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German Genealogical Word List

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This list contains German words with their English translations. The words included here are those that you are likely to find in genealogical sources. If the word you are looking for is not on this list, please consult a German-English dictionary. Latin words are often found in German records, and a few are included in this list. See the Latin Word List (34077).

German is spoken in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Records written in German may be found in these countries and also in parts of Poland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Hungary, and wherever German people settled. There are several different dialects in the German language. For example, in the province of Westphalia and other areas of Germany that border the Netherlands, you may notice words that are closely related to Dutch words. You may find the Dutch word list useful when working with these records.

In addition, German is found in some early records of the United States, such as in Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and other states where Germans lived.

LANGUAGE CHARACTERISTICS[edit | edit source]

German words for persons, places, and things (nouns) are always capitalized. All nouns are classified as masculine, feminine, or neuter. This classification is called gender. The gender of a noun is indicated by der (masculine), die (feminine), and das (neuter), which translates as "the." Word endings may vary, depending on the way the words are used in the sentence.

Variant Forms of Words

In German, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in the sentence. Who—whose—whom or marry—marries— married are examples of words in English with variant forms. In German, the form of many words can change greatly. This word list gives the standard form of each German word. As you read German records, you will need to be aware that some words vary with usage.

The endings of words in a document may differ from those on this list. For example, the document may use the word junger, but you will find it in this word list as jung. In addition, the suffixes -chen and -lein are often added to words to indicate "little." Therefore, the word Söhnchen means "little or young son," and Töchterlein means "little or young daughter."

Adjectives describe nouns and must have the proper masculine, feminine, or neuter endings. For example, in German you would say "junger Mann" (young man) or "junges Mädchen" (young maiden) if man and maiden are the subjects of a sentence. Adjective endings can change depending on usage and gender.

Plural words are usually formed by adding -er, -en, or -e. Thus the word Kind becomes Kinder, Frau becomes Frauen, and Aufgebot becomes Aufgebote. Plurality may also change the vowel slightly. For example, Mann becomes Männer.

In German, many words are formed by joining two or more words. Very few of these compound words are included in this list. You will need to look up each part of the word separately. For example, Geburtstag is a combination of two words, Geburt (birth) and Tag (day).

Alphabetical Order[edit | edit source]

Written German uses several letters in addition to the 26 letters used in the English alphabet. These are Ä (ä), Ö (ö), Ü (ü), and ß. These letters will be alphabetized in this publication as though they were a, o, u, and ss. However, many dictionaries and gazetteers will alphabetize these characters as if they were ae, oe, ue, and ss.

Spelling[edit | edit source]

Because spelling rules were not standardized in earlier centuries, spelling variations are common. Local dialect often affects the spelling in genealogical records. In German records, the following letters are sometimes used interchangeably:

  • p used for b a used for e
  • t used for d or dt s used for z
  • ck used for k y used for i or j
  • v used for w or f k used for g
  • tz used for z ig used for isch or ich
  • t used for th u used for i
  • Examples:
  • Freytag for Freitag
  • Burckhart for Burkhard
  • Waldpurga for Waldburga
  • undt for und

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES[edit | edit source]

This word list includes only words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, use a German-English dictionary. Several German-English dictionaries are available in the Family History Library. These are in the European collection. The call numbers begin with 433.21.

Particularly helpful dictionaries include:

Langenscheidt New Muret-Sanders Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English and German Languages. Berlin, Germany: Langenscheidt, 1969, 1974 (FHL book 433.21 Sp83n).

The New Cassell’s German Dictionary, German-English, English-German. New York, NY, USA: Funk and Wagnalls, Inc., 1971 (FHL book 433.211 C272 1971).

Additional dictionaries are listed in the subject section of the Family History Library Catalog under GERMAN LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES or in the locality section under GERMANY - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES.

KEY WORDS[edit | edit source]

To find and use specific types of German records, you will need to know some key words in German. This section gives key genealogical terms in English and the German words with the same or similar meanings.

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find German words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, joined, and other words used in German records to indicate marriage.

English German birth Geburten, Geburtsregister, Geborene, geboren
burial Beerdigungen, begraben, Begräbnisse, bestattet, beerdigt
Catholic katholisch
child Kind, Kinder
christening Taufe, Taufen, Getaufte
confirmations Konfirmationen, Firmungen
civil registry Standesamt
death Tote, Tod, sterben, starb, verstorben, gestorben, Sterbefall
father Vater
husband Mann, Ehemann, Gatte
index Verzeichnis, Register
Jewish jüdisch, Jude(n), israelitisch
marriage banns Proklamationen, Aufgebote, Verkündigungen
marriage Heiraten, Trauungen, Getraute, Ehe, Kopulation, kopulieren, verheiratet, Verehelichungen, Eheschliessungen
month Monat
mother Mutter
name, given Vorname, Name
name, surname Zuname, Familienname, Geschlechtsname, Name
parents Eltern
parish Pfarrei, Kirchspiel, Gemeinde
Protestant evangelisch, lutherisch, Protestant
Reformed reformiert
wife Frau, Ehegattin, Weib, Ehefrau, Hausfrau, Gattin
year Jahr