|Germany Wiki Topics|
|Reading the Records|
|Local Research Resources|
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]
- FamilySearch Wiki has genealogical word lists for:
- 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]
- These links to lessons and websites will assist in learning to read the records of Germany:
- For more information about reading German writing, see Germany Handwriting.
Downloadable Handouts[edit | edit source]
These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
- Birth Records Vocabulary handout
- Marriage Records Vocabulary handout
- Overview of Marriage Laws and Customs (handout)
- Death Records Vocabulary handout
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
- Days and Months handout
- Numbers Vocabulary handout
- Script Dates and Numbers handout
- Common Abbreviations handout
- Common Symbols handout
- Fraktur Font--Many forms and books are printed in this font.
Fraktur Font Used in Printed Records[edit | edit source]
For a printable table showing Kurrent letters in a computer font, click here.
Dictionaries[edit | edit source]
- The following books and English-German dictionaries can help in your research. You can find these and similar materials at many research libraries.
- Thode, Ernest. German-English Genealogical Dictionary. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992. (FHL book 433.21 T352g 1992.)
- Langenscheidts German-English, English-German Dictionary = Langenscheidts Deutsch-Englisches, Englisch-Deutches Wörterbuch. New York, NY, USA: Pocket Books, 1952, 1993. (FHL book 433.21 L262g.)
- Grimm's Dictionary online can be found at this link Dictionary of German historical words.
Latin Aids[edit | edit source]
Other language aids for parish Latin can be found at these links:
Dialects and Variations[edit | edit source]
- Low German language
- Languages in the Lower Rhine area
- Spelling variation in the northern Rhine area.
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.
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]
|January||Januar, Jänner, Hartung, Jenner|
|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]
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.
|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|
|morgens||in the morning|
|vormittags||in the forenoon|
|nachmittags||in the afternoon|
|abends||in the evening|
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.