Fraktur — Artistic Family History Gold Mine Then and Now
Last summer I visited the Perry County Historians in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, looking for those elusive Drayers. We actually found one along with his wife, and after some local census diving we even found their grave — with a whopping huge tree growing right out of the center! Perry Historians also had another treasure trove, a compilation of Pennsylvania German Fraktur in a well researched volume published for the society. The book came with my membership, and at the time, I stuffed it in my backpack and thought I’d take a look at it…whenever. Months later, looking for specific information on Pennsylvania German designs I realized that the same symbology found on the Frakturs could also be found on hex signs, pottery, quilts, butter presses, etc., from the same era.
Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to craft some of my own Fraktur for my family and friends? I spent about a month researching the topic, ordered several books, and found an amazing amount of information about what the people in my family (and my husband’s) may have been like a hundred years ago. Sure, it is one thing to sift through census records, directories and church records; but, it is another when you “come to know them” through other means, such as their art, literature, and music.
In my search for understanding more, I learned about the amazing European mix of the German speaking Americans, who immigrated from where, when, and why. I learned that many Germans refused to sign their names on documents when they entered this country, not because they couldn’t write; but, because they were suspicious of authority. Dumb Dutch didn’t mean stupid — it meant not understanding the English language. I also discovered that most of the Germans who entered this country between 1700 and 1800 were highly literate, and prided themselves in their ability to read and write…German. From studying the typeset prevalent of the era, I discovered how transcription errors occurred from one printed document to another. The common typesets for German letters made “s” and “f” look similar, the same with “k” and “t”, and a few others. No wonder finding the correct spelling of a name can become a nightmare when searching through your lineage!
As a result of what I learned, I designed a full web page on Fraktur, giving a little history, examples, and a glossary so that when you are doing your research on your family line and run across that German word or two, you’ll know what it means. The page also includes two downloads for you to add to your own genealogy scrapbook — a Birth Record and a Marriage Record — shaded, but uncolored. These are .pdf files and easy to download — 8.5 x 11 inches to fit in your scrapbook.
If this subject sounds interesting to you, please visit my website at http://www.gravediggersgenealogy.com/Fraktur_Art_for_Record_Keeping.html