Query: Advice on reading Prussian records in Kurrent

Philip Keisman's picture

Hello all, 

I have a large cache of documents from the Geheimis Staatsarchiv from the mid 19th century.  Because my disseration topic regards Hebrew language newspapers published out of East Prussia from the 1850s through the 1870s, I have files at the municipal and regional levels about media as well as files from the censor's office.


After two weeks of sitting with a sample of the handwriting from one file, I find myself in need of some guidence. I am proficient but not fluent in reading German, which may be part of the issue.  But the Kurrent script feels very difficult.  I am looking for help in the following ways:

1) Any online resources (free or otherwise) that may be of use (video tutorials, for example)

2) Someone with experience in Kurrent Paleography to talk to about specific techniques and questions that I have.


Thank you in advance,

Phil Keisman


Categories: Query, Research

The Geheimes Staatsarchiv has some helpful resources for learning handwriting: https://gsta.preussischer-kulturbesitz.de/nutzung/arbeitshilfen/schriftb...

In my experience, the best way to learn German handwriting is to WRITE using it. Try writing letters (or shopping lists) in Fraktur.

Hope this helps.

Adam Storring
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

I just wanted to reiterate Adam Storring's answer. The only way I was able to feel confident with German handwriting was to write it myself. I was then able to generate hand-written guides to remind me of the specific idiosyncrasies of the folks whose writing I was working with. 

There's a great free resource on old paleography here: https://script.byu.edu/

It was created in consultation with Dr. Roger Minert, who wrote the book Deciphering Handwriting in German, which is used in many paleography courses.

There are sample documents to practice on, etc.

And, I'll be a 3rd voice saying it's super helpful to write the characters yourself as you learn. When I'm stuck, I trace my hand over the letter/word in question and it usually reveals itself in that process.