A Simple Process for Translating Fraktur Newspaper Articles

A Genealogy Hack for Translating German Newspapers into English #genealogy #hacks

When you don’t speak German, what steps can you follow when translating Fraktur newspaper articles into English? I developed a process that is working nicely.

Fraktur is the typeface (or font) used in German printed publications prior to the 1940s. If you find newspaper articles in the United States from the 1800s and early 1900s, you are likely reading the Fraktur version of German. Therefore, you will need help translating the Fraktur newspaper articles into English if you can’t read the original language.

Step One: Obtain a Fraktur Newspaper Clipping

The Genealogy Jamboree conference had an open lab to use a variety of programs. I’ve wanted to try out the GenealogyBank website to see if they have Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio newspapers. When I searched for my surname Geisler, rather than Geiszler, I found several hits. I saved the articles to Google Drive until I returned home.

Der Westbote, Thursday, 11 July 1878, Page 4 – Columbus, Ohio (From GenealogyBank.com)

GenealogyBank’s digital newspapers have crisp, clear images, in many cases. With this entry from a July 1878 edition of Der Westbote, I needed a simple system to follow for translating the Fraktur newspaper article.

You can also find German newspaper articles on Chronicling America and Newspapers.com.

Step Two: Create a Cheat Sheet for Translating Fraktur to English

The Google Translate tool can assist in translating Fraktur newspaper articles, but first, I needed help recognizing each German letter.

I visited several websites with German script helps, and they all had the same problem. They organized the letters alphabetically, instead of by shape. Once I created my own cheat sheet (see below), I became to recognize the SMALLEST of details that changed one letter into the next.

Fraktur German Newsprint Cheat Sheet for Capital Letters #german #fraktur #genealogy
Fraktur German Newsprint Cheat Sheet for Lower Case Letters #german #fraktur #genealogy

Step Three: Transliterate Fraktur to English

With the above cheat sheets, I attempted to transliterate the news article. In other words, I typed each letter in the article I that I recognized in Fraktur typeface into an English equivalent.

Here is the final version of my transliteration:

Fräulein Annie Geisler, ein junges Mädchen von ungefähr 19 Fahren, ist am Ropf und an der Brust verleßt; sie hat auberdem innerliche Verleßungen davongetragen. Die Unglüdliche mohnt in der Rähe von Etna, wohin man sie gestern brachte. Sie hat seit ber Zeit miederholt Blut gespieen und ber Arzt erflärt, daß sie nicht mit dem Leben davonfommen fann.

Step Four: Use Google Translate for Translating Fraktur to English

Google Translate needs typed text before it can translate late a word, sentence, or paragraph from one language to the next. I copied and pasted the above transliteration into the left box on the website.

Using Google Translate to change a German Fraktur newsprint article into English. #genealogy #German

I don’t have to select the language for the paragraph I want to translate because this Google tool automatically recognizes it. If it doesn’t, use the drop-down list about the left box to German (no need to select Fraktur).

Give This Process a Try For Translating Your Fraktur Newspaper Articles

Those are my steps for translating newspapers written in the Fraktur language to English.

Honestly, I misread a few of the letters. I knew I made a mistake when Google Translate translated my error into “Annie was stuck in the head and had internal exorcisms.”

With trial and error and confirmation from a friend, I am beginning to make sense of my German newspaper articles. Now, if only I can figure out who this Annie Geisler is because she doesn’t appear to be my relative

Discover a genealogy hack that can help you translate German newspaper into English for your genealogy. #genealogy #hack #German #newspapers
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Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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