Advanced Death Record Vocabulary (Premium)

Death records are wonderful resources for finding information on your ancestor. Since you all are coming quite advanced in your death record vocabulary, it's time to go to the next level! Below is a list of important - though slightly less basic - words and phrases to know for death records.  Related Posts: 

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Using Google Drive to Transcribe Your Genealogy Documents (Guest Post by Gary Haas)

Did you know that Google Drive can be used to transcribe Fraktur documents? Fraktur, the angular, jagged-looking typeface used in newspaper articles, vital record certificates, and headings of church records, can be a little scary for some genealogists. But never fear! In this article, guest writer Gary Haas shares all his tricks for working with this typeface – by using Google Drive. 

1824 Church Record WIth Fraktur Headings

Using Google Drive’s Optical Character Recognition, by Gary Haas

When you upload a file to Google Drive, it automatically does OCR (optimal character recognition) on every file. This OCR allows you to search every item in Google Drive, even names on photos of tombstones.

For more information on how to find or set up your Google Drive, see How to Use Google Drive For Your Genealogy: 7 Questions with Expert Lianne Kruger

Once you are set up: 

1. Open your Google Drive

Go to https://drive.google.com/drive/my-drive

2. Drag and drop your genealogy images to Google Drive.

Google Drive can transcribe JPG, PNG, and PDF files.

3. Right click on file and open it  with Google Docs. 

Right click on your image or file to open with Google Docs.

4. Review & Edit transcription

Once your file is open in Google Docs, the machine-generated transcription will automatically appear below. You can increase the font size of all transcribed words by highlighting them and then changing the font size in the toolbar at the top of your screen.

Fortunately, Google Docs spell checks all German words. Right click on any red-underlined words in the transcription to see suggested spellings of misspelled (or possibly mistranscribed) words. 

The machine transcription of a newspaper article from my ancestral hometown (not a direct relation) is not perfect, but it does give you a great headstart on the text. The actual transcription should read:

 Waldmünchen. – Die Leiche des Metzgers Georg Bucherl wurde im Hofe des elterlichen Anwesens aufgefunden. Nun wurde der Bruder des Verstorbenen, der Metzger Max Bücherl, der dringend verdächtig ist, seinen Bruder im Streit erschlagen zu haben, verhaftet. Max Bücherl soll die That bereits eingestanden haben. 

5. Copy transcription to  Google translate.

Once you’ve checked the misspelled words by right-clicking on the red underlined words and looking at the other suggestions, it’s time to find out what your document means. Copy and paste the transcription into either translate.google.com or www.deepl.com. 

From Google Translate: Waldmünchen. – The body of the butcher Georg Bucherl was found in the parental home. Now the brother of the deceased, Messger Mar Bücherl, who is strongly suspected of having defeated his brother in an argument, was arrested. May Bücherl is said to have already admitted the fact.

Actual Translation from Katherine: The body of the butcher Georg Bucherl was found in the courtyard of his family home. The brother of the deceased, the butcher Max Bücherl, who is strongly suspected to have beaten his brother to death in a fight, has been arrested. Max Bücherl is said to have already admitted to the deed. 

As you can see, the machine transcription/translation process is not perfect, but it does give you the general idea of what the text is about!

6. BONUS – Create Cheatsheets for yourself.

You can also create cheatsheets of words you are looking for in documents you are translating so that they are easier to recognize in the future.

To do so: 

  1. Install fonts http://www.germancorner.com/fonts/index.html
  2. Get a list of words in German.
  3. Put this list into Columns A, B, C of an Excel sheet.
  4. Change the font in Column B to Sütterlin. 
  5. Change the font in Column C to Fraktur. 
See my cheatsheet for commonly-appearing words in my documents below: 
Please Note: The "s" in "Haas" should be the "end-s", which resembles the number 6, rather than the "beginning-s" shown above. "Zimmermann" should also have two "n"s.

My cheatsheets also sort characters with similar characteristics, which allows me to focus on a shorter list of characters.

Please Note: An "e" cannot be umlauted in German.

Google Drive is a great tool for helping to transcribe and translate genealogy documents. Remember, this is machine-translation, so it will not be perfect, but it will at least give you an idea of what the newspaper article, tombstone, or other record is saying. It can be a significant help in your genealogy research!

Related Articles: 

NGS Deals and Promos!

Attending NGS? Get the following exclusive deals here. Deals expire Saturday, May 22, 2021. 

German Handwriting Workshop

Date: Saturday, May 22, 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET / 9:00 a.m – 12:00 p.m. PT See your time zone here. 

