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Review: Trace Your German Roots Online – A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Trace Your German Roots Online – a “must-have” guide for researching German family history.

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Trace Your German Roots Online – a “must-have” guide for researching German family history.

[Editor’s Note: Trace Your German Roots Online is available in print as well as in e-book format and right now you can get it at a 36% savings, for only $13.99. PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%!]

Beidler, James M. Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 208 pages.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that James M. Beidler, author of Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and a well-known genealogist had just published a new book specifically for those using online resources for researching German ancestors. My Henneberg line has been a difficult one to research, especially since most of my other lines are English and Dutch. I knew that German genealogy research meant tapping into different skills, but I would never have made any of my recent progress without the solid advice and techniques in Trace Your German Roots Online.

A Wealth of Information on German Genealogy

Do not think that Trace Your German Roots Online is limited to just online resources. Once I started reading, I realized that the book is an excellent immersion into general German research especially when it comes to resources, how to deal with German place names and surnames, and more.

The focus of Beidler’s work in Trace Your German Roots Online is how to use sites such as FamilySearch and for German family history research. Besides the more well-known online sites, Beidler also introduces MyHeritage as well as Archion and its Protestant church records – this one was new to me!

The information is presented in easy-to-understand text and with screen captures that will help researchers get started on these websites. More than anything else, Trace Your German Roots Online is a workbook that you will be referencing frequently as you work on finding your German ancestors.

Your German Genealogy Questions Answered

Here is evidence that the author truly understands the plight of those of us with German ancestors: he has devoted an entire section to answering specific research questions. These include “How Do I Identify My Ancestors’ Place of Origin,” “Where Else Can I Access Church Records,” and “How Do I Contact People and Places in Germany?” are just a few examples.

I could easily relate to all of these research questions and the solutions offered were key to helping me find more information on my Hennebergs, my Pressners and other German ancestors.

A Sneak Peak . . .

Here are some tips you will find in Trace Your German Roots Online[i]:

  1. Remember that Germany is not America. Stateside researchers can forget that some of their assumptions about records in the United States don’t apply to the Old World. Because of its decentralized history and frequently changing borders, Germany has left behind fewer “national” records. Instead, be prepared to primarily look for records at the state (Land) and local levels.
  2. Know which resources are free. The Web has opened up incredible possibilities for researchers, but remember that not all online resources are free. Some sites require you to have a paid subscription, while others require you to pay per record. Before you invest in a subscription, make sure you can’t get the same material for free from another resource.
  3. Double-check translation sources. While the advent of automated translation services on the Internet has been exciting for genealogists digging through foreign-language records, take the time to fact-check translations you find. Even if provided by a German records repository, translations online may not be completely accurate and can lead to incorrect information in your family tree. Check your translations with multiple sources to minimize these kinds of errors.
  4. Put yourself out there. The Internet is nothing if not collaborative. Take advantage of this fact by reaching out to other researchers via social media and joining German genealogy groups on Facebook. You just might find that other researchers have faced (and conquered) research brick walls similar to your own.

Here is the book trailer for Trace Your German Roots Online[ii]:


After reading Trace Your German Roots Online, you realize that not only does the author know German genealogy, but also he is invested in helping you succeed in finding your German ancestors. I can guarantee that whether you get the print version or the ebook version, you will be bookmarking several sections and get lots of mileage out of the content in Trace Your German Roots Online.

About The Author: James M. Beidler

James M. Beidler came by his German genealogy expertise honestly: It took him more than twenty years of searching to find any ancestry that wasn’t from Germany. Beidler is the author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide (Family Tree Books, 2014), a columnist for German Life magazine, and a go-to expert for German Genealogy articles and educational articles.

Jim writes the award-winning weekly newspaper column “Roots & Branches”—the only syndicated genealogy feature in Pennsylvania—and edits Der Kurier, the quarterly journal of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society. Jim is a frequent contributor to periodicals ranging from The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine to Family Tree Magazine. His speaking credits include all the nation’s largest genealogical conferences, as well as the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s acclaimed Commonwealth Speakers program (2002–2009). Jim also teaches online courses and webinars for Family Tree University.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[i] Trace Your German Roots Online eBook product description, Shop Family Tree (, accessed 6 April 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

[ii] Trace Your German Roots Online Book Trailer (, accessed 6 April 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.