Germany Languages

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Most materials used in German research are written in German. However, you do not need to speak or read German to do research in German records. You will need to know some key words and phrases to understand the records.

Because of Germany's history, you may also find several other languages in German records. Latin was frequently used in Roman Catholic church records. French was often used in Elsaß-Lothringen/Alsace-Lorraine and during the French domination of the area west of the Rhein. Danish was used in much of Schleswig-Holstein until Preußen/Prussia annexed that area in 1864. Polish, Dutch, and Low German can also be found in some areas.

Language Aids[edit | edit source]

  • The German Word List includes symbols commonly used in German genealogical sources.
  • List of Names in Old German Script A comprehensive list of German given names, written in old script, with possible variations.
  • Old German Script Transcriber (alte deutsche Handschriften): See your family names in the script of the era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on the 8 different fonts. Save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records.

Handwriting[edit | edit source]

Downloadable Handouts[edit | edit source]

These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.

Vocabulary found on Specific Records:

Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:

Miscellaneous Vocabulary:


  • Fraktur Font--Many forms and books are printed in this font.

Fraktur Font Used in Printed Records[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia Fraktur Script. For a printable table showing Fraktur letters, click here.

For a printable table showing Kurrent letters in a computer font, click here.

Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Latin Aids[edit | edit source]

Other language aids for parish Latin can be found at these links:

Dialects and Variations[edit | edit source]

See also:

German grammar may affect the way names appear in genealogical records, so your ancestor's name in German may vary from record to record. For help in understanding name variations, see the “Names, Personal” section and Affect of dialects on German surnames.

See also: spelling variations in German documents.

Numbers[edit | edit source]

In some genealogical records, numbers are spelled out. This is especially true of dates. The following list gives the cardinal (1, 2, 3) and the ordinal (1st, 2nd, 3rd) versions of each number. Days of the month are written in ordinal form. Ordinal forms may have other endings, for example: erste, ersten.

Cardinal Ordinal
eins 1st erste
zwei 2nd zweite, zweyte
drei 3rd dritte
vier 4th vierte
fünf 5th fünfte
sechs 6th sechste
sieben 7th siebte, siebente
acht 8th achte
neun 9th neunte
zehn 10th zehnte
elf 11th elfte
zwölf 12th zwölfte
dreizehn 13th dreizehnte
vierzehn 14th vierzehnte
fünfzehn 15th fünfzehnte
sechzehn 16th sechzehnte
siebzehn 17th siebzehnte
achtzehn 18th achtzehnte
neunzehn 19th neunzehnte
zwanzig 20th zwanzigste
einundzwanzig 21st einundzwanzigste
zweiundzwanzig 22nd zweiundzwanzigste
dreiundzwanzig 23rd dreiundzwanzigste
vierundzwanzig 24th vierundzwanzigste
fünfundzwanzig 25th fünfundzwanzigste
sechsundzwanzig 26th sechsundzwanzigste
siebenundzwanzig 27th siebenundzwanzigste
achtundzwanzig 28th achtundzwanzigste
neunundzwanzig 29th neunundzwanzigste
dreißig 30th dreißigste
einunddreißig 31st einunddreißigste
vierzig 40th vierzigste
fünfzig 50th fünfzigste
sechzig 60th sechzigste
siebzig 70th siebzigste
achtzig 80th achtzigste
neunzig 90th neunzigste
hundert 100th hunderste
zweihundert 200th zwei hunderste
tausend 1000th tausendste

Dates and Time[edit | edit source]

In German records, dates are often written out. For example:

Freitag den vierzehnten Februar achtzehnhundert sechs und dreißig [Friday, the 14th of February, eighteen hundred six and thirty (1836)].

To understand German dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding “Numbers” section.

Months[edit | edit source]

English German
January Januar, Jänner, Hartung, Jenner
February Februar, Hornung
March März, Frühlingsmonat, Lenzing
April April, Ostermonat, Osteren,Oster
May Mai, Wonnemonat, Blütemonat, Wonnemond
June Juni, Brachmonat, Brachet
July Juli, Heuert, Heumonat, Heuet
August August, Erntemonat, Hitzmonat, Ernting
September September, Fruchtmonat, Herbstmonat, Herpsten, 7ber, 7bris, Scheiding
October Oktober, Weinmonat, 8ber, 8bris, Gilbhard
November November, Wintermonat, 9ber, 9bris, Neblung
December Dezember, Christmonat, 10ber, 10bris, Xber, Xbris, Julmond

A more extensive list of month names in German.

Days of the Week[edit | edit source]

English   German
Sunday   Sonntag
Monday   Montag
Tuesday   Dienstag
Wednesday   Mittwoch
Thursday   Donnerstag
Friday   Freitag, Freytag
Saturday   Samstag, Sonnabend

See also:

Times of the Day[edit | edit source]

German birth and death records often indicated the exact time of day when the birth or death occurred. This is usually written out.

German English
ein Uhr one (o’clock)
zwei Uhr two (o’clock)
drei Uhr three (o’clock)
halb eins half one = 12:30
halb zwei half two = 1:30
halbe Stunde half hour
Stunde hour
früh early (a.m.)
spät late (p.m.)
morgens in the morning
vormittags in the forenoon
mittags at noon
nachmittags in the afternoon
abends in the evening
mitternachts at midnight

Symbols[edit | edit source]

Sometimes a symbol is used in German genealogical sources rather than abbreviations. Some of these are shown at GenWiki, Genealogical Symbols and Signs.