10 May 2015

When Is It a Diacritic and When Is It Shorthand?

It never dawned on me to think of it as a tilde. That's probably because I knew what it meant and seeing no wiggle in the mark above the "n" told me there was no wiggle room in how that line should be interpreted. 

The pastor who made out the 1887 christening entry in the Christ Lutheran Church in Gothenburg, Nebraska, used shorthand when writing her first name. The line above the "n" in her first name indicates that the letter is actually to be written twice. The pastor used the convention elsewhere as well. The pastor used the same notation on her father's name in the same entry to avoid repeating the letter "m." The name was Tamme Tammen, not Tame Tamen.

It is interesting to see how these names were transcribed in the at "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" Ancestry.com.

There is the same notation in the name of the christening entry 100--Oltmann Ulfers. The Ancestry.com transcription does not indicate any tilde over the final "n" in Oltman's name, while there is one in Anna's. My suspicion is that this is likely because tildes are not often used at the end of any word. The tildes are not used in the transcription of Tamme Tammen's name. This may be because tildes are not usually used with the letter "m."

The interpretation of the line above the letter is inconsistent and it's pretty clear that the same symbol is being used in "Oltmann," "Anna," and "Tamme Tammen."

The diacritic did get transcribed over the letter "a" in Catharina. [Turns out this is not a diacritic. See our followup post.] 

Learning various writing conventions and shorthand takes time. Understanding these conventions also requires some knowledge of local names so that these conventions can be interpreted correctly. I can't overemphasize the importance of becoming familiar with the records being used and manually searching those records--even when indexes are available.

Have you thought about dropping the second double letter in a name when querying a database? Did the creator of the record you are using an index for use a notation that a transcriber handled incorrectly? These sorts of issues are not only encountered with church records written in the German script.

Note: Screen shorts of Ancestry.com screens are current as of the date this post is published.