Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book Review: "Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents" by Roger P. Minert

This is an excellent book for anybody who is researching family who lived somewhere that was influenced by any iteration of German rule. So, basically almost all of Europe. The principles found in this book are really useful to anybody who studies archaic paleography of any kind.
Minert takes the reader through a concise history of the region, noting that his goal is not to reproduce already abundant and available resources about history, but to point out specific nuances relevant to changes in handwriting.
For the next hundred or so pages he focuses on handwriting in German, Latin, and French. Each of these languages gets a separate chapter. This part of the book is full of examples from original sources that illustrate what he describes in the text. This makes the book a quick read, as well as a handy reference
The last part of the book is reference material that is particularly useful to the family historian, including reverse alphabetical indexes. He also gives a list of helpful and relevant sources for the researcher who wants to continue learning.
I loved his description of syntactic analysis on page 50. Here is the step by step process that an advanced-beginner of German (my current status) can use to help analyze a document such as a land record.
1. Identify numbers and dates
2. Identify personal names
3. Identify place names
4. Identify verbs
5. Identify other nouns
I love that he describes the basics of this process with such clarity. It's always good to revisit basic principles. My approach isn't so linear, and in some ways my approach can derail my efforts. A systematic approach can be more effective, so I will try to implement it in my analysis of Czech land records.
Every Czech family history researcher would benefit from this book. There is a German edition in print.

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