Saturday, November 5, 2011

Can you translate?

Inscriptions on older gravestones can be a challenge to read, especially when they are written in a foreign language.

Think of playing Wheel of Fortune in a language you do not read. Not easy to fill in those illegible blanks, is it? Then throw in the possibility of misspelled words.

The gravestone for a son of Samuel Albrecht is one such challenge, especially with its irregular lettering in all caps.

Except for a few bits and pieces, this inscription has me (and Google Translate) stumped.

ein sohn von Samuel Albrecht—a son of Samuel Albrecht
geborhren den 7 tag—born the 7 day
sie eltern—her (his?) parents
frei von sin—free from sin

At, a photo of this marker is posted on the memorial page for Samuel Albrecht. My mini-translation suggests this marker is for his son, who does not seem to be named on the gravestone. Or is he?

Can you translate?

Old Saint Peters Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio


  1. Agreed, Dorene! I love that there is edge-to-edge inscription. Someone had plenty to say!

  2. Hello.

    The inscription isn't in standard German, but rather in a dialect. Misspellings or older usages seem also to be at play. For example, Ech would be Ich today, Eune would be Juni, gebohren would be geboren, Velt would be Welt, etc.

    The first couple of sentences, if rendered in standard German, should read more like:

    Ein sohn von Samuel Albrecht geboren den 7 tag Juni 18(78?).
    Ich beweinen diese welt und der verlust sein eltern.

    This would translate roughly to:
    A son born to Samuel Albrecht the 7th day of June 18(78?).
    I weep for this world and the loss of his parents.

    I couldn't make out some of the words on the last line, and some of the others, like rentet and wensshe (if that's what it says) stumped me. Rentet should be a verb, with a modern spelling something like renden, but I found nothing to match.

    Kemfet would appear to be an older form of kampfen, to struggle of fight, and streite would mean a fight, so coupled with bes ehr (eher?) frei von sin (better more free from sin), I get a sense that the final lines may mean something like "It's better he yielded the fight while he was still free from sin."

    In other words, this boy died the day he was born. He was never named.


  3. Steve--Thank you so much for taking the time to help with this stone. I love your reading of the final lines, "It's better he yielded..." Such heartfelt sentiments on this rather crudely cut stone!

  4. You are welcome. I enjoyed the puzzle. You have a nice site, too.


  5. I'm fascinated to see a gravestone like this one in Ohio!

    I would strongly suspect that the carver of this stone, as well as the community with which he was associated, had their origins in North Carolina. The stone resembles many photographs I have seen of stones from the Pennsylvania German settlements along the Yadkin River, in NC.

    The spelling on this (and on MANY of the stones in NC) is indeed non-standard, although in this case I do believe the carver was making an attempt at standard German.

    My translation goes like this:
    A son of Samuel Albrecht
    born the 7th day of June 18[??].
    I shed tears over this world
    and left it behind.
    Parents and friends: run, fight,
    lead and struggle, until you
    are free from sin.

    I could possibly go on, but cannot make out all of the characters in the last line.

    The inscriptions on some similar stones in North Carolina continue on to the back side. Is there any chance that is also the case here?

    One last note, typically a name like 'Albrecht' eventually wound up being rendered 'Albright'. I wonder whether there might also be Albrights in this cemetery.


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