Book Review: The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide
by James M. Beidler. Published by Family Tree Books, Cincinnati, OH. 2018. 239 pages.

This new Historical Newspapers Guide covers research in traditional newspapers and online newspaper sources.

Part One includes chapters on the history of newspapers, and information you’d expect to find:

  • The Historical Role of Newspapers
  • Records in Newspapers
  • Vital Records and Events in Newspapers
  • Obituaries and Other Death Notices
  • Understanding Newspaper Media

Part Two includes chapters on online research, with two chapters devoted to the predominant sites. Each chapter has detailed advice for searching, interpreting, and the differences among the sites:

  • Free Newspaper Websites
  • GenealogyBank
  • Other Subscription Websites
  • Seeking Out Other Newspapers

Part Three includes chapters on specialty newspapers, international sources, and case studies:

  • Ethnic-Focused Newspapers
  • International Newspapers
  • Preserving, Collecting, and Citing Newspapers
  • Putting It All Together

I decided to put Newspapers Guide to the test. I’m writing a story about an obscure family event that took place in 1910 in Nebraska. Most of the information I’m using is based on 1910 newspaper articles. I came across twelve articles, and I thought this was about as good as it would get.

Well, was I in for a surprise.

The Newspapers Guide helped me find well over fifty more articles (I’ve not yet reviewed all the hits of nearly two hundred). I give total credit to the instructions in the Search criteria. Specific, step-by-step coaching on how to do simple and advance searches for the websites was the key to refinement of my search technique and increased efficiency in coming up with hits that are relevant to my topic and more productive for my time.

Mr. Beidler has included worksheets that are downloadable from the Family Tree website. I printed out and used some of these, which enhanced my organizational situation. Using these worksheets, I can, anytime, make quick work of finding the saved newspaper articles in my Download file, and I can quickly and properly write my citations with the info on my worksheets. The worksheets come up as Adobe files with fillable form fields, meaning you can type your information into the fields right there on your computer, not needing to print out the worksheets, and then save them to your device.

In Part Two, the differences among the websites are considered as well as specific details on how to gain the most advantage from each.

The Family Tree production team made some weird layout choices for the book. The pages are grey, so the black print, which is already small in size, offers less contrast on the page (annoying). Some of the sidebar text boxes are tilted (very annoying). Dark ruled lines run just above and below the titles, headings, and subheadings, separating the headings from their body texts (really annoying). These are not high level concerns, but they do constrain ease of reading.

Mr. Beidler will introduce The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide this week at RootsTech. He will be at Booth 1843 in the Exhibitors’ Hall, where he’ll discuss and sign his books.

Newspapers were the social medium of their time. You can read about who got arrested, whose letters are sitting unclaimed at the post office, who got married, who came to town for dinner, and who left town.

You can spend just as much time reading through newspapers as you can scrolling through Facebook, but the advertisements are much more interesting.

The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide by James Beidler is available from the publisher, Family Tree Books, at as well as from Amazon (both in paperback and Kindle formats) at

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