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Kimberly Powell

Learn to Read Old German Documents

By July 9, 2007

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Even genealogists with a good knowledge of German can have trouble reading old German documents due to the unusual nature of the old handwriting and printed fonts in widespread use from the 16th through 20th centuries. The three most commonly used forms of handwriting and type that you'll encounter include Kurrent, Sütterlin and Fraktur. Learning to read and recognize these old scripts and fonts is important for deciphering the handwritten documents, letters, and other records you'll find during the course of researching your German family history.

Commonly referred to as Old German Script, Kurrent is the most common handwriting style in use in Germany from about the mid-16th century into the early 20th century, and will be found in handwritten documents, letters, and record book entries. The blackface type known as Fraktur was used to print many of the old German books, newspapers and documents. For more recent, 20th century records, you'll also want to become familiar with the Sütterlin script.

For documents written in the old German script, the Kurrent Kupferstich font created by Walden Font Company is an excellent learning tool. You can type in a word or phrase from your document (in German, of course) as you think it should read and then convert it to the Old German Script with this font to see if they match up. While there, explore the many other historic fonts they offer. They are beautiful and historically accurate, perfect for family history books, scrapbooks, or other printed projects.

July 9, 2007 at 10:22 pm
(1) Hal Severin says:

In 1941, the taught script (it looked like Sütterlein, although I didn’t know the formal name, just German script) was changed to Latein, which looks like what you see here. The German script was slanted to the right and downstrokes were heavier than upstokes.

July 10, 2007 at 10:22 pm
(2) Anna says:

Thanks for the update especially for the Old German Script. My family Bible is written in this style so I appreciate the reference guide. Passenger lists also use the different handwriting styles so it is a great resource you have provided.

July 17, 2007 at 1:15 am
(3) 2 Ingrids says:

Thanx 4 this help.
We’r puzzeling together our old family-history.
Having many documents in the old handwriting.- Even-so I still remember how to read it,some is hard 2 make out,or decypher.
This will be of much needed help.
Danke schoen !!!!!!!!! :)

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