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.
Obtain a Newspaper Clipping Written in Fraktur
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.
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.
Transliterate Fraktur Newspaper Clipping to English
With the above cheat sheets, I attempted to transliterate the news article. In other words, I typed each letter in the article 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 fan.
Use Google Translate for Translating Fraktur Newspaper Clippings 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.
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).
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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