 99+ on the upper right corner. I don’t have over 99 hints as I actually have zero. That count has stayed the same even after leaving the program and signing on a different computer the following day.

This lack of accuracy scares me; how many other data counts are off that we aren’t aware of? How do we know that filtering we set when doing a search is correct?

Ghost hints aren’t a new phenomena; I first noticed them in June a few years ago and when I called Customer Service was informed the problem must be on my end with cache in my computer. Yeah, sure. The following May, at an NGS Conference, I asked one of the Ancestry reps about the situation as my ghost inhabitants had grown. He explained the reasons which I mentioned in my first paragraph and said the company was working on cleaning up the problem by periodically doing a refresh. The problem is the refresh does not work for all the hints as I’ve had the 7 above for YEARS.

I’d really love for Ancestry to stop being a ghost host and send these phantoms to parts unknown.

Free Genealogy Resources


Ancestry.com has kept their promise and is continuing to work on restoring Rootsweb.com, which they now own. Recently, an updated Rootsweb Wiki has become available and it’s free!

Rootsweb is one of the original Wikis – places on the web that allows for collaboration in editing and structuring revolving around genealogy. Back in the day, say circa 1999, I had several trees posted there and I reached out for help via the Message Boards. I was rewarded with lots of suggestions, hints and occasionally, a tidbit of a genealogy gem that propelled me forward.

In its present form, links are provided to pages that provide important information about the records (Censuses, Immigration, Military, Vitals, Various Types), Societies, and Research (Town, County, State, African American, Jewish). It’s a wonderful place to gain an Ah ha moment and might just explain why you can’t find Great Grandpa Ed in the 1900 U.S. Federal census.

Two additional resources that are extremely valuable are The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources. Check those out if you aren’t familiar with their content.

Like it was in the past, you can contribute your input to make the Wiki even better.

I highly recommend taking a break from the summer heat and visiting the Rootsweb Wiki.

Another Duer Synchronocity!

I’ve written before about the odd experiences I’ve had when I research my Duer line (to read – type Duer in the search box on my website GenealogyAtHeart.com). I just had another one…

Earlier this month, someone found my Duer info that I’ve posted in numerous places online – my website, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, and emailed me as he is a descendant of John P and Susannah Miller Duer. We’ve been exchanging emails and he has been in contact with another distant cousin who has had DNA tested through Ancestry.com. She compiled a very nice DNA chart of the descendants of John and Susannah.

On Friday, I received an email from a third distant cousin who is trying to find info on one of John’s sons, Joseph, who has been rather elusive. At the same time she was emailing me asking about additional info, I received the email from the first cousin with the chart made by another cousin who just happens to be descended from this Joseph.

My goodness, that’s just weird!

My descendants have tested through Ancestry (I did 23andMe), so I logged on and just found another distant cousin who recently tested. I emailed her to include on my interested in Duer research list.

It wouldn’t be seem much of a coincidence since I’ve written extensively about the Duers and I have so many public trees out there in internetland. What makes this odd is after close to 200 years, I get 2 emails from descendants who haven’t been aware of each other on the same afternoon. I just love how technology has enabled us all to reconnect!

Helix Results Have Arrived


I got the results of my Helix-National Geographic DNA test back this week. I had sent it off the day after Christmas at the same time two family members mailed their samples to Ancestry.com. Ancestry had the results back 3 weeks ago so I patiently waited my Helix analysis.

If you’re planning to test with Helix, please know that you will not discover any matches – these results take you back thousands of years instead of the past few generations. I purposely wanted to see if the findings were similar to the mitDNA Haplogroup results I got about 8 years ago from Ancestry and more recently, from 23andMe. They were basically the same and also confirmed my Neandertal ancestry that 23andMe had found last summer.

Alas, I had no Denisovian which I suspected I might have since they were known to be in the Siberian/Mongolian/China regions. My thinking was my eastern European genes might have come from way east in the distant past but I was wrong.

My favorite part of the results was the interactive web timeline. It’s a nice touch to have pictures of all ages of people and the countryside pop up with the description of when your ancestor resided in the region. Think National Geo Magazine and you get the idea of how well done this is. The migration pattern is also clearly shown and as I’ve blogged about many times, follows the family lore that’s been passed down to me. (If I could only figure out why my family can’t get the stories of the last 100 years right but can remember things from thousands of years ago I will never know!)

You do not get to download your chromosomes to upload anywhere else. I didn’t need that as I’ve already tested with companies that provide that result but that may be important to you so keep it in mind.

My family thought the link to genius was the most interesting result. Personally, I thought it was meaningless as the connections are far removed. Hubby thought it was just phenomenal so, shhh, I bought him a kit for Valentine’s Day. It was on sale and even less expensive than what I paid for it at Thanksgiving. I figure he’ll get the results back by his birthday so he can gloat over his genius cousins. My prediction is that we’re going to have similar findings since our lines have crossed several times in the last 300 years in various parts of the world.

