International Institute of Genealogical Studies


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Transcription Tuesday – German Handwriting

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies provides online genealogical education for those interested in a wide variety of topics, including those who are faced with reading records in a language that is unfamiliar to them. Whether you are just beginning to research your family history, or you are a professional genealogist, sooner or later, you will face this challenge. 

One of the foundational research skills to develop is Transcribing. However, it is difficult to transcript documents in other languages. Transcriptions still need to be created by family history researchers, and often in both languages. For this reason, we have created courses to address some of these challenges.

Reading German Records

There are two National Institute for Genealogical Studies courses from our German Records Certificate, which deal with German Handwriting and Transcribing Records written in the German language.

The first course is German: The LanguageThis National Institute for Genealogical Studies basic level course introduces the key information needed about the German language so researchers can be successful in reading German records. Read Course Description here

The second course is German: Reading the RecordsThis National Institute for Genealogical Studies intermediate level course provides a detailed discussion and explanation of the old style of German handwriting. Read Course Description here

This course requires the purchase of a Compulsory Textbook titled: Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in German by Author: Roger P. Minert (2001, 182 pp). It includes a short history of handwriting styles in Germany, detailed separate methodologies for deciphering German, Latin and French vital records, computerized alphabet for old German characters representing the old Fraktur and Gothic handwriting alphabets, and more than 150 illustrations with 131 sample texts. Book is available in our online Genealogy Store

Both courses are part of our German Certificate Program. This can be purchased as a 40-course package, which includes all of the compulsory and elective courses required to complete the Certificate in Genealogical Studies for German Records.

Practical Resources for German Handwriting
Germany Handwriting – FamilySearch
Handwriting Guide: German Gothic – FamilySearch
List of Names in Old German Script – BYU Script Tutorial
A comprehensive list of German given names, written in old script, with possible variations.
Old German Script Transcriber – Deutsche Handschriften 
This is a very useful webpage. See how your family names were written in the script of their era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on one of the 8 different fonts. You can save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records. 

Handouts from FamilySearch
German Genealogical Word List
Kurrent Font – Letters Handout
Marriage Laws and Customs in Germany
Old German Script
Spelling Variations in German Given and Place Names
Fraktur Script

Tutorials and Classes
German Paleography Seminar: 10 Lessons – FamilySearch
Handwriting Practice for Kurrent (Old German Script) – FamilySearch
Introduction to German Script Tutorial – BYU Script Tutorial
Be sure to practice your recognition with these tests: Letters Test | Words Test | Passages Test
German Genealogical Word List – FamilySearch
This list contains German words with their English translations – a valuable resource.

German Records can be challenging, but with these tools and resources, you will be able to hone your transcription skills and begin to master German transcriptions.
As researchers, we have found that there are many skills we need to employ in order to achieve success in our future research projects. Transcription Tuesday will share guidelines and practical suggestions to help our readers to develop the skills for making effective transcriptions, abstracts, and extractions, as well as highlighting our courses that were created to address these challenges.

Transcription Tuesday previous blog post
Transcription Tuesday Index
These three core courses demonstrate Transcription principles. They are offered monthly, beginning on the first Monday of every month: Register today!
Methodology-Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building 
Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting & Extracting 
Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents 

Visit our website for a complete list of online courses offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Check our Course Calendar here
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