The word fraktur usually refers to a type of German script. In Pennsylvania, fraktur also refers to a type of folk art produced between 1740 and 1850 by German immigrants. It marked life events such as taufschein (birth and baptism), marriage, and graduation from school. Fraktur is also seen in vorshrifts (writing examples), haus segens (house blessings), bucherzeichen (book plates).
Families would have a local artist create a fraktur for them. The papers contain a variety of religious symbols, animals, flowers, and symmetric designs. The most common religious faiths of the German people to make fraktur were the Mennonites, Amish, Lutheran, and Reformed faiths.
How Fraktur Can Help in Genealogy
Fraktur provides evidence of family relationships which genealogists are always searching for, particularly in early Pennsylvania. It was used by Revolutionary War soldiers and War of 1812 soldiers as proof of their wives and children, and so was found in pension applications submitted to the federal government.
As a practice of people of German ethnicity, fraktur seems to be limited to just those people. No example of fraktur has been linked to those of other ethnic groups in Pennsylvania.
Where to Find Fraktur
Fraktur is considered a highly collectable art, and as such can be found in museums and personal collections all over the United States. Fortunately many museums have made full-color digital images of their fraktur collections and those images are viewable online.
The fraktur found in Revolutionary War Pension Applications has been digitized by the National Archives and is available in the nara.gov catalog. One personal collection that has been digitized is the one at Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
Wherever it is found, it is a great source of evidence for genealogy researchers in Pennsylvania.
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