German translation

19 Aug 2014

Google News Archive for German Newspapers

Today’s guest post is about using the Google News Archive for German newspapers. German-language newspapers published in the U.S. can be important sources for obituaries and other information on German immigrant ancestors. My Germanic Genealogy teacher, Carolyn Thomas, of the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society, shares her insights on using the Google News Archive for German newspapers:

Besides the links to German-language newspapers in Chronicling America Nancy has shared, the Google News Archive has some German-language historic newspapers digitized and accessed by title at http://news.google.com/newspapers.

These were part of Google’s plan, unfortunately no longer supported, to digitize all extant historic newspapers. Some of us have benefitted greatly from the locations and newspapers with which Google began that effort.

For example, the following are German-language newspapers in Pennsylvania and Louisiana are available online at the Google News Archive for free:

Pittsburgh:

13 May 2014

German Card for Genealogy Research

The German Card is the best $5 I’ve ever spent, certainly in research terms.

The SGGS German Card is a four-panel card, hinged and laminated, that folds up to the size of a credit card. Around the outside edges of the panels are Kurrentschrift or Alte Deutsche Schrift (“old German script”) and Fraktur alphabets, showing both upper and lower case, arranged so that you can hold each letter directly under the German word you are trying to decipher. It is designed to be carried in one’s wallet or purse for use in the library or at the archives. I have one in my wallet and one by my desktop computer.
This pocket research aid is exclusively available from the Sacramento German Genealogy Society.
The German Card includes:
  • Old German alphabets – upper case and lower case, for both the old German handwriting and the printed Gothic font
  • Basic German vocabulary words as used in church and civil records
  • U.S. census dates for years in which pertinent immigration information appears
  • Basic German genealogy resources
  • Major symbols used in old German genealogical recordkeeping
  • Soundex Code

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30 Mar 2014

Some Thoughts on Reading German Parish Microfilm

Warning: genealogy whining ahead. I have some thoughts on reading German parish microfilm – a LOT of German parish microfilm that looked just like the screenshot on the right.

I was lucky to be at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, with every roll of microfilm available. So I did due diligence, reading German parish microfilm for five days for every village in my search area – but with no results.

Why did I pick genealogy? Why not something easier, like taking up home dentistry, a backyard moon launch, or counting grains of sand on the beach?

So after all those hours and rolls of German records, I have to say there are two people I dislike, however pointlessly retroactive.

The pastor:

Let’s leave handwriting and spelling out of it. Not fair to pick on the guy when that was his job to be the educated person in a village who was responsible for creating vital records, now is it?

But I’m so glad the pastor made sure write JOHANN GOTTFRIED and MARIA ANNA in letters two inches high and then write the surname in tiny tiny script buried somewhere in the record like it was a secret. And of course, the pastor made sure use a mix of Sütterlinschrift, Kurrentschrift, Roman letters, plus some Latin and Polish mixed in, just to keep things light.

And yes, some of that handwriting strongly resembles a chicken on acid who ran through an inkwell before it made a break for freedom running across the pages of the parish register.

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25 Mar 2014

Translating Meyers Konversationslexikon – Tuesday’s Tip

translating meyers orts sassy jane genealogyHave you used Meyers Konversationslexikon?

Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs (English title: Meyers Commercial Gazetteer of the German Empire) is an essential resource for German genealogy researchers. Meyers Orts is available in print at libraries and at Ancestry and FamilySearch.

But for English-speaking researchers, Meyers Orts can be tricky to use. This historical reference work is, of course, published in German and in Fraktur typeface. An additional complication for monolingual English-speaking researchers (like me) is the frequent use of abbreviations. When you don’t speak German, it’s hard to know what word is being abbreviated. And the type can be very small for aging eyes to see.

While there is no substitute for the seminal Meyers Orts gazetteer, another Meyers publication may also help. Meyers also published the Meyers Konversationslexikon. Full title: Großes Konversationslexikon: Ein Nachschlagewerk des allgemeinen Wissens. Sechste, gänzlich neubearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage. Leipzig und Wien 1905-1909. (English title: Meyers Large Encyclopedia. A reference book of general knowledge. Sixth, completely revised and enlarged edition. Leipzig and Vienna from 1905 to 1909).

Some of the same information found in Meyers Orts is also in Meyers Konversationslexikon. This “Large Encyclopedia,” includes concise information on a city, town, or village. Included is geographic location, population, province, civil registry offices, churches and synagogues, all valuable information when searching for ancestors. Also included in each entry is information on civic organizations, institutions, schools, agriculture, factories, businesses, governmental organizations and hierarchy, transportation, and more.

Using Meyers Konversationslexikon is relatively easy thanks to the digital version at Wörterbuchnetz, from the Trier Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Trier. Their digital edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon uses the Roman alphabet, has adjustable type size, an excellent search interface, and best of all, when you turn on the translating function of your browser, the gist of each entry is easily readable in English.

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