German Genealogy Tip #17: Old German Documents Were Written in Sütterlin Script

October 17, 2014 Josiah Schmidt German Genealogy Tips

If you’ve ever looked at old documents from Germany, you’ll know that many of them look as though they were written in some completely foreign alphabet. Even if you speak modern German, you might not recognize any of the words. This is because old German documents were often written in a handwriting called Sütterlin script. While it takes some practice, German speakers can learn to read Sütterlinschrift (Sütterlin script) and decipher genealogical documents from the early 20th century and prior.

Below is a chart of Sütterlin characters and their modern counterparts (click the chart to enlarge):

Suetterlin Script

Suetterlin Script Chart
(Click to enlarge)
Image is in the public domain. Hosted on Wikimedia Commons.

3 Responses to “German Genealogy Tip #17: Old German Documents Were Written in Sütterlin Script”

  • franz says:

    Just a few more details to add to this:
    The Sütterlin-script was only used starting in the 1920s in Prussia. It was introduced to most of Germany in 1935 and banned in 1941. So if you have a letter written in Sütterlin, you can narrow down when the writer went to school.
    Very often, the name Sütterlin is wrongly used when the script is actually the “old German script”, aka “Kurrent”. This had been in use since about the 16th century. See the examples on wikipedia to make out the differences. Kurrent is usually more slanted and narrower, and the ascenders and descenders are longer in comparison to the x-height (2-1-2 vs 1-1-1).

  • Gerlinde Braunberger says:

    Franz and Josiah,
    You guys are awesome. Just recently I was trying to help someone decipher a letter in Kurrent, and decided to see what type of information is out on the Web. And there you were.
    I just wanted to add one more thing. I am from Austria and to my knowledge Austria (and Bavaria ??), taught Kurrent much longer. I had to write and read Kurrent until 1955 in Austria. A couple of years later we immigrated to the USA. At that time my Oma presented me with a Fairytale Book printed in Kurrent. A book that I still treasure to this day!


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