German for Genealogists with James Beidler

March 3rd, 2019 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

German for Genealogists (Track – Records)

James M. Beidler

SESSION: S455, TIME/DATE: 4 p.m., Saturday, 11 May 2019

When someone thinks they are ending a conversation on German genealogy with “But I don’t know the language,” they need to understand this is actually the starting point. And a good way to move off square one is the presentation “German for Genealogists,” in which the goal is to acquaint researchers with resources and techniques for learning the skills needed for reading printed and handwritten materials in that language. These are valuable skills for anyone with German-speaking ancestors, since a huge number of materials of genealogical significance in both Europe and America can be more readily mined with just a bit of knowledge of the language.

“German for Genealogists” takes the attendee through the three interrelated skills involved in helping with family history. The first of these is vocabulary—if you can learn just a hundred or so words in German, you’ll be able to read through and transcribe the words from many records. Secondly, you’ll be taught to put this vocabulary to use on records that are printed with the distinctively German Fraktur font, which is generally used on tombstones as well as newspapers, books and the printed headings of handwritten records.

Finally, the presentation introduces the participants to the cursive script used in most handwritten German-language documents from the 1600s through the 1940s. Most commonly, this means church registers in both Europe and ethnic German congregations in America, but many early wills and letters are in this script, too.

NOTE: If you’ve had some acquaintance with script previously, you’ll want to attend Katherine Schober’s “German Handwriting for the Intermediate Learner,” F323, 11 a.m. Friday, 10 May).

Visit James M. Beidler in the exhibit hall at Booth 615 for a chat about learning the German language for genealogy!

BIO: James M. Beidler is a native Pennsylvanian and considered to be a German genealogy expert. He has authored three commercially published books, writes the weekly newspaper column / blog “Roots & Branches” and is a research-reports editor for Legacy Tree Genealogists. Find out more at his website