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Aids for deciphering German Protestant church records

Spelling variations

It is not uncommon to find spelling inconsistencies based on geographical and other differences, so researchers should check surname variants. The following are examples of letters and letter combinations that are often used interchangeably in German names.
  • p used for b
  • t used for th  
  • ü used for ue  
  • t used for d or dt   
  • g used for k   
  • s used for z  
  • ä used for ae   
  • ck or c used for k  
  • ö used for oe  

Baptismal records

Baptisms can give quite detailed information in German, sometimes including the towns of origin of the parents and occupations. Original records are usually arranged sequentially by the year, but can sometimes be interrupted by other records. Records can include the following column headings: 
  • No. (Number): Order in which the baptism was done. Baptisms are numbered each year, beginning with the number one and continuing through the rest of the calendar year. 
  • Geburt (Birth): Actual date of birth. In most cases it is close to the date of baptism, but in some cases they may be years apart. 
  • Taufe (Baptism): Date that the baptism was performed. 
  • Name (Name): First and middle names of the child. 
  • Vater (Father): Father's first name and surname. 
  • Mutter (Mother): Mother's first name and maiden name. 
  • Pathen (Godparents): The names of the godparents are listed here. 

Marriage records

Marriages commonly provide the dates of marriage banns, marriage date, and names of the bride, groom and witnesses. Additional information such as former residence in Germany (or elsewhere), rank in family and occupation may also be given depending on the year and record. Later records often include a column for the pastor's name. Marriages in original records are arranged sequentially by year but can be interrupted in places by other records. Common column headings are as follows:
  • No. (Number):  Order in which the marriage was performed. Marriages are numbered each year, beginning with the number one and continuing through the rest of the calendar year.  
  • Aufgebote: Dates of marriage bann publications  
  • Trauung: Date of marriage.  
  • Braeutigam: Groom  
  • Braut: Bride  
  • Bemerkungen: Remarks or witnesses.  
  • Zeugen: Witnesses 

Death records

Often the maiden name of the deceased or of the spouse is given and if they are from outside the community, a place name may be given. Common column headings for the death records are as follows: 
  • No.: The order in which the death is recorded for that year. 
  • Todestag: the date of death. 
  • Begräbnisstag: burial date 
  • Todesursache: cause of death 
  • Der Verstorbene: the deceased 
  • Die Hinterlassenen: survivors, mourners 
  • Pastor (Bemerkungen): pastor (remarks)
 
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