The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: A Must-Have Resource for Genealogy and Family History Research
Beidler, James M. The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2018, 240 pages.
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Historical newspapers are one of the most under-utilized resources when it comes to genealogical research. Newcomers don’t believe that they’ll find anything about their ancestors because they believe their lives were not noteworthy. Long-time researchers often don’t realize how many newspapers have been digitized and made available online. In addition, with the increase in availability of historical newspapers, we need a new set of tools to get the most out of the available information.
That’s why The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers by James M. Beidler is a must have resource for family history research, both US-based and international.
Do You Really Understand Historical Newspapers?
Many of us who have been “doing genealogy” for years, assume we know how to use newspaper resources – online and at archives, libraries and repositories. I’ve been at my research for over 40 years now, and after reading Beidler’s guide, I realize I’m not taking full advantage of what is available. Not only has the author located amazing online resources, he has also shared tips and tricks that I never thought of!
The author covers not only the basic stories we commonly find, but also how newspapers can be a substitute for vital records information, especially when localities were not required to document birth, marriage and death records.
And this is not a US-centric resource! The author takes time to cover newspapers around the globe as well as ethnic newspapers useful for tracing immigrant ancestors.
Newspaper Tools You Can Use
Despite my own professed knowledge of newspapers (I’ve taught in-person lectures and webinars on the subject), the author has developed some amazing tools which he shares in The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide. These include using a Newspaper Research Flowchart to make sure you’ve extracted everything possible during the search process. In addition, he shows you how to create a Newspaper Chronology to track your finds.
Getting the Most Out of Newspaper Databases
The book includes step-by-step instructions on using historical newspapers such as Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank. In addition, Beidler lends his advice on a variety of free and fee-based resources including which ones are best for specific types of genealogy research.
Newspaper Success Stories – Love It!
One feature of The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide that I found helpful and just plain fun to read were stories from fellow genealogists who made advances in their research using historical newspapers. In a more academic format, you might call these “case studies,” but here they are more informal, conversational, and interspersed among the various chapters.
Not only did I get some great ideas for my own family history research, but also I love hearing about genealogy breakthroughs. I’m a big believer in success being “contagious” and it gives me hope as I trace my own roots.
Here are some tips you’ll find in The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide Tips:
- Remember to fact-check.While obituaries and other records related to death can help with research in many ways, they can often include incorrect information or omit data that might be considered embarrassing to the deceased or the survivors. Be sure to use obituaries in conjunction with other genealogy records to ensure the document is accurate.
- Distinguish between “historic” and “historical.”You’ll note that we talk about “historical” (meaning “of past events”) newspapers as opposed to “historic” (meaning “famous or important in history”) newspapers. Some of them may be “historic,” but they are all “historical.”
- Find patterns.When “browsing” images of unindexed/unsearchable newspapers, look for consistent formats, such as marriages always being found on the second page.
Yes, there are many “free” resources for historical newspapers on the Internet and you might think that The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide is not for the seasoned genealogist. But not only can you find resources I bet you’ve never heard of, Beidler helps you understand the role of newspapers in society and why there’s more information about our ancestors to be found than we realize. The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide is a key reference book in my genealogy research toolbox (I use the eBook version!). Whether you use free online historic newspaper sites or use one of the paid subscription sites, you’ll soon keep going back to this valuable resource for information.
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About The Author: James M. Beidler
James M. Beidler, a first-career newspaper copy editor, previously authored The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and Trace Your German Roots Online, and has written “Roots & Branches,” an award-winning weekly newspaper column on genealogy for nearly twenty years. He is also a columnist for German Life magazine, edits Der Kurier (the quarterly journal of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society), and has written for other periodicals, including scholarly journals such as The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine. He is also an instructor for the online Family Tree University and contributor to Family Tree Magazine.
In addition to his writing, Beidler was president of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors from 2010 to 2012, and is the former executive director for the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. He also served as national co-chairman for the 2008 Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Philadelphia and sits on the selection committee for the Pennsylvania Digital Newspaper Project and Pennsylvania’s State Historic Records Advisory Board.
He is an Enrolled Agent tax preparer and was a copy editor for The Patriot-News newspaper in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for fifteen years.
Beidler was born and raised in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where he currently resides. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, with a BA in political science in 1982.
 The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide, Family Tree Magazine online store (https://www.familytreemagazine.com/store/historical-newspapers-guide, accessed 2 February 2018). Used by permission.
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