Translating Records – Alphabets and German Script

If your ancestors were from Continental Europe, an important factor in interpreting of their records is the makeup of the alphabets that were used in the documents you will be reviewing.

Alphabets used for many European languages have special characters. Recognizing these special characters will help you find the documents because they may change the order indexes are sorted. Usually the letters with special characters are sorted after their normal counterparts. This will also help find the correct translation for the passage or phrase.

An understanding of the Old German Gothic script is also very important. You will find that handwriting and print that you find in your old documents are very different from the handwriting that we are familiar in today’s writing. Many letters and compound consonants were formed very differently from Roman Type. The letters f, h, j, s and t are very challenging to read in German Script. In German script they look very similar and differ only by the location of the loop or no loop. The interpretation of these letters has led to many mistakes in the indexing of names and place names.

Familysearch.org offers a German Gothic Handwriting Guide in their wiki pages that will give you further tips on reading German Script. Find it at:

https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/images/c/ca/German_Gothic_Handwriting_Guide.pdf

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