Description:  

*Workshop size is limited to 30 people*

Are you working with your German ancestors’ documents? Feeling overwhelmed with that spidery German handwriting? Or maybe  you are starting to get the hang of the script, but want to be more confident as you continue?

If so, come join us for The German Handwriting Workshop on Saturday, May 22, 2021. In this three-hour workshop, handwriting expert Katherine Schober will walk you through every letter of the “Kurrentschrift” alphabet, teaching you fun tips and tricks to be able to recognize each letter on your own. You’ll also learn to sight read common combinations of letters that appear in the old German script, as well as recognize some of the most frequently-appearing words on your German genealogy records. And best yet, at the end of the workshop, attendees may show difficult words from their own genealogy documents for deciphering!**

Be ready for fun, games, and newly-found skill in deciphering your German records!

Workshop Cost: $97.00 

*20% Discount for Premium Members

** More Information Upon Registration

10 Must-Knows to Decipher Your German Ancestor’s Name

Deciphering names in genealogical documents can be a bit of a challenge. After all, you can’t just look in the dictionary to see if your transcribed name is correct. Having a grasp on the German naming system, therefore, can be very helpful for your research. Remember these ten facts below, and understanding those German names will become much more simple!

  1. “in” on the end of a last name is usually just a grammatical marker, indicating that the person with that last name was a female. My last name, Schober, may have been written “Schoberin” on a church record or certificate. When I am translating from German to English, therefore, I simply leave off the “in” of the last name, as it is a mere suffix to show that I am a female.This record reads “Jgfr (Jungfrau – Miss) Johanne Friederike Caroline Probstin”. Her last name would actually be Probst.

2. A straight line over a letter in a name will usually mean that the letter below is an “n” or an “m”, and that it should be doubled. You may see this on names such as “Anna” and “Johann”, and in last names as well. The “n” in Johann has a line above it. This means it should be doubled, and written as  “Johann”.

3. Names were sometimes written in the “normal” Latin script (the script we use) instead of the old German handwriting. You may have a document that’s written entirely in the old German script, but with your ancestor’s name written in  a script that looks like our modern cursive. 

Here the name August is written in the normal Latin script – no “swoops” above the “u”, a regular cursive “s”, etc.

4. If you see a name underlined in your document, that means that this name was the Rufname, or the name your ancestor was called. Below, the child listed is “Johann Gottfried”. As “Gottfried” is underlined, this would have been the name his family called him.

5. In older documents, you may see the Latin suffix “us” on a male name: Jakobus, for example, instead of Jakob. This is the same name, so it is important to recognize both variations in your records.

6. If an older sibling died in childhood, their name may have been used for the next child born (assuming it was also a boy or a girl).

7. Children were often (but not always) named after their godparent or baptismal sponsor. If you can’t read the name in the child’s column, look to the godparent/sponsor column to: 1)See if it could be the same name, and 2) To see if that name is easier to read there.

8. “chen”, “lein”, “l”, “el”, “erl”  are diminutive suffixes in German (the final three are more common in Bavaria and Austria). A young Barbara, for example, may have been called “Bärbchen”. This would be the English equivalent of writing “Danny” for “Daniel.”

9. Spelling was not always the same from record to record. You may see the name Schmitt in one record, Schmidt in the next, and Schmid in the third. Knowing the different variations of names and spelling can be very helpful, as it allows you to broaden your search for your ancestor. See Think Like A German: Spelling Variations in German Documents for more information. 

10. If you aren’t sure if a first or last name exists, google “name guess + Vorname” or “name guess + Nachname) and see if any results come up. “Vorname” means “first name”, and “Nachname” means “last name”. This will show you if your transcription guess exists in German.

Above, I typed in “Kunigunde + Vorname” to see if Kunigunde is a name in German. Looks like it is! 

Now that you know some tips about the German naming system, it’s time to go out there and find the names of your ancestors. Enjoy filling in that family tree!

10 German Phrases You’ll Find on Legal Genealogy Docs (PREMIUM)

To be honest, legal documents are not my favorite documents to translate. "Legalese" is hard enough in English, let alone in German. But if you knew several of the words and phrases that appear over and over again in German legal documents, you will be off to a good start! Below, find 10 common "formal" … Continue reading 10 German Phrases You’ll Find on Legal Genealogy Docs (PREMIUM)

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My Church Records Aren’t Digitized – Now What?

While FamilySearch and Ancestry, along with Matricula and Archion, offer wonderful resources for finding your ancestors’ church records, there are still many, many church records that have not been digitized yet. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! 

If you can’t find your ancestors’ church records online, you can reach out to the physical church in Germany and see if they can help you find your records. 

