Thursday, January 29, 2015


I haven’t posted about my progress at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS) in quite some time so here we go.

I have completed all four of the basic German courses and two of the intermediate ones.  I am halfway through another intermediate course and then I have two more to go.  After that I will have the four advanced courses to do and then I will be finished.  I am also very happily blogging away on the NIGS Blog

Here is a list of the available German courses.  I can’t link directly to them since they have some sort of weird Java Script address but you can go to the main NIGS page and then go to Courses > Courses > German Records Certificate. You can then select the courses one at a time and read their descriptions.


  • Church Records
  • Introduction to German Research for North Americans
  • Locating Places in Germany
  • The Language


  • Chronological Considerations
  • Civil Registration Records
  • Emigration Records
  • Reading the Records
  • Record Repositories


  • Germans Outside of Germany
  • Naming Practices
  • Nobility Research
  • Published Sources

So how am I liking the courses?  I like them very much mostly because the accompanying texts are so good.  My favorite course so far has been Reading the Records. The first half is learning how to write in the old German script.  If you can write it, you can read it.  The second half is all about looking at real records and transcribing them.  It is wonderful practice. This particular course has a required supplemental book which I highly recommend if you are doing any German records research. 

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents.  2nd Ed. Provo, UT: GRT Publications, 2013.

I have been doing quite a bit of work on my German side lately thanks to a genealogist friend of mine that lives in Germany.  She has been finding oodles of documents and it is very exciting.  Also, Das Historische Archiv Köln (Historic Köln Archives) has some of their civil registrations (birth, marriage and death) online and they are adding more.  This has been a goldmine for me because my family was in Köln for many generations.  I am getting a lot of real life experience so that I can put what I have learned to use.

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I never thought to learn to write the old script. Sometimes find myself tracing a letter with my finger or tracing it in the air when I'm trying to figure out the letter since it depends a lot on the writer and what letters come before and after. I'll be spending most of this year working with documents in Luxembourg so by the end of the year I should be fluent in deciphering.

    1. On the NIGS blog post that I did I mentioned that I write my grocery list in the old script. It is in English but using the German script. It is great practice :)

    2. Good idea. I have several of the kids' blank notebooks that I could use to practice in. Would look really cool too since they are not the lined notebooks like they use in the US but squared.

    3. Its super fun because no one else can read your notes!