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German: Reading the Records
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NOTE: This course requires compulsory materials to be ordered. Please click on the Supplies tab for details.

The primary and often only significant original records for German research are the registers of the local churches where German ancestors lived. This is the case wherever, and whenever, Germans lived, and wherever you are conducting research on German families. Within the bounds of modern Germany, the old German Empire, or in the dozens of other countries where ethnic Germans settled, successful research requires the careful, and sometimes creative, use of church registers.

However, those church registers are almost invariably written not only in the German language, but also in a style of handwriting foreign to most researchers. Although a different course discussed the German language, it is also crucial to be able to read the handwriting in which the records were made.

Indeed, prior to the late 1800s, and often even later, any original records in German-speaking areas will be written in the older style handwriting. Therefore, to successfully use the records, researchers, regardless of how well they know the German language, must also be able to read the old German handwriting.

This course provides a detailed discussion and explanation of the old style of German handwriting, called the Gothic script. Through numerous illustrations, researchers will learn not only the regular appearance of the Gothic letters, but also common variations of those letters and numbers. Assignments to practice writing the letters and key words, and to even transcribe sample documents, will teach you how to succeed with your own research in German records. The addition of various strategies and tactics for reading the records will further prepare you to face the real records.


Course Content

Module 1
Gothic Style German Handwriting
 
Introduction 
• Introducing the Required Reading Textbook
 
Required Reading
Brief History of German Handwriting
Lower Case Letters
 

Module 2
Gothic Style Handwriting ... Continued
 
Required Reading
Upper Case Letters
Abbreviations
Confusing Letters
Numbers and Dates
 

Module 3
Tools & Tactics for Reading the Records
 
Required Reading
 
Reference Tools to Use 
• German-English Dictionary
• German Grammar
• Gazetteers
• Library Catalog or Archive Inventory
• Other Useful References
 
Useful Tactics for Reading the Records 
• Identify the Arrangement of the Records
• Understand Language & Customs
• Apply Correct Mechanics
 

Module 4
Practice Reading the Records
 
Required Reading 
 

Module 5
Reading Latin in German Records
 
Required Reading 
Introduction to Latin in Documents 
Exercise 
 

Module 6
Reading French in German Records
 
Required Reading
Introduction to French in Documents
Exercise
 
 
 

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