While ruling powers – Germans, Swedes, Russians, Poles, etc. – changed over the centuries, one constant in the ruling class remained: Most local gentry in Latvian territory were Germans. As a result, many documents related to Latvian genealogical research prior to Latvian independence are written in German. But German writing then did not look like German writing today – most records are written in a script called Kurrent (which in the 20th century also developed into Sütterlin script, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably). Kurrent and Sütterlin are no longer used today, but the old records are almost exclusively written in them.
Through practice and the use of material guides, one can begin to puzzle out what this script says – but here there is a bit of a shortcut! If you are just beginning to learn this script, or even if you’ve got years of experience in trying to puzzle it out, sometimes you will come across a word that is unfamiliar, and you think you know what it might say, but you’re not sure… enter this script generator that was mentioned on the Genealogy Translations Facebook group!
Alte deutsche Schrift‘s (“Old German Handwriting”) script generator can help you determine whether or not something says what you think it says. If you think you know what some old writing says, enter it in the box. Then press Enter, and it will pop up an image of how that word would appear in Kurrent. Click on the different styles under the text box to get different variations (in terms of what I see in Latvian records, I find the first, fourth and fifth style options most useful). Does the resulting image look like the word you’re puzzling out in the record? Fantastic! If not, try again with new possible letters.
The important part of the German instructions that non-German speakers need to be aware of: If you need to include the “long S” (ß), but don’t know how to type it on your keyboard, you can use the colon (:) instead.
May this resource help you in your search for your ancestors! Please share any successes in comments!