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Reading Old German - Free Tutorials

Maybe you are looking for an ancestor from Breslau in the address books at ( , or some multi-great grandparent in Matricula's church records ( ) for Bavaria.

1852 Baptism Record with  old German handwriting and

Whether the challenge is reading printed German Gothic (aka Fraktur) or the old German handwriting (Kurrent or Sütterlin), here are a couple free resources to help you solidify some of the basics.

Key German translation for birth/baptism words
Examples of German Words in Tip Sheet

Downloading fonts to your computer or converting a name here and there into Fraktur or Kurretnt (as we suggested in our previous blog Deciphering Old German Handwriting Tips ) remains a great idea, but sometimes that isn't enough.

Perhaps you want to improve how reliably you can find key names and dates. Invest a little time in getting familiar with the Fraktur and Kurrent alphabet, and you'll be able to get that much further with your genealogical research.

The key is learning the shapes of the letters and words and then matching them with key words that you are researching. You do want to have a familiarity with key genealogical words. We have shared tip sheets for some key words in church and vital records. FamilySearch also has a strong glossary. But....first you need to decipher the writing and printing!

Script Tutorial (

BYU has a free online tutorial that includes a good overview, but importantly has interactive exercises with both text-book-style examples as well as real-world ones where you can keep testing yourself as you improve. This tutorial includes both typeface as well as hand-written segments, as well as Latin which particularly comes in hand with many Catholic records.

The BYU tutorial also includes key vocabulary, abbreviations and examples of some key documents, along with tips for using them. It also has old-school alphabet charts that you can print out and use like when you in elementary school - very handy for solidifying those letters in your head.


FamilySearch has a three-part prerecorded video tutorial focused on handwriting. Each tutorial is about an hour. The instructor, Fritz Juengling, created an interactive class, along with some handouts. He does a nice job of talking about the differences between what we are used to in English and what letters might be particularly confusing in the old handwriting. This tutorial also has some exercises that he was doing with the class, but the viewer can do as well.

The three sessions build upon each other. The first one focuses on the letters. The second on words, especially names. He spends a bit of time showing variations among different hand-writing styles - and it seems like few records were written in the "correct" way. The last session focuses on applying the previous experience when looking at actual records.

Do Both!

If you struggle with letters in old German documents and really want to do some of the work on your own, take advantage of both these free resources. You may be amazed how much you begin to understand.


Do you have any Swedish, German, Danish, Dutch or Norwegian documents you can't read? We can help. We also help many people with their family research. Get more info here.


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