Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

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Book Review – The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

FTGerGenTitle:  The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

Author:  James M. Beidler

Format:  Paperback, Kindle, Nook

Published:  2014

Synopsis:  (from book cover) Follow your family tree back to its roots in Bavaria, Baden, Prussia, Hesse, Saxony, Wurttemburg and beyond. This in-depth genealogy guide will walk you step by step through the exciting journey of researching your German heritage, whether your ancestors came from lands now in modern-day Germany or other German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Switzerland, and enclaves across Eastern Europe.

My Rating: 

I have read (or perhaps I should say, in some cases, tried to read) other German genealogy guides.  Most of the time, while informative, the writing is stilted and the content is very overwhelming, especially for those new to the idea of researching German ancestors.  The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide is written more casually and conversationally and allows the reader to absorb the content a little easier; I appreciate that. 

While the book is generally considered a reference book, this is one that should be read from start to finish.  Part 1 (chapters 1 to 4) covers the history of German immigration to the United States, discusses strategies for determining the townland of the immigrant, and has a pretty extensive history of Germanic lands over the centuries.  Reading about the history made me realize just how crazy the area was over the centuries and how certain events may have impacted my ancestors.  I really appreciated the first part of chapter 1 where the author supplies some fun and interesting tidbits about German culture; it made me feel a bit more connected to my otherwise severed German roots.

Chapter 5 explains the current and historical geographical divisions.  There is discussion on using gazetteers and atlases to locate the village that the immigrant ancestor came from (and its equivalent today).  Knowing all of  this is vital to figuring out what records may exist and where to find them.  Although helpful, I’m not sure the discussion of travel tips was appropriate for this chapter.  It seems a little intimidating at this point in the book; perhaps a relevant chapter later on or an appendix would have been a better option.

In chapter 6, readers get a taste of the German language, particularly handwriting, grammar, and phonetics.  I found the primer on grammar and phonetics very helpful (got the old script down pretty well already).  Surnames and given names are also discussed in this chapter.

Part 3, chapters 7 to 12, is all about records.  For each of the main record types discussed, which includes civil registration, church, census, court, and military records, the author explains the background, what can be found in the records, and where to find the records.  The one think I felt was missing, was how to find these records when the place you are researching is no longer part of Germany (e.g., my Prussian ancestors’ villages are now in Poland, so where do those records exist today, or do they even exist, and how might I go about retrieving them?).  Other than that, the details provided for each type gave me a better idea of what to expect, especially for those that I was unaware of previously.

The last part, wraps up with a few case studies to illustrate different records and approaches.  Additionally, a few brick wall strategies were discussed.

There are seven different appendices including sample letters (with instructions) to request records, a list of archives and libraries in the United States, and of course, a table illustrating old German script variations (although in my copy, the table is formatted wrong on page 178).

Other than the table formatting error (just mentioned) and the few other editing errors, this book was much more digestible than the others I have read (or attempted to read).  I really got a lot from the history portion and learned about a few new-to-me record sets.  All in all, a good read that will serve as a quick reference in the future.

Disclaimer: I did receive a review copy from the publisher.

Purchase The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide on Amazon:  Paperback or Kindle.

Read my other reviews of both non-fiction and fiction genealogy-related books.

Another New Genealogical Institute, This One Virtual!

header-logo2This morning I received the following press release, announcing the formation of Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR).  I think it’s a really interesting concept, with some great benefits.  First, you don’t have to travel—all the courses are offered online.  Second, for a reasonable price, you get to attend four 90-minute sessions online AND you get the digital video recording and the syllabus.  And finally, unlike traditional genealogical institutes, where you only get to work on one topic for the week, VIGR offers various courses at different times throughout the year, allowing you to attend more than one.  More details in the press release below.

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2014 ISFHWE Excellence-In-Writing Competition Winners Announced

The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Excellence-in-Writing Competition.  The winners are:

Category 1 – Columns

  • 1st Place – Shelley K. Bishop, “The Legacy of Mary Comfort Eberhard”
  • 2nd Place – Nancy Ann Calhoun, “People can ‘flesh out’ genealogy at library”
  • 3rd Place – Maureen K. Wlodarczyk, “Precious Paper in the Digital World”
  • Honorable Mention – Shannon Combs-Bennett, “Getting You Pointed in the Right Direction”
  • Honorable Mention – Michelle Roos Goodrum, “Using Social Media to Enrich Stories of the Family Home”
  • Honorable Mention – Carolyn Schotts, “Fading Family Roots”

Category 2 – Articles

  • 1st Place – Schelly Talalay Dardashti, “The Other Side of Jewish Genealogy: Learn how to get started exploring your Sephardic roots”
  • 2nd Place – Shelley K. Bishop, “Turning Forests into Farms: the George Clark Family of Licking and Delaware Counties, Ohio”
  • 3rd Place – Mari Margaret McLean, Ph.D., “Finding Maxa Ann Hadden and Mr. McLean: Serendipity and the Brick Wall”
  • Honorable Mention – Smiljka Kitanovic, “Appreciating Genealogy Angels”
  • Honorable Mention – Carolyn B. Leonard, “Early Settlement Leaves Quiet Legacy”
  • Honorable Mention – Chip Rowe, “Who Was Joel Holcomb of Wallingford, Connecticut”

Category 3 – Genealogy Newsletters

  • 1st Place – Patricia Mansfield Phelan, “Irish Family History Forum”
  • 2nd Place – James M. Beidler, “Der Kurier” – newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society
  • 3rd Place – Kay Waterloo, “Goodrich Family Association Quarterly”
  • Honorable Mention – Carolyn B. Leonard, “Dutch Cousins”

Category 4 – Unpublished Authors

  • 1st Place – Shirley McKenzie, “Sylvira Said ‘They burned My House’- June 1864, Silver Springs, MS”
  • 2nd Place – Robbi J. Ryan, “A Strong Will to Live”

Category 5 – Unpublished Material by Published Authors

  • 1st Place – Rondie Yancey, “Murder at the Post Office: One Family’s Tragedy”
  • 2nd Place – Leslie Tichenor Mason, “Create a Colorful Picture of Your Ancestors from a Grey Palette of Facts”
  • 3rd Place – Marie Navarro, “Fighting on Both Sides of the Alamo”
  • Honorable Mention – Kenneth R. Castle, Ph.D., “Eden Booth, a Tale of Westward Migration”
  • Honorable Mention – Sherri Hessick, “Al Allan Alton William Wade Wendergren Westman”
  • Honorable Mention – Barbara Lee, “Carolyn 1947-1947 – Hanford Nuclear Site and a Baby’s Death”
  • Honorable Mention – Chip Rowe, “What Happened to Boyd?”
  • Honorable Mention – Jodie Lynn Strait, “William Henry Hunt: An Original Texter”

Category 6 – Poetry (NEW category this year)

  • 1st Place – Smiljka Kitanovic, “River Journey”
  • 2nd Place – Marie Navarro, “Another Day, Another Time”
  • 3rd Place – Andrea Ramsey, “Young Girl”
  • Honorable Mention – Kenneth R. Castle, Ph.D., “There Once Was a Man…”
  • Honorable Mention – Paul K. Graham, CGSM, AG®, “Genealogy Standards: A Poem”
  • Honorable Mention – Nicole Gilkison LaRue, “To My Isa…”
  • Honorable Mention – Darcie Hind Posz, CGSM,“Generations”

Congratulations to all of the winners!!