One of those “geniuses” and they qualify how they came to define the word, was of course, Marie Antoinette who shows up in every DNA test I’ve ever taken. I’m thinking I should probably investigate exactly where that connection is so this summer, I’ll be heavily researching my Croatians which, at the time my ancestor’s resided there, was Austria-Hungary. Marie was born in Vienna, Austria. My maternal lines were in the military for generations so I suspect they traveled throughout the region. For displaying valor on the battlefield, they were titled and that’s where I’m going to start my research.

Funny, for years I’ve had the stories and tried to validate them by uncovering the facts. Now I have the DNA facts and I’m trying to find the story. Genealogy upside down!

MyHeritage SuperSearch Update


For a number of years, Ancestry.com has provided users with the ability to add their input regarding incorrect info on record indexes. Recently, MyHeritage has devised a similar feature that will allow for corrections of spellings or transcription errors.

Simply click “Suggest Alternatives” and add your info. You’ll need to type the first and last name of the individual to be corrected, use the drop down menu to select the reason and add your two cents in the comments. If you’re like me, your ancestor’s names were never recorded the same as some of them were doozy’s to spell – Leininger, Bollenbacher, and even short ones like Duer seem to have been problematic for those enumerators.

Here’s an additional tip – keep a list of all the many, varied and unusual surname spellings that you find as that could help you in the future when you’re stuck. I add them to an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for my preferred spelling of the surname and a column where I found the name spelled differently. Happy Hunting!

Ancestry.com DNA Kit Purchase Follow Up

Just received the following email from Ancestry.com regarding their Black Friday-Cyber Monday DNA Kit Sale:

There is NO COUPON CODE, as I blogged about on Sunday. Want to purchase? Click BUY NOW, look at the top of the page and reclick Buy Now.
Please note: I have NO business connection with the organization and get NO percentage of sale. This info is a follow up to my last blog about attempting to purchase the product a few days ago.
Genealogy is all about patience and this purchase definitely reinforces that!

Holiday DNA Deals? Read Before Purchasing

It’s that wonderful time of the year when the DNA companies promote their products with big savings knowing that the family get togethers will turn to great grandma’s emigration story and the question everyone wants answered – Where did we really come from?
I’ve received several emails this week notifying me of “special” offers so I decided to take advantage of the one below:

When I go to process the order I get this screen (with my personal info not showing):

The problem is that when I hit “submit order” the lock moves over the words but doesn’t process. I hit the button twice and then, fearing I ordered 4 kits instead of 2, called Ancestry.com at 1-800-Ancestry.
I spoke with Brittany who told me they had no record of the order. That was good in that I didn’t over order but since I wanted 2 kits, I still needed the order processed. I asked if they were having trouble with their website and she said no. Brittany tried and couldn’t get it to go through, either. She placed me on hold and sought out a supervisor.
I must say I was pleased that she returned to the phone after some wait time to tell me she was still checking. Nice customer service, Ancestry.com, major improvement over the years. Then it went downhill…
Brittany said that the system couldn’t calculate two discounts, meaning it could not take $10.00 off the second kit AND take off free shipping on Kit 1. I asked if this was because I was a returning customer and the offer was good for new customers only. She said no. I asked if there was an override. She said no and that the coupon code I was using had expired. I mentioned I had received the notice from several sources in the past few days and that the expiration date hadn’t occurred yet. I also told her exactly where I received the info but since I’m not trying to drag other organizations into this, I’m sure you’re understanding of why I’m not blogging my sources.
Brittany told me the amount would be $162.00 but couldn’t explain how that amount was determined. If I ordered two kits at $79.00 with free shipping the amount would be $158.00; with $10.00 shipping on both kits it would be $178.00. If it was free shipping on the first kit and half on the second it would be $163.00.
Maybe I should have just shut my mouth and taken the $162.00 offer but I don’t like paying for something when the price isn’t clear so I mentioned that there were competitors that were offering kits for less than the quoted amount. Now I know that the customer service person has no say in the price set and I’m sure she was rolling her eyes at this cheap customer but I figure if enough people speak out then maybe the powers to be will get the website working correctly to accept the offer. If the offer isn’t valid, then they need to just say that the other organizations made up the deal but I really don’t think that was the case since I got it from several sources.
We hung up without my placing an order.
I then went on a hunt to see if there was other valid coupon codes but didn’t find one. Next I tried
signing into my Ancestry.com account, clicking “Buy Now,” re-ordering and omitting the “expired” coupon code. Guess what? It shows this:

But it, too, doesn’t allow me to purchase.
I then went to Amazon.com where I purchased a kit in July during Prime Days. Since I’m a member, I get free shipping so I figure that would eliminate the need for the expired coupon code. Here’s what I get:

The promotion at Amazon is $79.00 for each kit. Better than the Ancestry.com offer but not as good as I wanted.
I’ll let you know next week what I decide to do – I’ve wasted way too much time on this today! My Turkey Day shopping is waiting for me. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ancestry.com and RootsMagic Synch Now Available!


