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Qualifications

 

 

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  • Native German Speaker

  • Ph. D. in 17th Century German Literature

  • Master's Degree in Library Science

  • Many Years of Translating Experience focusing soley on Documents pertaining to German Genealogy

As one can see from the first two examples above, German printed and handwritten words of earlier times looked quite different from the type of printing and handwriting Germans are using nowadays, which are similar to those used in English. Since these Old German "Gothic" scripts (Black Letter, Kurrent, Sütterlin, Fraktur, etc.) were difficult to decipher, they were replaced by the easier to read and write Latin script, which most Western European countries had used for centuries. The change happened in 1941. From then on, the Old German "Gothic" scripts were no longer taught in German schools. Only the older people in Germany are familiar with the abolished scripts, and this generation is slowly dying out.

Consequently, most people need professional help when deciphering old German records of all kinds, like diaries, letters, postcards and photos, obituaries, church book entries, wills, poems, certificates, immigration records, and the "Ahnenpaß" (Ancestor's Passport). However, not only do the Old German "Gothic" scripts present a problem when one is faced with deciphering a German document, but there are also numerous other pitfalls – to name a few: faded copies, bad handwriting, non-existing spelling rules in earlier times, barely literate writers, antiquated language, meanings of words which have changed over time, and amalgamation of German and English words.

Long before I got interested in my own family history (I was born in East Prussia, Germany, and have done extensive research into my own genealogy), I had to be well versed in the Old German "Gothic" scripts in order to do research for my Ph. D. thesis on a German female poet from the 17th century. Little did I know at the time how useful this unique skill would be for me and for others. After being asked repeatedly for help with these kind of documents, I decided to branch out into the translation field and started this service. From the beginning of my translation career more than two decades ago, I decided to focus mainly on an area where I had acquired a vast amount of knowledge: German immigration to America and German genealogy.

Working with genealogists, both professional and amateur, is very rewarding. People are always sending me shoeboxes full of old letters and postcards they have not been able to make any sense of for decades. When my translations provide them with an insight into their ancestors’ lives, that person literally seems to “come alive” for them and they are so grateful. Sometimes, this translation is the information they need to finally find the place where their ancestors lived in Germany. Often, it opens doors to putting together the “puzzle” that is genealogy. On many occasions, I have seen grown men and women cry from being able to unlock a mystery they have worked so hard to solve. I relish being able to help others with my skills in translation and my understanding of the time period and culture that surrounded those documents and their creators. They are an important link to our past.

Author and journalist Hodding S. Carter once said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, and the other, wings.” The discovery of our own genealogy is not only interesting for us personally, but is also important to future generations of our families.

If I may be of service to you with your German Genealogy Translation needs, please contact me.