Not sure what church your ancestor belonged to? Scared to write to a foreign country? Don’t know how to contact the church? Read on to find out what you can do. 

Please Note: Before you can take action on the steps below, you will need to know your ancestor’s hometown in Germany. Some previous blog posts that may help you are:

Before You Cross The Pond: Five Places to Find Your Ancestor in America 

The Top German Words to Find Your Ancestor’s Hometown 

Finding Your German Parish Contact Information: Protestant Churches 

To find your Protestant parish information in Germany:

  • Go to https://www.ekd.de/en/Gemeindesuche-161.htm
  • Type in the name of your ancestor’s town in the Ort (town) search box.
  • Click Gemeinde suchen (search parishes).
  • If there are multiple parishes in that town, the website will provide you with the highest-ranking parish.
  • Write your request to the e-mail address provided (see how to write at the end of the article). 
Protestant Churches in Germany

Finding Your German Parish Contact INformation: Catholic Churches

  1. To find your Catholic parish information in Germany:
  • Go to https://www.dbk.de/bistumskarte.
  • Type in your ancestor’s town in the Adresse oder Ort (address or town) search box.
  • Press Suchen (search).
  • Click the red marker on the map.
  • Write your request to the e-mail address provided.
Catholic Churches in Germany

Contacting State Archives

If you are unable to contact the church, you can also try writing the state archives for your ancestor’s region. Fortunately for us, government archives often kept duplicate records from churches. 

If you want to find the archive for your ancestor’s region, simply google Landesarchiv or Staatsarchiv (state archive) + whichever region your ancestor came from (Example: Landesarchiv Baden). 

Once on the archive’s website, look for the Kontakt tab to find an e-mail address to which you can write. 

Translating Websites to English

Do those German websites overwhelm you? No problem!

If you use Google Chrome, you can simply right click with your mouse, and press “translate to English”. This will then provide a  machine-translated version of the website for you. The translation may not be perfect, but it will still give you a good idea of what the website is saying.

If you are not a fan of Chrome, you can copy and paste the website link into Google Translate, and then click on the new link Google Translate provides. This also gives you a machine-translated version of the page. 

Writing to the Church or Archive

If you don’t speak German, don’t let that stop you from writing an e-mail to Germany. FamilySearch has a wonderful German Letter Writing Guide that you can use to help you.

If you write to the church in German, they will likely reply to you in German as well. In that case, you can use the translation tool DeepL.com to help you find out what was written. 

However, more and more people are using English professionally in German nowadays. If you do want to write in English,  I would say that you could, but perhaps offer a brief apology for not writing in German upfront. We don’t want to assume that everyone speaks English!

Map Guide to German Parish Registers

If you prefer book resources, I would highly recommend Kevan M. Hansen’s Map Guide to German Parish Registers. This book series, which covers parishes in towns in specific regions of Germany, can be found by a simple Google search through a number of retailers.

Best of luck finding your ancestors’ records! For more information on locating and reading German church records, check out The Magic of German Church Records

Using Meyers Gazetteer to Decipher Town Names (PREMIUM)

German towns can be some of the most difficult handwritten words to decipher in your genealogy document. With so many different possibilities for the name of the town, plus changing names and spelling variations, these words have been known to give many a researcher a headache! Luckily, Meyers Gazetteer offers us many options for when … Continue reading Using Meyers Gazetteer to Decipher Town Names (PREMIUM)

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How I Found a Mystery Prussian Town – And How You Can Too!

   I was translating a document recently – and that handwritten town had me stumped. I could not read that word for the life of me. Adding to the challenge was the fact that we (my client and I) did not know what part of the German Empire the record had come from. So what to do?

Time to pull out the detective hat! In the video below, I walk you through my step-by-step process of finding what that mystery handwritten town was – a town that was so important for my client’s research. It was a very fun challenge – with a successful ending! Check out how I was able to do it below – and how you can do it in your own research:

Auswanderungsakten: How an Emigration Record Got Me Across the Pond! (Guest Post by Stephen Wendt)

One of the most difficult challenges that genealogy researchers encounter in German genealogy is the inability to discover the last place of residence for a particular line back in the homeland.

When I first started researching my Wendt immigrant ancestors years ago, I was fortunate to have learned the name of their last place of residence early on in my journey. The family research passed down to me was that my Wendt ancestors were either from modern NE Germany or Poland (near historical Stettin). I wanted to know exactly where in the homeland they came from!

Brandenburg Breakthrough!

To that end, I entered basic family information into the database on Ancestry concerning my second great-grandfather, Christian Wendt. Within seconds, I experienced an unforgettable, genealogical epiphany!

