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James M. Beidler, Author

Jim - Ohio Genealogical Society Conference 2016
Jim Beidler at the 2016 Ohio Genealogical Society conference with Ron and Joyce Wolf from Kansas ... they both survived the 3-hour German Script and Fraktur Font workshop!
Jim speaking at 2015 National Genealogical Society conference.
Jim Beidler speaking in the exhibit hall of the 2015 National Genealogical Society conference in St. Charles, MO.

Lecture Programs Available

View/Print Lectures List ( PDF file )

  • Unless otherwise noted, these lectures are designed to run approximately 40 minutes in length plus time for a question-and-answer period.
  • Requests for customized topics will be considered.
  • Honorarium and travel expenses per lecture are negotiable. Please include your normal policies for speaker compensation.
  • Many of these lectures can be converted into Continuing Ed-style classes.
  • Coordination of group trips to research sites in Harrisburg, Washington, and Salt Lake City is also available.
  • If possible, please contact me well in advance to book dates.
Tips For Beginning Genealogists
A starting-point lecture talking about: primary vs. secondary sources; family traditions; spelling variations; the importance of time and place; and the proper place for Internet genealogy.
Time and Place – Using Genealogy’s Cross-Hairs
The more that beginning genealogists put themselves in the time and place of the ancestor for who they are searching, the better the chances that they will do the most thorough search of all available records. See how learning an area’s history will help your family history.
Beginning a Search for Pennsylvania Roots
Particularly because of its Colonial-era prominence as place of entry, as many as 1 in 4 Americans has Pennsylvania roots. The Keystone State is chock full of records and repositories to help these genealogists. A review of the state’s history; key records; and where to find them.
Digging Pennsylvania Roots from Your Desktop
It’s estimated that one in four Americans has Keystone State roots. Much of Pennsylvania research – from church records to land documents to courthouse filings – can be done remotely. Learn to get much of your genealogy done without setting foot in Pennsylvania.
Tackling the Born in Pennsylvania Problem
Many researchers will find their research extends to an ancestor said to be born in Pennsylvania without additional information. Learn the strategies for making the needle bigger and the haystack smaller in this type of search!
Exploring Pennsylvania’s State Archives and State Library
The Pennsylvania State Archives and State Library of Pennsylvania are well worth a researcher’s attention – catalogs and some records can be accessed online and a research trip can be worthwhile with advance planning.
Courthouse Research in Pennsylvania
Whether it’s commonly known records such as wills and deeds or less-used documents such as divorces or Miscellaneous Deeds, Pennsylvania’s county courthouses hold the solutions to many genealogical problems. This lecture describes the types of records available there.
Before It Was a County
A custom-designed lecture that takes the Pennsylvania county of interest and profiles what types of records exist for that county from the time period before it was erected – and where those records can be found. Good for orienting genealogists to the time and place concept.
Philly and Family History: Repositories and Records in Pennsylvania’s Largest City
Philadelphia is home to the commonwealth’s largest and most important genealogical repositories as well as being a hotbed of lineage society activity in a nod to the city’s four-plus centuries of history Researchers are sometimes intimidated by the big city but the rewards that the records housed there offer are worth a trip.
Pennsylvania Taxes and Census: Keeping Track of Wealth and Population
There's a wealth of information contained in the many types of tax records that have survived about 18th and 19th century Pennsylvanians. Included is discussion of Colonial tax lists, the 1798 U.S. Direct Tax, PA Septennial Census and 1800s land, personal property and head taxes.

See also these topics under Germans.

