Book Review: In Their Words, A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

In Their Words, A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents
Volume IV : German
By William F. Hoffman and Jonathan D. Shea. Published by Language and Lineage Press, Houston, TX. 2017. 655 pages.

This volume examines German documents, including documents created in places not now considered Germany, such as Poland and Austria, and other regions formerly ruled by Germany.

Previous books in this series are: In Their Words…Volume I: Polish; In Their Words…Volume II: Russian; and In Their Words…Volume III: Latin.

As any German researcher knows, “German” has a broad meaning. My own German research involves Prussia, now Poland. And this reference has been a terrific help to me.

The records I’m studying to translate and interpret are in the Fraktur typeface, and the Kurrentscript handwriting. I found an example in the book that is identical to a document I’m translating, and the authors translated the example word for word, which was a great breakthrough for me and my translation skills. There was text discussion of the document, its characteristics, its idiosyncrasies, and general good information offering context and understanding, all information that advanced my comprehension of it all and the ability to work more quickly.

First chapters offer instruction of the German alphabet and grammar. A most valuable key is the table of alphabet letters printed in Fraktur, such as the Kk of Das deutsche Alphabet, alongside the Fraktur cursive forms (called Kurrentscript, the old Gothic handwriting style: called Kurrentscrpt, the old Gothic handwriting style), * alongside the Roman letters, the text you’re reading here.

Following chapters cover finding records in America that lead back to Europe (such as church records, obituaries), German documents created in North America (such as birth and baptismal records), and chapters on German documents originating in Europe.

The latter portion of the book has an index of nearly 250 pages of vocabulary: words, phrases, and definitions first printed in Fraktur, then in Kurrentscript, then in Roman. One example:

Geburt Geburt – (♀, PL Geburten) birth; von hoher Geburt or von adliger Geburt – of noble birth; Tag der Geburt – day of birth; bei unehelichen Geburten – with illegitimate births

The great value of this reference is the abundance of actual document examples, with complete translations. Plus maps, plus German language explanations, plus historical context…this is just an absolutely indispensable reference for the German researcher.

*I simply must put in a good word about the inimitable Steve Morse’s web site: where one can type in a word and a field generates the word in Kurrentscript. The reproduced word is about as inscrutable as the one you see in your document, but after awhile, you get the hang of it…. I found Morse’s word-generator site to be very worthwhile.

In Their Words, A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents, Volume IV : German is available from Language and Lineage Press at as well as from Amazon at


I have the German and Latin books and love them.


I thank God that I took Latin in school!!! It was so very helpful as I read birth/baptismal documents from a German churche, & a Lithuanian church.
Thanks for letting me know about these books. I shall look into them.


Whew!!! from Amazon this book costs over $100 for a soft cover. Too pricey for me for a how to book.


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