17 September 2017

Uncoding Gothic Script

I recently attended an online Webinar (a seminar that is conducted over the World Wide Web) hosted by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. The title was  "Luxembourgers on the Prairie: Researching your Luxembourg Ancestors" presented by a good friend, Lisa Oberg,  She is a self proclaimed librarian, genealogist, and history enthusiast who lives and works in Seattle.  The premise of the webinar, as stated in her fabulous handout, begins with "Small, but might, Luxembourg is a European county with a distinct culture and heritage. Throughout history, the county has been ruled by Germany, Franc, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain."  I'm not a Luxembourger, but the information she shared was amazing and useful for anyone.

One of the many items she discussed was the fact that the records are written in a script that is not easy to decipher. Blackletter (sometimes 'black letter'), also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura is frequently encountered in northern European texts. It is also referenced as Fraktur, a calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet and the several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand. 

To date, there are no known online tools to automatically translate from documents written in this script into English. :( 

That said, I want to share with you a few links that I learned from Lisa as well as a recent reference to Gothic Script that I read in the Fall 2016 issue of Currents - The Newsletter of the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA). Below is a clipping from that newsletter. It provides suggestions on how to read the Dano-Norwegian language that was used in Norway. 

The author of the piece, Dale Hovland, is a member of the Hadeland Lag and a volunteer with the NAHA at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Kudos to him for sharing his knowledge.

Two of the many weblinks Lisa provided in her webinar handout help the user understand how to navigate the script. 

The first: German Script Tutorial, provided by the BYU Family History Center. This site provides background information that can be useful in understanding what you are seeing on the printed page. 

The second: German Scripts – Stephen P. Morse is located on the website produced by Stephen P. Morse: One Step Search Pages.  These links are widely used by genealogists throughout the world. 

I highly recommend that you check out all of the links in the Blog post, for further insight on how to read documents 'from the old country.'

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