6 Websites for Deciphering Old German Script

By James M. Beidler Premium
Open book with German script.

Before the 1940s, most records in German-speaking areas (as well as surname books, newspapers, journals and gazetteers) used a Gothic font called Fraktur. Handwritten documents were composed in cursive using a type of script known as blackletter. Notoriously difficult to read, the Fraktur form of blackletter has been giving German genealogy researchers fits for centuries.

As a matter of fact, the font isn’t just difficult for the human eye. Only within the last couple of years has optical-character recognition software allowed archivists to scan German-language newspapers printed in Fraktur/the Gothic script.

An example of German script.
An example of the German blackletter typeface, sometimes referred to as Fraktur.

Online German Script Translators and Resources

Old German handwriting in the Fraktur script can be hard enough to read, let alone translate. So to make a serious attempt at understanding German genealogy records, you’ll have to crack the Fraktur code. How? Here are six German script translators that can help:

Germanic Alphabet Chart

A great supplement to your German script research is our free Germanic Alphabet Chart.

As you’ll notice, the uppercase S is often mistaken for C, E and G. In addition, you can easily confuse the following pairs of uppercase letters: the V and B; I and J; and N and R. Likewise, the lowercase letters h, n and y are difficult to differentiate; f and s look alike, as do c and e and i and j. The lowercase k can also cause confusion because it looks like a Roman font letter l with a line through it.

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