RootsMagic has just announced that their new version 7.5 has been released. I’m so excited to again be able to synch my large tree from Ancestry to my desktop. I know it works because I’ve been one of the Beta Testers and I tried synching my 70k+ tree, along with smaller trees I’ve done over the years, in the past two months. Kudos to the RootsMagic staff – awesome job!

Beta testers were sworn to secrecy as the hardworking IT staff at RootsMagic toiled away to remove bugs we found. I’ve been very satisfied with the company’s response to comments and their diligence in getting it right before releasing it to the general public. Not like the other company that shall not be named.

It does take a good 12 hours to synch my largest tree so be forewarned it’s not going to be instantaneous. When I say synch, I mean truly synch – as in all of my people, over 21,000 photos, 2000 stories and 248,000 records will be accessible to me on my desktop. When I change anything online at Ancestry or on my desktop, the trees will match.

What’s really cool is that RootsMagic also provides hints with FamilySearch, MyHeritage and FindMyPast. It is simple to use, too. If you already are a part of RootsMagic, simply update to the newest version by clicking the link they provide at Help – Check for Updates. Then, click the Ancestry.com icon on the ribbon (it’s between Family Search logo and the open book on the right). Sign into Ancestry with your sign on and password. I clicked “remember” so that I don’t have to redo it each time I log on to RootsMagic. You’ll have two options – upload your RootsMagic tree to Ancestry of download an Ancestry tree to RootsMagic. Although I have a gedcom of my Ancestry tree saved on RootsMagic, it did not have all the goodies I wanted – meaning the media (photo, stories, audio) so I selected the option on the right – Download an Ancestry tree. I began that process as I started writing this blog and it’s already 21% complete. Keep in mind, this is a HUGE tree so that’s to be expected.

I’m walking away from my tree now and knowing it’ll be all synched and ready to go tomorrow morning. Oh, joy!

DNA Father’s Day Specials


Unless you plan on waiting until Black Friday, which I’m going to do, there are two special offers available for DNA kits in honor of Father’s Day:

1. Ancestry DNA is $79.00, however, if you order it via Amazon.com and are a prime member, you don’t have to pay shipping. Sale ends June 18th.

2. MyHeritage DNA is $69.00 – ends June 19th.

MyHeritage DNA Upload Trouble Shooting


I took a wonderful webinar through the Association of Professional Genealogists on Thursday evening on DNA and Ancestry given by Jennifer Anderson Zinck. Although my husband and I tested through Ancestry before their new tests became available in October 2014, our earlier results are still available through the DNA tab on the ribbon. I had thought Ancestry was no longer supporting their older tests so I was pleasantly surprised.

Understandably, the old results aren’t going to be a part of their new communities and circles. I decided to upload that old data into MyHeritage.com’s new DNA feature as they recently began accepting data from other companies.

To upload, click on the MyHeritage DNA tab’s dropdown “Upload DNA data NEW.” Click the pink box “Start.” Click if you are uploading your data or someone else’s. In my case, I was trying to upload my mtDNA. Then, click the Service Terms and Consent Agreement. Next, click the pink box “Upload.” Ancestry downloads the results as a csv file which my computer didn’t like. I converted it to an Excel file as that is what it is and uploaded it.

The pop up told me “DNA uploaded successfully.” Good thing I decided to click “Manage Kits” before I uploaded hubby’s data. Surprise, surprise – my kit was marked “Invalid.” I thought that might be because I had changed formats so I went back through the steps and uploaded the csv file. Again, I got the “DNA uploaded successfully” but in checking further, it was marked as “Invalid.”

I called MyHeritage at 1-877-432-3135. Don’t get confused by the voice mail options! I wasn’t needing billing or accounting (1) or sales (2) and the third option, tech support, says to call back between 7 am -5 pm. Since it was 9:15 AM I thought the phones might be down. The message repeats twice but just hold on because you’ll eventually be placed in the queue for assistance. I was number 9 and the wait time was about 15 minutes.

I told the tech guy the process I had followed and it turns out that MyHeritage does not accept mtDNA or yDNA, only autosomal, which we hadn’t taken. I suggested that the type of test be written on the site to save phone calls and wasted time though autosomal is the way to go now and there probably aren’t a lot of folks like us who have older tests.

So, if you have an autosomal DNA test done at a competitor’s site, you might want to take advantage of MyHeritage’s free offer. Getting your data out to another site just might unlock secrets you never knew existed.