Review: Tracing Your German Roots Online

We all fantasize about researching overseas.  Face it, not only do they have amazing original records, but a lot of the time it is in a scenic setting with great ambiance.  For those of us who must dream away about researching out German ancestors in Germany, boy do I have the book for you.  Break out your fuzzy bunny slippers cause it is time to research those pesky Deutche online.

In James M. Beidler’s book Tracing Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy, you discover the vast amount of resources available to us tracking our Germanic ancestry.  I don’t know about you, but my German lines are almost as elusive as my Irish lines, and I am very tired of beating my head against repeated brick walls.  Thankfully, after just a few chapters I was off and running tracking them down from the comfort of my couch.

The book is nicely divided into three parts.  Part One gives the novice (or the expert who needs a refresher) a nice introduction to the basics of German research.  Not only does he cover how to decipher and learn place names but Beidler also goes into surname research and setting realistic expectations.  I thought this was an important topic to cover. Hopefully, everyone going into research realizes that not everything can be found online.  Even with more and more coming online daily, I feel that covering what you can and cannot expect to find a nice addition.

In part two, Beidler covers five important online databases all researchers in this field should know all about.  They are: FamilySearch, Ancestry, Genealogy.Net, MyHeritage, and Archion.  In each of the five chapter which make up this section, he goes in-depth into what each website has to offer you and why you should check them out.  Obviously, a majority of us will know about FamilySearch and Ancestry.  But, don’t think you know everything they have to offer.  Unless you have browsed unindexed images and searched the card catalog, you may have overlooked some important resources.

I had never heard of Archion before and excitedly read about it.  The website is continually being added to, which is very nice, but also has a learning curve to it. I am hopeful that I will be able to find ancestral records from the Protestant Churches my ancestors (and my husbands) attended.  It is just a matter of time I am sure.  However, I did love just looking at the records and familiarizing myself with all that was available at the site.  Well worth the time, especially if you are like me and enjoy seeing what is out there even if they are not your family!

The final section covers six common questions asked about researching your German ancestry, online and off.  A great section that I feel I will come back to often.  Right now several of the questions I don’t need the answers to, since I don’t have enough information to ask those types of questions.  So, while it was interesting and informative to read, I know I will get more out of it later.  As a proponent of using social media in genealogy research, I was thrilled to see a chapter on that included in part three.  If you are not using it, you really should be.

Once again, Beidler knocks it out of the park with an excellent guide.  You can find copies of the book through the Publisher, Family Tree Magazine, on the Shop Family Tree Website.

About Shannon Combs Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett, owner of T2 Family History, is a speaker and author based out of Virginia. She enjoys teaching about a wide range of topics from DNA to methodology. Currently Shannon is the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can learn more about her at

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