Mar 25, 2022

The Family Tree Historical Newspaper Guide

March 25, 20222

Back when I began doing genealogy, how-to books were my favorite way to learn. I learned the basics of doing online genealogy from books such as Online Genealogy for Dummies. I figured out how to do cemetery research from Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s book Your Guide to Cemetery Research. There used a host of these types of books available.


Nowadays, I seldom buy a genealogy book. There don’t seem to be as many of them available. Plus, it’s often easier and quicker to refer to the internet for how-to websites and online webinars and lectures. They make brushing up my genealogy skills simple. However, once in a while, I still feel the urge to immerse myself in an old-fashioned genealogy how-to book.


James. M. Beidler’s The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide is the most recent book of this type I’ve delved into. Newspapers are one of my favorite resources. I figured that anything that could up my newspaper research was worth the paltry $16.00 price. I ordered the paperback edition, but there is also an electronic version available from Amazon if you want instant gratification.


This newish (published in 2018) book covers all aspects of newspaper research. The book is divided into three sections. The first discusses the benefits of newspaper research and has chapters on various types of records that can be found in historical newspapers. The second section contains chapters on both free and paid newspaper websites. There are individual chapters on two of the large newspaper websites: and Genealogy Bank. The final section is called “Diving Deeper into Newspapers” and has chapters on ethnic newspapers and international newspapers.


The book can be read from front to back, but I found myself getting bogged down when I tried to read it that way. I have found it most helpful when I’ve read individual chapters as a way to learn more about a specific newspaper resource.


One of the drawbacks of a book like this that discusses specific newspaper websites is that it can rapidly become dated. Websites tend to change their format frequently. In spite of that, this books seems to be holding up well after four years. Some of the website instructions are very specific, so it would probably be a good idea to actually look at the various websites as you’re reading about them. They may have changed over the years.


My only other caveat about the book is the way it is printed. The pages are not white, but a grayish color. Presumably this is to make them appear as if they were printed on old newsprint. Fortunately, the ink doesn’t rub off on your hands like the print from old newspapers does. I find it makes reading the book more difficult, though, especially at night. It might just be that I’m getting old, but my eyes quickly tire when I’m reading this book.


I would recommend this book to anyone who still likes to learn from a book rather than from a screen. Occasionally, it’s nice to buy a book where you can underline sections of make notes in the margin. If you’re thinking about upgrading your newspaper research skills, this is the book for you.


Carol Stetser