7 Websites for Deciphering Old German Script

Vicki’s note – Article from Family Tree Magazine, October 17, 2016 by James M. Beidler.  Note that I have put these German language websites on the “Genealogy Websites and Electronic Helps” page, and that you can download a pdf of the German alphabet Chart to print for your own use.

7 Websites for Deciphering Old German Script
By James M. Beidler

Old German handwriting can be hard to read, let alone translate. Check out these seven resources for deciphering Fraktur, the Gothic script used in German genealogy records.
As Family Tree University kickstarts German Genealogy 201, here are 7 free resources for deciphering Old German script. After all, even if you’re fluent in the language, Old German genealogy records can throw you curveballs.


Before the 1940s, most records in German-speaking areas (as well as surname books, newspapers, journals and gazetteers) used a Gothic font called Fraktur, and handwritten documents were composed in cursive scripts that may well appear to be chicken scratches to the naked eye.

As a matter of fact, the font isn’t just difficult for the human eye; only within the last couple of years has optical-character recognition software been developed to allow for the scanning of German-language newspapers printed in Fraktur/the Gothic script.

Old German handwriting in the Fraktur script can be hard enough to read, let alone translate. So to make a serious attempt at understanding German genealogy records, you’ll have to crack the Fraktur code. Here are some online tools that can help you:
About.com: Old German Script—Kurrent

Brigham Young University: The German Script Tutorial

Family History Library Handwriting Guide: German Gothic

Genealoger: German Genealogy—Language, Handwriting, and Script

My Ancestors and Me: Helps for Translating That Old German Handwriting

Omniglot: German

Suetterlin Schrift: German handwriting
You can also download our free Germanic Alphabet Chart for more help decoding German script.


As you’ll notice, the uppercase S is often mistaken for C, E and G, and you can easily confuse the following pairs of uppercase letters: the V and B; I and J; and N and R. Likewise, the lowercase letters h, n and y are difficult to differentiate; f and s look alike, as do c and e and i and j. The lowercase k can also cause confusion because it looks like a Roman font letter l with a line through it.You can learn more about finding, deciphering and using German records in The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide, and you can find more German genealogy websites in Trace Your German Roots Online.



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