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Gass, Goss, Fruh, deciphering a christening record from 1795, Liestal

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Re: Gass, Goss, Fruh, deciphering a christening record from 1795, Liestal

Posted: 1560353976000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1560354143000
My German is, and always has been, very rusty, but there are several typical features in this record that genealogists should know about.

The text appears to be:

Laut vor gewiesenem Schein von Tit. Herrn Diac. Päsch ist in der Kirche zu St. Theodor in Basel folgundes Kind detauffet und hierein zuschreiben verlangt worden. ("according to the authentic certificate of Tit. Herr Deacon Päsch, was baptized in the church of St. Theodore in Basel, the following child, and it was requested that it be recorded here")

Andreas (born the 28th, baptised the 30th), son of Johann Jacob Gaß von Liestal and Eleonora Katherina Prüh, sponsors Tit. Herr Johann Kerner de Lachenal, Medic. Doct. und Prof., Herr Andreas Hofmann und Ehefr. Elisabeth Merian, alle von Basel.

The interpretation of the uppercase letters is often a problem. The best way to proceed is to copy and read a few pages before and after the record you need, so that you get a large enough sample to see the variation in the writing of each letter of the alphabet. With some knowledge of the local place names and personal names, you should be able to work out the uppercase forms of almost all the letters.

These records typically use two different scripts: "German" script and "Latin" script. "Latin" script (similar to the script we use in English) is typically used for "foreign" (non-German) words, and that includes some church-related titles, family or baptismal names from France, and sometimes academic titles.

You might also notice a straight line above the word written as Johan. The extra line is an abbreviation sign left over from Latin, indicating that the letter should be doubled, in other words, Johann. The same sign can also be found sometimes in English script, even in American documents up to about 1800. Always be alert for abbreviation signs in old script!

It is traditional in Switzerland that when a baptism or marriage of a citizen of a particular town takes place in some other parish, the pastor from the place where the event was celebrated will send in information to the home parishes of the parties involved, so that the information can be recorded where the parties have their hereditary citizenship. Sometimes the home parish will add these entries in chronological sequence along with the information for events celebrated locally, but usually they will end up in a separate section, or out of chronological sequence, or even scribbled on a flyleaf or in the margins. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a baptism to be recorded in two different parishes (in this case, Basel and Liestal), or for a marriage to be recorded in three different parishs.

We might speculate that one of the sponsors was a close friend or relative of the parents of the child. The sponsors were surely not chosen at random, particularly when the even was celebrated outside of the home parish -- that would involve planning, travel, and additional expense for the parents.

Ehefrau means a legal wife. Pay attention to the distinction of upper- and lower-case letters in German. Nouns should always begin with an uppercase letter -- and that's why we really have to pay attention to the script! The lowercase "u" is frequently marked with a "breve" to distinguish it from "n", which otherwise usually looks exactly alike. Tit. is an honorific abbreviation for something like the English word "titular". You have probably heard that Germans use formal titles, we have here a typical example, Herr Doctor Professor Johann Kerner.

When you happen to find an entry such as this one, indicating that it had been recorded in another parish, you should try to locate that record as well. There might be additional details, or the script might be clearer (or at least different).

John McCoy

(And yes, it could be Früh instead of Prüh as I first thought.)
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Jonah Barnes 1560346692000 
RealMac 1560353976000 
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