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Pennsylvania Dutch Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.     What is Fraktur?

A.      From the German Research Companion by Shirley J. Riemer:


"The decorated manuscripts made primarily by the Pennsylvania Germans are called fraktur. Most of them are birth and baptism certificates (Geburts und Taufschein) produced from about 1760 to the early years of the twentieth century, almost always in German. By around 1900, fraktur are frequently found written in English.

From about 1760 to 1818, freehand fraktur were created by schoolmasters. Later fraktur, from about 1810 to 1900, were preprinted and filled out by persons highly skilled in producing decorative handwriting.

The areas in which Fraktur were common are the present states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, the Carolinas, and Ontario, Canada. Their heaviest concentration was in southeast Pennsylvania. They were most popular among Lutheran and Reformed families because the majority of them were baptism certificates, representing an important sacrament among followers of these faiths.

The word Fraktur (pornounced FROCK-tur), short for Frakturschriften (broken writing) derives from a Latin word meaning 'fractured,' or 'broken,' for as the letters are formed, instead of writing cursively, without lifting the pen, the writer lifts the pen, which is thus 'broken' from the page."

"Frakturs are highly prized for their beauty and historical value. The data they preserve have been found to be highly reliable."

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