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In other words…

So for the last week The Legal Genealogist has been whimpering on a daily basis.

Is that a capital L or a capital B? A lower case e or n or u?

Yep, since — like about one-sixth of all Americans — I have German ancestry, I have been trying to learn at least the basics of the two main ways German records will be written: in German Gothic script and in the published font called Fraktur.

And just in case you’re thinking to yourself that this can’t really be all that hard, you tell me what each of these words are in the Gothic script:

Gothic script

And trust me: since those are produced by a standard German Gothic script font, instead of being in some clergyman’s or clerk’s handwriting, those are easy to read. Here’s a relatively modern (1884), relatively easy-to-read fill-in-the-blanks section of a marriage record:

1884 script example


And though I do read Fraktur reasonably well thanks to high school and college courses, those were in the now far distant past, so I have some troubles distinguishing some letters. Like these:

Fraktur example

That’s why I sat there day after day, hour after hour, learning from Warren Bittner and his team at this past week’s virtual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.

Now… after only a week of this… I am not going to pretend that I can now easily and quickly read the dozens and dozens of documents I have on my German family.

But I was really pleasantly surprised when I sat down this morning with this real-life 1884 example — the identification of the first witness to the civil registration of my great grandparents’ marriage in Bremen — and was able to read every single word.

Easily? No.

Quickly? Not a chance.

But completely? For the first time ever, yes.

Not just the names — which are, after all, written in regular script — and the numbers… but every single word, including the boilerplate.

Instead of just noting that the witness was Gerhard Nuckel, age 33 who lived at number 22 of some street in Bremen, I can now identify him as a box cutter, age 33, who lived at Neanderstrasse No. 22 in Bremen, and that his identity was verified by legitimation papers he submitted.

And with that information I can identify him as an uncle, just nine years older than his nephew-bridegroom.


Do I like this verdammt German Gothic script? No.

But am I oh-so-very-grateful for the chance to learn to read some of it? You betcha.

And if you also have German ancestors and you ever get the chance to take the course in German Gothic script and Fraktur from Warren Bittner and his team, do it.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Diese verdammte deutsche Schrift,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 15 Jan 2022).

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