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The Search for Swiss Roots
The Search for Swiss Roots

Reading Your Ancestor's Documents

With the majority of Switzerland speaking German (Swiss German), most requests we receive asking for help concern the old documents that are hand written or printed in old German script.
It's not easy to read. But you can begin with a basic understanding of German, genealogical terms and familiarity with German handwriting.
Difficulty in reading a record may not result from a record keeper's poor penmanship but rather the use of a different style of handwriting.
As most early German documents were written in some form of Gothic handwriting or printing, familiarity with this style of writing will aid in deciphering early German records.
With handwritten documents, it is not always easy to tell where one letter ends and the next one begins.
Many of the letters also have similar shapes making it difficult to tell one letter from another.
To see more of the old German fonts click here.
Take a look at this article for tips deciphering old scripts.
The LDS Family History Library has a PDF called Handwriting Guide: German Gothic Resource Guide which shows common Gothic letters, type, and handwriting used in German records.
Here are links that contain French, German, Italian words with their English translations.
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