I have a postcard from the family of my 3-times-great grandmother written in old German that was sent to some of their family that came to America.

postcard front: photograph of the family postcard back: handwritten text in question

The picture was taken in Hechingen, Germany. My 3-times-great grandmother is the seated woman wearing white. Her name is Elizabeth (or Elisabeth) Fritz. Four of her children came to America:

  1. Gustavus (son),
  2. Cresintia (or Crescentia) (daughter),
  3. Joseph (son), and
  4. Henry (son).

A retired professor of German from the University of Illinois once tried to translate the text. Here is what he was able to determine:

translation attempt of some of the words on the backside of the postcard

As one might guess, the text seems to be describing the picture on the reverse side. In particular, the text says that this is their house and then seems to name each person in the image.

Question: What is a complete translation of the text?


I just obtained a better scan of the text. Maybe this could help the transliteration.

enter image description here

  • You may ask for a transliteration first. Jul 14, 2014 at 14:17
  • @PatrickSebastien I considered that, but I thought that a transliteration alone would be more difficult to obtain than a translation (which would implicitly include a transliteration) since the translation could help inform the transliteration. Jul 14, 2014 at 14:35
  • Good point. I am giving this one a go. It is hard! Jul 14, 2014 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


My trial for the transliteration: In []-brackets I give characters I cannot determine with certainty or that are not present in the original text but are required for the sake of grammar and punctuation. My best guesses are written without the ?-sign, forms and words where I am very unsure are denoted with a ?-sign.

Das ist unser Haus[.] das [?Ober...t/Aber...t] war zu klein[,] deshalb fehl.[=fehlt] der Tachstuhl. Zur rechte[n/r] Seite stehe ich bei Mutter[,] link[en] Maximil[?ian] [?der] Johanna Ihre Kinder u.[=und] Viktor. Zum Fenster[?saum] l. [=?links] [?Ros...] [?nur/um] Steph[a/e]n [?(N/St)(a/e)(z/y)] sein[e] zweit[e] Frau.

The translation:

That is our house. The [?] was too small; that is why the truss is missing. On the right side I am standing with Mother, on the left Maximil[?ian], Johanna [their, her] children and Viktor. At the window [?edge] l. [=?on the left] [?Ros...] [?only] Steph[a/e]n [?] his second wife.

Some remarks:

  • The script is the Deutsche Kurrentschrift.
  • "Tachstuhl" is an Upper German (Oberdeutsch) variant of "Dachstuhl" meaning "roof truss/framework".
  • Being from the Upper German dialect area, the text probably uses the genitive-less possessive variant with "dem sein": "der Johanna Ihre Kinder", "dem Stephan seine Frau".
  • I would love to see a legend for the various usages of [] you have in this. It's a little difficult to read through, even as german native. Either way, nice deciphering ;)
    – Vogel612
    Jul 14, 2014 at 18:54
  • 7
    "des/der Aberat" may be a misspelling of der Apparat, meaning the camera the photo was taken with. Further down it is zum Fenster hin.
    – Takkat
    Jul 14, 2014 at 21:42
  • 1
    Indeed, it is quite imaginable that Aberat is a misspelled Apparat. But I don't think that the word after Fenster is hin, because there is a "u"-hook above and no "i"-dot.
    – Chris
    Jul 14, 2014 at 21:52
  • 1
    RE: "der Apparat war zu klein" (i.e. "the apparatus was too small"): These seem to be the words of a 18th century woman who ostensibly lives in a farmhouse (see the large barn door to the right) who wants to say that the roof of the house is not in the image because the camera could not fit it all in.
    – ssc
    Jul 17, 2014 at 15:46
  • 1
    Let me suggest the following translation: This is our house. The aperture was too small, that's why the truss is missing. On the right it is me standing next to mother. To the left Maximil, Johanna with her children and Viktor. To the left window is Roße, Stephan's second wife. - you may get the names better if you had access to other documents from your family.
    – Takkat
    Jul 18, 2014 at 6:32

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