  • Searching for a Pennsylvania German Ancestor
  • Germany to Pennsylvania: 18th Century Odyssey
  • Pennsylvania German Church Records
Isms and Schisms: The German Religious Peopling of the Midwest
When German-speaking immigrants arrived in America, used to an established religion limited to Roman Catholic or mainstream Protestant, they found America’s religious diversity and many splintered denominations.
Isms and Schisms German Religious Peopling of Midwest
Contrasting German Migrations: 18th Century vs. 19th Century Waves
The 1700s Pennsylvania Germans were a different breed than the German Americans who immigrated in the 1800s. This presentation shows the differences in geography, economic class, religion, and aspirations of – as well as sources about – the two great waves of German immigration.
Zigzagging Through German Church Records
Explaining the methodology of using the baptismal, confirmation, marriage and burial records from German church registers most effectively. By utilizing the different bits of information found in each, researchers can zigzag their way to adding centuries to a pedigree.
German Research Online
Searching for German-speaking ancestors is undergoing a paradigm shift in which the resources of Ancestry, FamilySearch and European-based are all major players and German church records are being digitized. Learn about the many websites that can help you break down brick walls and find the villages of origin for your ancestors!
Finding a German Heimat Online
Researching your ancestors deep into Germany simply doesn’t happen unless you know the name of the village of origin. This presentation goes over the sources to tie your immigrant to a Heimat and then find the village and its records!
Mining the Uber-sites for German Ancestors
While there’s a galaxy of Internet sites that can help you with your German genealogy, some stars shine brighter than others – and it’s not just Ancestry and FamilySearch, although those two 500-pound canaries both have huge assets for those seeking Deutsch ancestors.
Online German Church Registers, Duplicates and Substitutes
No genealogist with German-speaking ancestors avoids using church records, and the good news is that many more of them are coming online in digital form. It’s important, however, to know whether you’re looking at originals, duplicates or extracts from these records – this presentation will explain the differences.
German Names and Naming Patterns
The naming patterns and quirks that are found in German names range from needing to look in the middle for first names ... as well as dealing with families who used the identical name for surviving children. This presentation demystifies these and other potential problems.
phonetischen Namenkarte / Phonetic variants of German surnames and village names
Success Story: Finding a European Village of Origin
The case study of Johannes Dinius, a 1765 immigrant to Pennsylvania, is used to show how scraps of evidence properly deployed can lead to the discovery of a European hometown.
German for Genealogists
A skills course going over the basic vocabulary and formats to enable the participants to read tombstones, church records and simple documents of German-speaking people
Zeitung Sightings: German-Language Newspapers from Around the Globe
Newspapers and other periodicals are likely to contain information about your German-speaking ancestors. Learn about this under-utilized record group, now coming into its own with the digitization of many historical newspapers in the language.
What’s a Palatine Anyway?
So many immigrants hailed from Palatinate area of southwest Germany in the 1700s that Palatine became a nickname for all the Germans coming to America. Learn about the origin of this name, the history of the area, its people and records as well as why it was an emigrant hotbed for three centuries. Handout of article by the same name from Family Chronicle magazine included with talk.
What's a Palatine Anyway?
Your Immigrants’ Germany: Microstates and Microbreweries
A concise history of Germany; details of some types of records affected by disunity, major state by major state; Case studies of some microstates as examples.
Germany to Pennsylvania: 18th Century Odyssey
There are many stereotypes about the immigrants who came from German-speaking lands to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. This lecture uses the personal memoirs of the immigrants themselves to dispel the myths about why they came, what the voyage was like, and how they liked America.
OutlineChronological Bibliography
Pennsylvania German Church Records
An in-depth lecture talking about one of the richest ethnic record groups – the baptisms, marriages, burials, and confirmations recorded by the pastors of the Germans who came to America in Colonial times.
Pioneers and Colonists: Historical Background of Germans in Eastern Europe
Millions of German-speaking people never spent a day in today’s countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. For centuries, German-speaking enclaves existed in Eastern Europe. Thus presentation introduces and gives historical background about these Germans outside Germany.
Conrad Beidler’s Signature
