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Deciphering Old German Writing

26 September 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

One thing that I learned to do that always amazes people is to read these old church records written in German, but in a handwriting that no modern-day German speaker I’ve met can decipher–all while never taking any lessons in German or understanding a word of it.  Let me provide the world with the links that helped me figure out what the heck these records were saying.

First off, the Kurrent script examples at AustrianFamilyHistory.org are absolutely incredible.  Start there.  Of course, once you look at more than one town’s church book, you’ll see the vast difference in handwriting between peoples, but one great thing the author does is separate the samples by time periods.  For me, the most incredibly helpful page continues to be the Kurrent Alphabet Samples.  I’ll usually have this open in a window while I’ll be looking at records.  It shows multiple variations of how a single letter could be written (depending on the penmanship, where the letter was in the word, etc).  It’s invaluable.

Second, as if deciphering what the words were wasn’t hard enough, you then had to figure out what they meant!  In the case of the occupations, this could really be tough.  For this, I used a few different resources.  The first was Google translate.  Sadly, that rarely worked.  There were a few pages that I had to sort through to try to find the professions listed, or similar/root words listed (because the spelling back then wasn’t the greatest): European Roots Genealogy’s List of Old German Professions, Old German Professions and Trade Names, and finally, if it wasn’t listed on any of those, FamilySearch’s German Word List.

But, if anyone wants to take a stab at this one from last year, I’d love you forever!

Jacob Quirin, der Junge__, Britzon Quirin, alhier burger, und ___ kirchencensor alhier, ehel. sohn; __
jungfer, Anna Catharina, c__: be___ Schaffer, gr____ ____ alhier ____ ehel. tochter

Translation:
Jacob Quirin, the young__, Britz Quirin, citizen of here, and ____ church censor of here, legitimate son; (married?)
young girl, Anna Catharina, ___: ___ Schaffer, ___ of here, legitimate daughter.

  1. K. Hawkes
    25 October 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Jacob Quirin, the Jungern, Britzon Quirins, alten burgers, and dessmaligen kirchencensors alhier ehel. sohn: undt Jungfr. Anna Catharina, weyl: Bernhard Schaeffers gewessen unter-…?.man, alhier hinterlassen ehel. dochter. Translates to:

    Jacob Quirin, the young man or youngster, Britzon Quirins the old burger and the church censor of here legitimate son; and Jungfrau Anna Catharina, deceased Bernhard Schaeffers under..?..man of here, legitimate daughter.

    Some words and phrases do not translate straight across to English. I cannot read the whole word “under.?…man”. He apparently held some position, but not the top one.

    Several serchers are extracting the name Schaeffer as Schlosser. Not so. But there is one Bernhard Schlosser who dies in that area about then. Have not found him as yet. I am wondering if it is recorded correctly. Would be easy to do in this case.
    You are doing exceptionally well in this effort.

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