Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Have You Cleaned Out Your Shoebox on Ancestry.com?

Be honest with yourself.  When is that last time you logged in to your Ancestry.com account for the sole purpose of working on those records you’ve saved to your shoebox?

Your shoebox is a holding bin for those items you find, but don’t have the time at that moment to scrutinize or figure out where to put it.  A nice touch, I think, because I use it A LOT.  But, if you’re not self-disciplined enough to come back to them regularly for clean-up, you’ll find your shoebox may be overwhelming!  Not to mention, you may be missing a key piece of information which could help you with your research.

Here’s a page from my shoebox:
Generally, these are not my direct-line ancestors or I would tackle them right away and not save them here for later because I like to stay on task and not be distracted by another find, though there are some exceptions. 
Once in a while, I set aside time to go to my shoebox and work exclusively for a specific period of time.  I usually set a timer for an hour, for example.  Otherwise, it’s never getting done.  After an hour, the timer goes off, and I can come back another day.  But at least I’ve given an hours time to working on something that I would otherwise put off entirely because I don’t think about it! 

Practice self-discipline to tackle those things that you don’t want to have to do – some people call it “eat your frog”.  I keep a list of long term or ongoing projects like this called “Current Initiatives”, inspired by the book by Mark Forster called Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management.   I address these projects a little at a time knowing that I am making progress on all of them.  That gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I am not neglecting them or forgetting to work on them at all.

Did you know you can also go here to find items you’ve downloaded or printed? Look at the image above  at the tab behind the “saved records” tab.  I really like this feature for going back to a history of what I was working on last.

So, have you worked on your shoebox items lately?  How do remember to go back to it?  Maybe this post was just the reminder you needed!
Copyright © 2010 Joanne Schleier


  1. I have actually used all the documents in my shoebox, but I keep them in there for various odd reasons - to remind me which guy with the same name is related, some have curious anomalies that I haven't been able to reconcile, yet, and so on.

  2. @Greta Koehl
    Greta, for what you described I print out the item and put it in a surname folder named "Research Not Proven". I think I like your idea better! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Just checked and I've got records that were saved in March, 2009 so there's something else to add to my To Do List. While we're on the subject, I wish Ancestry had some sorting options with the shoebox allowing you to group records together. I think it would make the shoebox much more usable.

  4. Whew! Guilty as charged. I am so glad you wrote this post because truthfully, it had slipped my mind.

  5. @Linda McCauley
    Linda, Thanks for the comment - I know how you feel... like we don't have enough on our genealogy to-do list already??? I also checked the help menu on Ancestry and they don't have sorting in the shoebox, you're right, but I like the thought of it!

  6. @Michelle Goodrum
    Precisely why I wrote this post! Time to get busy - no more excuses! LOL!

  7. Currently, my shoebox contains items I am working on for numerous friends as well as myself so it's quite large. It would be SUCH a convenience to have the ability to "search" my shoebox. How many times have I told myself I've seen and probably saved a record and then gone back and re-done the original work because it's faster than trying to scroll through the shoebox! Is there any hope Ancestry could or would provide this feature???

    1. I wonder if they'll add a search function for the shoe box. Although, if I had to search for something, I would figure that there are too many saved items in the shoebox. Creating a task on your calendar, say once a month for an hour, to clean out your shoe box, could keep your shoebox a "temporary" file storage and not indefinite as well as keep your genealogy files current with newly found data.