As a prominent miller in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Conrad Beidler (1730-1800), came in contact with more people – and more types of people – in his lifetime than the average Pennsylvania German. The evolution of his signature helps researchers show how these contacts changed him from a youth in Montgomery County to a prosperous Berks County man in middle age.
Letterpress to Digital: Using Historical Newspapers in Print, Microfilm, Online
Everyone’s talking about the huge increase in accessibility of newspapers to genealogists due to digitization. But that’s not the only reason that newspapers are the hottest record group for family historians: More precise cataloging of old newspapers allows researchers to find a greater number of old newspapers in their original print form and microfilm and today’s “born digital” newspaper content are also factors. Learn the perils, pitfalls and frequent rewards of researching local and regional newspapers of general circulation for tidbits about your ancestors.
Headlines to Bylines: Using ALL the Newspaper in Your Genealogy
Everyone turns to newspapers to find obituaries of their ancestors but every section and column of historic newspapers can be valuable in your genealogical search. Learn how news briefs, advertisements, even editorials and “letters to the editor” might add to your store of knowledge about your ancestors and their lives in context.
Vital Records in Print: Finding Births, Marriages and Deaths in Newspapers
Looking at historical newspapers is stepping back to a time when the format of newspapers what not nearly as intentionally designed – this presentation gives you the tools to zero-in on your ancestors’ vital events no matter where they might appear in the newspapers of decades past!
Zeitung Sightings: German-Language Newspapers from Around the Globe
Newspapers and other periodicals are likely to contain information about your German-speaking ancestors. Learn about this under-utilized record group, now coming into its own with the digitization of many historical newspapers in the language.
History and Genealogy: A Two-Headed Coin
This presentation explores how history and genealogy not only intersect but enhance each discipline. Hear how genealogists add context (and correct misunderstandings!) by learning the narrative of history—as well as how historians can effectively use the "cast of characters" that credibly researched genealogy generates.
History and Genealogy - Books Mentioned 
Hunting a Homestead Using Land Records
Two options:
1) Three-hour session in which land records are described and the method for drawing land maps for a written description is explained and practiced;
2) A lecture and deed-drawing session followed by a second day in a courthouse or Pennsylvania State Archives to put theory into practice.
(Note: Session must be held in a classroom setting to allow participants room to draw the deeds).
Organizing (or Reorganizing!) That Family Reunion
There’s no place as good for a family’s history as a reunion, but the gatherings come and go – learn how to organize one that will last or reorganize one that’s fading.
Genealogical Roundtable: Case Studies and Discussion
This is meant for a small group setting. Two case studies involving intermediate level genealogical methodology are presented followed by problems from the participants.
Unlocking the Door to Lineage Societies
Ever wondered how to get into Daughters of the American Revolution? Or Mayflower Society? Or more obscure groups such as the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick? This seminar goes over the qualifications for various groups and the types of documentary proof needed to complete applications.
Preparing for National Archives Research
Program is designed to orient researchers on the major resources of the National Archives.
(Note: Available either as a standalone lecture or as an orientation for a group trip to Washington, D.C.).
Preparing for Salt Lake City Research
This session goes over the major resources of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), including which ones can be used at home or locally as well as those that only exist at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.
(Note: Available either as a standalone lecture or as an orientation for a group trip to Salt Lake).
Secondary Uses for Primary Sources
Learning how to use whole data sets rather than individual records can blast open genealogical roadblocks by exploring the interrelationships of a whole community. Case studies show how this works.
Duplicate Documents That Aren’t the Same
A discussion of how multiple sources may overlap but seldom duplicate exactly the same information – making it essential that researchers check records that may at first blush seem to be the same.
Helping Genealogists with Pennsylvania Roots
Learn about the three types of genealogists, what resources to direct them to and what places to redirect them to.
Genealogy’s Lighter Side
Anecdotes and cautionary tales of the people and situations one encounters during 25-plus years of searching for roots on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Hints and Helps: My List of Top Tens
A personal list of the best: ways to start; books to get; Web sites to look at; societies to join; habits to break!