Friday, September 30, 2016

Teach Yourself to Read German Script (Part II)

Did you do your homework?  (See Part I)  If you are comfortable writing the alphabet and some words, you are ready to move on to the next stage.  In the first part, we learned to read the letters when formed in an ideal manner.  Now we're going to look at a real-life example, where the scribe did not make every letter perfectly.  But we'll start with an easy example, where the scribe had good handwriting, the Tiegenhagen, West Prussia, Mennonite church book.

You could use any handwritten German document; but this one is written clearly; and even more importantly, John Thiesen has made an exact transcription.  So we can compare the handwritten German text to the typewritten transcription.

At this point, we're only interested in reading the letters and words, not yet about understanding the meaning.

Let's download a random page from the church book, p. 30-31.  Then download John Thiesen's transcription for comparison - it's a large Word document, so be patient - and find page 31.  We'll use the righthand page, page 31, because it has more Kurrentschrift on it than the lefthand side.  (Note that personal names are usually written in Latin script not Kurrentschrift.)  Start at the top and look at the Latin transcription and follow the Kurrentschrift.

Did you see that one of the column headings is missing in the transcription?  Can you figure out the word on your own? (Answer at the end.)
Source:  Tiegenhagen Mennonite church book, Tiegenhagen, West Prussia, Volume 1, Page 31, held by Mennonite Library and Archives, North Newton, Kansas, accessed online at on 29 September 2016.
Portion of transcription of page 31.
Once you feel comfortable looking at the Latin transcription and deciphering the Kurrentschrift original, do it the other way around.  Try to read the original and see if you get what is in the transcription.  You may have to write out the original letter-by-letter.  Download and read a few more pages until you feel comfortable with it.

Congratulations - you've made your first step into reading a real genealogical document!

ANSWER - The missing word is "Wochen," which means "weeks."

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