Bu Michele Simmons Lewis, Student
Well that’s embarrassing. I just took the final exam for the German: Church Records course. I am not going to tell you what my score but I will tell you that this has been the hardest course (and exam) so far. I definitely need to go back over the material again. The text that accompanies this course is excellent. As a matter of fact, not only do you get the regular course materials but you also get German Church Books: Beyond the Basics by Kenneth L. Smith. There are 239 pages of text for this course.
When examining church registers you can’t just skim through them looking for familiar names. This is a mistake that I have made in the past. You have to analyze every baptism, every marriage, and every death entry for the period of time in question and build all of the family groups. This is the only way you will be able to separate everyone out correctly. Sometimes the entry will have a first name and sometimes it will have a middle name or even a second middle name. At first glance you might think you are dealing with several people when you are really only dealing with one. The reverse can happen as well. “Anna” might be three different people and not just one.
For the final exam, you are given a parish register with baptisms, marriages, and deaths. You have to put everyone in their proper family group after analyzing all of the data and then you answer the questions. It isn’t easy but doing it for real isn’t easy either. When you take this course I suggest you reread the entire text before attempting the exam. If you do well on this exam tackling a parish register on microfilm will not intimidate you.
I am looking forward to doing this with my family. Several years ago I looked at a church register on microfilm from a parish in Köln (Cologne). I went through it and copied down the names and dates of the people that I knew belonged in my family and some that I thought might. After taking the German Church Records course I now know that I probably missed a lot of information. I will be looking at the same microfilm again but this time I will be copying down every entry during a certain time period. A lot of these German parish records have been indexed so that will help but I will still need to examine the original records.
I have started my first intermediate course, German: Reading the Records. This one is all about learning to read the old German script and typeface. So what is the best way to learn how to read the script? Learning to write it yourself. The first half of this course concentrates on teaching you how write. I am having fun practicing by writing out my grocery list in the old script. The second half of the course is all about reading actual records. I will be reporting back after I have finished this course.