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My shoebox on Ancestry.com.au now has about 280 items in it.

Sometimes I would like to review just those for a particular surname.

Is there a way to search your own shoebox on Ancestry.com sites?

  • A browse of the Ancestry forums shows that Shoebox (and Hint) search/sort/filter has been a common feature request for several years. There's no sign of it happening any time soon though. (I'd quite like a per-person shoebox/tentative assignment, but I doubt that will happen either.) I don't remember why some of my Shoebox records are there now anyway. So I concur with the two answers so far - external software is the way to go. – AndyW Apr 24 '17 at 9:16
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The shoebox can't be sorted or searched. Shoebox entries are only accessible if your subscription to the record category is active. Shoebox entries are intended to be temporary bookmarks, so the record can be evaluated:

The Shoebox is a folder on Ancestry in which you can store records you’re not ready to attach to your tree. The Ancestry Shoebox

Once a upon a time (several years ago), my shoebox held over a thousand entries, both saved records and history of downloads. I started being more selective in retaining entries, to make it more manageable. Then ancestry had a glitch or code change, and all the entries disappeared. So, nowadays, I don't rely on the shoebox at all, except for the intended purpose.

I use Zotero to bookmark specific records and search result pages, at ancestry.com and any other websites. Other people use Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Any of them is more versatile for anything online you want to keep track of. Entries can be grouped in categories, can include citations and cached images and can be searched.

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  • I have tried Evernote and OneNote in the past for other tasks, but have never felt compelled to try and adopt them for my family history hobby. This is the first time that I have heard of Zotero but quick look at its home page does not have me scrambling to download it. If people keep recommending it then I may change my mind later and give it a try. It's a shame the Shoebox is not searchable because it otherwise fits nicely into my workflow. – PolyGeo Apr 23 '17 at 0:29
  • (1) Zotero doesn't seem to be as popular as the other apps; it grew out a more academic environment (and the basic version is free). Kerry Scott has a book called "How to Use Evernote for Genealogy". (2) Another limitation with ancestry's Shoebox is that search result pages can't be saved, only individual records. If your ancestry search has 20 results, and you can't weed it down immediately, what do you do?. Ditto if the search is at FamilySearch or a newspaper or archive site? Shoebox can't deal with those. – bgwiehle Apr 23 '17 at 14:32
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Following up on the previous answer --

It is possible to locate Ancestry collections by means of a Google search -- can we use Google to search our Shoeboxes? The difficulty is, unlike member trees, which have a numerical designation in the URL, the Shoebox's URL looks like this:

http://search.ancestry.com/myancestry/shoeboxpage.aspx

I don't see any way that Google or other search engines would be able to tell my Shoebox from anyone else's Shoebox.

The tools I know of that allow you to create your own search engine, such as Stephen P. Morse's Creating a Search Application in One Step, are designed to search the data from a single database, where the data will have the same database structure.

So I also would suggest using third-party solutions.

Scrapbook by Gomita

My main work-around for the hideously inadequate Ancestry shoebox is to save copies of the record page using the Firefox add-on Scrapbook by Gomita. Scrapbook gives you the choice of saving the page plus its URL, or saving the page as a bookmark.

For Ancestry's Shoebox, I strongly encourage saving a copy of the page so that you have the extract of information Ancestry presents to you at the time you save the record. If the collection is deprecated, as in the old US City Directories collection, you may be left with the link to an image with no other information, so you have no idea why you saved it.

Scrapbook's major features include:

  • Save Web pages
  • Save snippet of a Web page
  • Save a Web site
  • Organize the collection in the same way as Bookmarks
  • Full text search and quick filtering search of the collection
  • Editing of the collected Web page
  • Text/HTML edit feature resembling Opera's Notes

Scrapbook allows me to save a copy of Ancestry's record page as I saw it, as opposed to their print view, which can strip out some of the material I want to keep. The saved page can be edited to remove ads and other extraneous material or unwanted navigation elements. I can also create folders within the collection. Scrapbook also allows you to make notes on the page so you can remember why you saved the item, which is especially useful when dealing with newspapers or other collections which won't be associated with the name of a person.

I used Scrapbook to save screenshots of all the profiles in my trees before the last major re-working of Ancestry's site, as a safeguard against losing notes which I had written as descriptions in events, and to preserve Ancestry's older style of showing source citations available for a person. I opened all the tabs available for each person in a new tab in Firefox, and used the "Save all Tabs" feature to save all the pages in sequence. "Save all tabs" is also useful if you want to capture all the hints currently available for your tree for offline study.

The obvious downside is that there's no guarantee that Scrapbook will be around forever or compatible with Firefox forever, so it might be worthwhile to keep a legacy copy of Firefox on hand to use with Scrapbook; one of the Portable Apps versions of Firefox could be useful for this purpose.

Scrivener

The other work-around I am using now (in addition to keeping a copy of the page in Scrapbook) is to make notes about the item in a research journal using Scrivener, the writing studio software from Literature and Latte. I copy and paste information from Ancestry's record page into a document (scrivening). The screeenshot below is from one of my early experiments on using Scrivener to keep track of pages I had downloaded from the British Newspaper Archive or Findmypast's newspaper collection.

enter image description here

Scrivener gives you three different ways to view your saved items: the Editor (which shows the document), the Corkboard (index cards) and the Outliner (shown above). On the left-hand side you can see the Binder, where I also included a few links to the downloaded newspaper pages. It's easy to move things up and down in the Binder or Outline view to put them in chronological order.

The other big advantage in using a third-party solution to Ancestry's Shoebox -- in addition to safeguarding against the collection disappearing from Ancestry before you've had a chance to analyze it properly -- is that you can include items from all the other sites you use, not just Ancestry.

Scrivener is easier to use, and is probably a more robust solution in the long run than saving items with Scrapbook. It's possible to have multiple Scrapbooks, but transferring items between Scrapbooks can be cumbersome, and the database can be corrupted. In the future, I'll probably use the two together -- saving items with Scrapbook, editing elements out to create my own print-friendly version, printing them to PDF, and incorporating those printouts into a Scrivener project, as a safeguard against losing my Scrapbook files.

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  • I like the sound of Scrivener, and will consider purchasing that at some time in the future. – PolyGeo Apr 23 '17 at 0:14
  • Scrivener is also quite affordable. – Jan Murphy Apr 23 '17 at 0:16
  • AUD$58.39 seems to be a fair price so the delay is as much or more about my bandwidth for absorbing another significant piece of software in addition to the many GIS and Genealogy products/sites I'm already trying to stay on top of. – PolyGeo Apr 23 '17 at 0:23
  • Scrivener has many features but it is not necessary to learn everything at once. It's easy to switch the user interface to an uncluttered page and to use it like a simple note-taking program. – Jan Murphy Apr 23 '17 at 0:25

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