The Ancestry result was an indexed entry based on German emigration records, known as “Auswanderungsakten” from Brandenburg, Prussia. In other words, I had just encountered a primary-derived entry of Christian’s (imminent) emigration, that of his permission to leave Brandenburg, Prussia to America.

The entry on Ancestry matched Christian’s known birth date. Moreover, it disclosed his full name, the year that he emigrated to America, as well as the exact village and its associated historical Kreis, or district, of his last place of residence back in the homeland. Consequently, this amazing development got me across the pond!

While this remarkable discovery made all the difference, I wanted to see a copy of the original Auswanderungsakt. I did not have to wait very long. While the Family Search microfilm/microfiche loan service was still taking place, I was fortunate to view a copy on microfiche!

Exploring the Brandenburg Auswanderungsakten

While sifting through the microfiche from Family Search of a copy of what was described differently-albeit slightly-as Auswanderungskartei (or emigration card file) for instances of the Wendt surname, I came across a record of interest. It was for a Wendt family who was from the village of Damme in historical Kreis Prenzlau. The card listed a certain Martin Wendt, a working man, who was 48 years old. He emigrated with consent in 1846 to America, along with his wife, Marie-Dorothee geb. (née) Sprenger and four children. Initially, I had asked myself where  the names of the four children were. How did Christian, my second-great grandfather, possibly fit in with this family? By advancing further through the microfiche, it did not take long to discover the names of those four children themselves!

As it turned out, the Wendt Family from the village of Damme consisted of Christian’s parents and sisters. The birth dates listed on the other part of the card corresponded to that of Christian and his sisters. Thus, by digging deeper, my quest to learn more about this particular Brandenburg record resulted also in tracing the Wendt line back another generation. At this point in my German Genealogy journey, I was in Prussian Genealogy heaven! I had discovered, then, that not only did I have German roots, but I had Prussian roots as well.

Ancestral Location on Meyers Gazetteer

If you know of a particular historical place name that was a part of the German Empire and wish to locate it, I strongly recommend using Meyers Gazetteer. It provides the historical, jurisdictional details that you would expect from a gazetteer. Moreover, in a majority of cases, it displays a corresponding historical map of what a particular location would have looked like during the period of the German Empire.

To locate a place name on Meyers Gazetteer, choose this link here: https://www.meyersgaz.org/.

Using the aforementioned Damme, Kreis Prenzlau example, one can view where my Wendt immigrant ancestors had resided decades earlier on a map from the German Empire era.

Prussian Genealogy on Facebook

Prussian Genealogy on Facebook is a global and supportive community with around 14,000 members. I created the community as an extension of my passion for Prussian genealogy and for the purpose of helping others just starting out or wishing to dive deeper into this fascinating area of genealogy.

The Prussian Genealogy community also promotes German and Polish Genealogy, DNA, History, Culture and other aspects as they relate to historical Prussia. The community would not be where it is today were it not for the help of the many members in the group who have made and continue to make a difference in the lives of those who wish to better understand their Prussian roots! 😊

To apply to join the Prussian Genealogy community, known officially as Prussian Genealogy / German & Polish Roots, DNA, History & Culture, choose this link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/prussiangenealogy

German Genealogy Translations on Facebook

The Germany Genealogy Translations group on Facebook is dedicated exclusively to assisting members with their German Genealogy translation requests. The volunteers generously take time out of their busy lives to assist members with their requests.

To apply to join the German Genealogy Translations group, choose this link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/germangenealogytranslations

German Genealogy Word List

Arbeitsmann – working man

Ausgewandert mit Consens – emigrated with consent

Auswanderungsakten – emigration records

Auswanderungskartei – emigration card file

Ehefrau – wife

Kinder – children

Kreis – district

Jahre – years

German genealogy can be fulfilling, fun and even a little frustrating at times. If you are having trouble finding out the last place of residence for your German ancestor back in the homeland, consider searching for an emigration record and other relevant records as a part of your research strategy.  Discovering and locating the ancestral location, especially before German Unification, is important in the pursuit of records on the other side of the pond. May you experience similar genealogical breakthroughs!

Stephen Wendt, MLIS, holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from K.S.U. He is a professional genealogist and speaker. At the virtual IGGP conference coming up in July, Stephen will be presenting, “Searching for Your Elusive Prussian Ancestors: A Case Study.”

Stephen founded Tree Tidings Genealogy and assists global clients with their Prussian and German research. You can learn more about his business at his website: https://www.treetidingsgenealogy.com/

You can follow him at the Prussian Genealogy and Heritage Facebook Page as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/prussiangenealogy