Feeling Nostalgic? Shoebox Lets You Scan Old Photos With Your Phone, Update Your Ancestry.com Family Tree

Shoebox, the mobile photo archiving app Ancestry.com acquired from San Francisco-based 1000memories last fall, has now gone live at its new home. The updated version of the app, Shoebox 3.0, still allows users to scan in their old non-digital prints – you know, those things the old folks still refer to as “photographs” – while also cropping and auto-flattening the images for the correct perspective. But now, those photos are no longer in their own, more isolated social networking site, as they were when hosted by 1000memories. Instead, the photos can be mapped, tagged and added to your family tree at Ancestry.com.

Founded back in 1983 as a publishing company, Ancestry.com went online in 1996, making it one of the older web properties among the big-name family research sites – a group which also includes competitors such as MyHeritage.com and Geni, for example.

shoebox2An app for scanning in old photos, like Shoebox, makes sense as a part of a larger service like Ancestry.com, but unfortunately, some of the features that made Shoebox  more interesting on mobile have disappeared in the new app version. 1000memories allowed users to fill virtual collections (“shoeboxes”) of their old photo scans, then tag them and share with others, as well as post them to other social sites like Facebook.

Those earlier scanned in photos didn’t seem to transfer over to the new mobile application, though they’re still live on the 1000memories.com domain. In other words, the updated version of Shoebox serves mainly as a utility to scan in items to Ancestry.com, instead of as a mobile, social network of its own.

That being said, Ancestry does have a few other things in the works that take advantage of all those earlier photo uploads from the startup’s users. The company plans to integrate the old 1000memories photo memories into Ancestry.com as a new photos experience, and it will also soon be introducing a new way to tell visual stories that’s far more modern and compelling than those you can make today with the somewhat outdated tools the site and others like it currently offer. (Here’s one example.)

Brett Huneycutt, 1000memories co-founder, now Director of Product at Ancestry, tells us that Shoebox is only the first step in integrating the two companies’ products. Later this month, the above-described “Story View” feature will go live, and in August, the site will debut the new photos experience as well.

shoeboxThough the pace of our culture today is so fast that we have to download time traveling apps like Everpix and Timehop that pull out photos from our exponentially growing photo archives in order to force us to stop and reflect, Ancestry’s whole network is about reflecting on our past. But even though that’s something I’m personally interested in as the inheritor of my grandmother’s photo collection (which now fills actual “shoeboxes” in my closet), using these older ancestry research websites hasn’t held much appeal for me.

Having spent my years uploading and tagging photos on more “youthful” sites like Facebook or Flickr, I’d like to see a research site that could reach me with a simple, modern, and more automated experience on the platforms I use the most – smartphone and tablet. That was my hope for 1000memories and Shoebox, but though the mobile app itself is now faster and more streamlined since the update, it has also lost that sense of being something that could stand on its own and engage.