Three ways to help read gothic lettering. As genealogists or family history hobbyists, let’s just face it, gothic lettering can be confusing! And when the person writing the information in gothic lettering begins to use shorthand or get sloppy, it’s nearly impossible to figure the words out.
I’m currently researching in those early 1800’s Archdiocese books. German, Latin and Slovene. I’ve asked around for help, but there are not many people who have the ability to read gothic lettering. Another option is to pay a professional or the archdiocese to read the documents. It’s about 60$ per hour of transcribing. That can get spendy as your research continues onward. It especially gets spendy when you have records that just need confirmation that what you are reading is correct. A name, a street address, or a note.
SO, as I researched reading gothic lettering, I felt like the best option for me was to learn it myself. but finding a class has been impossible! By asking questions and reaching out, and researching the internet on my own, I’ve come up with some helpful tips on figuring out how I can read the Gothic lettering best.
1. This website is a life saver! (Jump to gothic word generator.) Just click on the type of gothic lettering you see in the document you are trying to read. There are 8 different types/styles of Gothic Lettering depending on the location and on the era or years the document was written. Then type in the word you think it might be. Or type in the word you are looking for specifically. This website then generates how that word would look like in the record. Technology is amazing! I Found a second word generator that I like also and added it below.
2. Another way to figure out gothic lettering, is to compare older records with newer records. To take a record you know is correctly spelled and compare it to the record of a past ancestor. Or observing with a record. Looking above and below the word, maybe on the page before or after to see the same word written with the same scribe’s (Priest’s) writing. Compare how he wrote, for example, Lepanjiva throughout the record. Comparing “L”s and “a”s. etc. I also compare scribes one to another. It helps to see how different people write during the same years similar words or letters. For example, the letter “e”. To one person it is written a bit different than perhaps another person would have written it during the same era. A visual example of that, is comparing how your sister writes your last name and seeing how different it is when you write your last name. (Jump to comparing gothic lettering within a record, to see examples)
3. Last, and I think the BEST answer to reading gothic lettering, is to learn to write it! (Jump to writing in gothic) This website from Brigham Young University has fabulous print outs for practicing writing in gothic. Truly I’ve noticed an increase of understanding and ability to see the letters in the words I’m trying to read. They even have quizzes to help sharpen your skills. When I’m sitting in the car waiting to pick up kids, I’ll open that website and take a test or two! I have a clipboard with these printouts to practice while I’m watching a TV show, or listening to my kids practice their instruments, or again waiting in the car. 😊 I must do lots of waiting! It sure has opened my eyes to shorthand and sloppy writing. Now I’m self-conscious of writing in my journal or notes to friends and family. Can they read MY writing? Haha 😊
Gothic word generator:
This site is writing all in German. So below is how to translate a webpage in Chrome.
How to translate webpages in Chrome:
When you come across a page written in a language you don’t understand, you can use Chrome to translate the page.
1. On your computer, open a new browser in Chrome.
2. Go to a webpage written in another language. Or this Gothic word generator that is written in German.
3. Click on a page in that website and right click somewhere on the screen. Not on words, but a blank area.
4. Up comes a menu that says Translate to English. Click on it. Then all instructions will be in English.
5. Chrome will translate the webpage this one time. You will have to do these steps each time you change a page or get back into the website. It’s simple enough.
6. Not working? Try refreshing the webpage.
You’ll see the most important information needed to understand how to utilize this document is in English.
They even have an entire story written below to help. And even though this has been a great tool. I have found that learning and practicing gothic lettering even better.
Another great site for typing in names or words.
Comparing gothic writing within a record:
Examples of comparing letters and words within a document.
“P”rassberg /Schoenacker/ “P”rassberg
Same name of town but the “P”s are so different. But now you have an example for names and information written with these different types of gothic letter “P” by different scribes.
Schoenacker is written in the middle of both record examples. The “Sch” is sooo different. They also added the umlauts which is used in German writing, to the document on the right.
Notice the two different gothic styles of the letter “E” for Elizabeth, found on the same record page.
A printout of Kurrent Font. It can be helpful. It’s from FamilySearch
Last, is learning to write gothic letters and words:
I read everything on this website, it’s that good! But the best part about this website are the interactive experiences or practice tests, and the computer generated examples of visually seeing the letters being written so you can practice the correct strokes.
But it all comes down to practicing the letters on your own. I keep a clipboard with practice sheets and whenever I’m watching a movie or waiting in the car for a child or sitting on that back porch enjoying the sunshine, I pull out the clipboard and practice. It’s fun and surprising that practicing the letters help to learn to decipher the words. It’s calming and therapeutic too 😊. Win Win!
If you get lost on the website. Go to German documents. Alphabet: Full Chart. Scroll down and actually click on one of the letters. Up will come the letter where you will see the computer draw how the letter is to be formed. It’s very helpful. At the top of that page you will find the handouts for letter groups. You see examples of words with the letters in them. I like these practice sheets best; there is a blank sheet, a full alphabet sheet, and then sheets of the alphabet in smaller groups.
Whatever the format of the record, each entry can be analyzed more efficiently by using the following tactics:
- Locate the principal person or persons (e.g., child and parents, bride and groom, deceased person).
- Determine the dates (whether expressed in numbers or words) of birth, christening, marriage, death and burial, recording date, and event date.
- Identify the verbs: geboren (born), getauft (christened), verheiratet (married), gestorben (died), and begraben (buried).
- Find the place names, such as home town, parish town, and county.
- Identify the occupations and/or status of important persons (e.g., farmer, butcher, widow, citizen, councilman, church elder).
- Determine the names of sponsors, pastors, and witnesses.
- Determine important adjectives: verstorben (deceased), ehelich/unehelich (legitimate/illegitimate), ledig (unmarried), ehemalig (former), etc.
- Locate other important numbers, such as time of day (morgens, nachmittags, or nachts), age of the principal, and address.
- Identify miscellaneous elements, such as stylistic terms, boilerplate, signatures, and comments by the scribe.
another great website for learning and practicing your gothic lettering:
Home of Suetterlinschrift site for german
Here are the practice sheets again as pintables incase you’re having trouble finding them:
Genealogy is easy now a days, with all the millions of records readily available at the touch of a finger. But once you’ve gleaned those easy pickings, you find the records are still available with abundancy, but you can’t read a single word in the document, even though you know the language of the document. LOL! It’s reading that gothic lettering or writing that will catch you every time. So I hope these tips help you discover a better way to learn to read these important records we need to find our family!
Remember by small and simple (practicing our gothic lettering) can we accomplish much! (Reading those records) And maybe if we get good enough we can help INDEX those wonderful documents!! So, like I tell my kids daily…practice, practice, practice!! And together we will find our family one gothic written record at a time!
Have a fabulous day – Tonya