If you are tracing ancestors born in Germany and other German-speaking lands, there is a new reference book that should be helpful to you. For centuries, what evolved into Germany as we know it today was a feudal patchwork of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and even free cities, with often changing boundaries. The book is The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany, by James M. Beidler. It provides more than 100 full-color maps along with valuable text about the history of the region that developed into present-day Germany. The maps and text combine to fill 240 pages bound in an attractive hard-cover format.
By studying this book, you can come to understand German border changes throughout the centuries. Of particular value to genealogical researchers are the following chapters: Nineteenth-Century Germany, Regional and State Maps, Twentieth-century Germany, and Modern-Day Religious and Demographic Maps. Another valuable section provides an index to cities and villages found on the included maps, a glossary of geographic terms, and a list of map sources, All this material can help you pinpoint the hometowns of your German ancestors and thereby locate where you might find their records.
I am researching German ancestors ranging from my fourth great grandfather Johan Mathias Flaugh, born in Rimhorn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, who immigrated to America in 1773, to Maria Thoman, the grandmother of my late wife, who was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria and came to America in 1905.
The Historical Atlas has helped me understand the geography and history of Germany pertinent to these and other ancestors.
The author readily admits in the introduction that most of the maps can be viewed online. I found it to be convenient, however, to have them in one printed reference. If you wish to study them online, and perhaps use your browser to enlarge them, you’ll be happy to know that citations to the sources of the maps are provided.
Jim Biedler has written other books about German genealogical research, including The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe and Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites. He also is the author of The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers (which we should note includes information about German-language newspapers in America).
The book is available from a wide range of booksellers, both brick and mortar and online. The list price is $34.99, but you can find it available for less if you search online for special offerings.