Friday, March 30, 2018

Need Help with Old German Script Translation?

It's time for our first #FamilyFriday "RootsTech 2018 Memories" post! 

One of the awesome booths that I came across when I was at RootsTech this year, which I found quite intriguing was called SK Translations, run by a woman named Katherine Schoeber who is a German to English translator.
Here's a copy of her business card and a link to her website for your reference:

Katherine does translation services specifically for genealogy purposes. In fact, she explained to me that she specializes in the Old German script translation, which is pretty significant to me personally, because I had a situation several years ago in which this kind of a service would have been very useful to me.

Ahnentafel of Gerrold & Erika Wunsch

In my research, I had come across a German book called "Ahnentafel of Gerrold & Erika Wunsch" in which I had found a bunch of family records, and I was super excited about it! I thought that it possibly could get me past a roadblock with some of my German family who were living in that area at the time.

This was a special kind of book which the Germans call ahnentafel (or "ancestor chart) which is basically a German style family tree. What was even more intriguing about this book is that the author, Franz Josef Wunsch, had hurriedly hand-written out pages and pages of family history records to be sent to the family history library in Salt Lake City because he knew that that was a place they could be safe.
Franz Josef Wunsch, Author of
"Ahnentafel of Gerrold & Erika Wunsch"

Franz was a University professor and living in Prague at the time, but because of post-war tensions, all German-born citizens were being forced out of town and back across the border into Germany. As part of this expulsion, many of the archival records and books at the University were being destroyed. So in order to protect this information, Franz sent a complete hand-written family history (generations and generations and generations and generations of ahnentafel!) to the United States, to Salt Lake City, because he knew there was a family history library there, and that his records would be safe there.

When I came across this book, I recognized names of my family in that area, but I didn't know anything of that story which was written on the first several pages of the book, because I did not read old script German. Recognizing names of my ancestors, I was in the process of extracting these names to my genealogy records and trying to figure out where my connection was with Franz Josef Wunsch.

Tender Mercy - Translator to the Rescue!

When I was in the middle of this project, I experienced one of those tender mercies that often happens in family history work. My brother-in-law, who was in college at the time, came to visit for the weekend to our house, and he brought a couple of friends with him. One of these friends just happened to be a young man from Germany.

As I was talking to this young man, I remembered the book and the pages in the front, and asked him if he could look over it and see if he could figure out what the text was about. As he browsed the first several pages of script, he was able to give me a rough description about this story from history. Of course, I was intrigued! I was like, "Oh my gosh! Can you translate the whole thing? Can I pay you to translate it for me?"

So he did, and he actually did a very good job, but it was really hard for him, because it was this old script German. So he ended up having to consult with other people, and it took him a long time, because he was a modern German young adult, and didn't necessarily know a lot of those words because they had fallen out of usage over the decades. Despite the difficulty, he ended up doing a good job for me, including some historical research which gave me some great background for my names. I can't imagine how much I would have missed out on had I not learned the background of how that book came into being!

Family History Uses for Translation Services

We will all run into situations like this during our family history research, where we need specialty services to get past roadblocks. Though in this case I was able to have a tender mercy come into the scene and help me find a translator, those kinds of situations are not always immediately available. This is where services such as SK Translations can come in handy. Had I known about her services at the time, I could have sent that old script to her, since she is an expert in the field, and had a much faster turnaround for my project. In fact, I may even at some point here get it re-translated, since she is an expert in this field and will likely pick up some things that the college student who translated it for me might have missed.

SK Translations booth at RootsTech
So there's my little plug for SK Translation services! I have not used them personally, but Katherine was there at RootsTech with a booth, all dressed up in German attire, which I loved, helping people with their German questions.

On their website,, it says that she does presentations as well. These are one hour presentations on the topic: "Journey Into German Genealogy, useful tips and tricks for finding and using the multitude of records available online and in print to locate your ancestors." There are also samples of her work available to view, as well as information about a book that she has written called "Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting. A translator's tricks of the trade for transcribing German genealogy documents." There are also reviews, frequently asked questions, and a blog, plus a button where you can click to request a quote. So check it out!

I think this is a great resource, and as I get further in my genealogy research in German, I will definitely be looking into using her services and reading her book and so forth. If German is part of your family history, and you want to have some help with some things that you've found that you cannot understand, I would recommend that you investigate SK Translations at and see if you can get some help with your research.

Best of luck to you in your German family history!

This has been a #FamilyFriday RootsTech 2018 memory.
I hope you have a wonderful day!
~JS~ 🌞

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