Book Review: Trace Your German Roots Online

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Trace-Your-German-Roots-OnlineTrace Your German Roots Online
by James M. Beidler. Family Tree Books. 2016. 207 pages.

Mr. Beidler writes in his introductory pages:

Just five years ago, devoting an entire book to online sources for genealogists with German-speaking ancestors wouldn’t have been a particularly fulfilling exercise. Relatively few genealogical problems could be solved “beginning to end” on either German- or American-based websites.

But oh, what a difference those five years have made. Whether it’s the “big kahunas” of the online genealogy world, such as and, adding more German content, the digitization of church registers that play such an important role for this ethnic group, or any of the other solutions the Web has provided to the myriad genealogy questions that arise– the availability of Internet sources for German research has come of age.

Boy, he hit that nail on the head. The Internet is now a robust genealogical research  tool with an abundance of credible records and scanned documents convincing the researcher that nowadays, online research is definitely worth the effort and expense.

Mr. Beidler is the Big Kahuna of German research and writing. He’s led research tours to Germany, acquiring along the way a broad base of knowledge and experience, and combined with his knack for good composition, his books are strongly written, flow smoothly from point to point, and make German research learning easier than you realize even as you’re doing it.

The book has three sections:

Part One: German Genealogy Basics covers the starting points for German research, researching German Genealogy on the Internet, and Untangling German Place Names and Surnames.

Part Two: Top German Genealogy Websites covers FamilySearch, Ancestry,, MyHeritage, and Archion.

Part Three: Answers to Your Research Questions cover How Do I Identify My Ancestors’ Place of Origin?, Where Else Can I Access Church Records?, How Do I Contact People and Places In Germany?, and other topics of research interest.

Interspersed throughout the book are sidebar text boxes with helpful tidbits of instruction. Graphics illustrate the content, and maps locate Catholic Dioceses, LÄNDER with German and English names, and Germany in 1871. The book is well-produced, with crisp text, easy-to-read font, and plenty of spacing.

Mr. Beidler’s German Roots Online is the premier online German research guidebook, and with no other references out there to its equal, likely will be so for quite some time.

Trace Your German Roots Online by James M. Beidler is available from Family Tree Books at as well as from Amazon at


As a friend, neighbor and teacher, Jim’s works are superb. Beg, borrow or steal them! Carl


Alessandro Scanavino June 11, 2016 at 5:55 am

I wonder if a similar book is also available for Italian genealogy. It’s very difficult to trace your ancestors here in Italy, especially for those living in the north west of Italy in the county of Piedmont. Ancestry has recently published a list of civil records from 1866 to 1938 in the area of Alessandria and Asti in Piedmont but it is not a full list. Unfortunately the most important area, the Turin area, is missing. Any ideas? Thanks for the help!


Are Mecklenberg and Pommerania covered?


A good book I have on German heritage is, “German-American NAMES.” I have a second edition. It is by George F. Jones. He explains significances and origins of German names. Mainly the names come from physical appearance, occupation or place of origin. The last could be city or region or what they lived near. ie: forest, mountain, river, dike etc.


Bravo! I concur with the above. This book is an excellent guide and Jim’s guidance on German research is thorough and very informed, which comes through in both his writing and his talks. I have a copy of several of Jim’s works and find them, especially this book, to be invaluable in digging deep into my German roots. When discussing German genealogy, Jim knows whereof he speaks, and he communicates that knowledge concisely and effectively.
Disclaimer: Jim and I have discovered that we are distantly related through common descent from several different Pennsylvania German colonial settlers!


does it cover Jewish names that were changed due to the Napoleonic decrees?


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