German Phonetic Filing Order
Because of the many variations in German name spellings, German indexes are sometimes arranged using a phonetic filing order, rather than following strict alphabetic order. This filing system is sometimes referred to an Adreßbuch (adress book) arrangement. The intent of this filing system is to bring together variant spellings of the same surname.
An example of this filing system is used in the collection Die Ahnenstammkartei des deutschen Volkes (Ancestor Lineage Card-File of the German People). The filing system used in this card file is similar to other German phonetic surname card-file indexes. In his book Die Ahnenstammkartei des Deutschen Volkes : an introduction and register1, Thomas K. Edlund provides an explanation of the filing system used in Die Ahnenstammkartei. The following is excerpted from that book's preface:
"This filing system attempts to collate variant spellings derived from a "root" name, e.g. Schulze, Schultz, Schultze, Scholz and Scholze all file as Schulz. Once a root form has been established for filing puposes, any name with the same sound values will be interfiled with it, even names which are not usually associated with each other. For example, Boch equals Pöge, and Feder equates to Vetter."
"The rules for converting a name to a phonetic equivalent are:
- When choosing between several forms of a name, select the the clearest or shortest, e.g. Henig for Hennicke and Hennig.
- Silent letters and diacritical marks are eliminated, e.g. Hahn becomes Han, Biene becomes Bin.
- Double letters are counted as a single, e.g. Haan becomes Han, Habbel becomes Habel.
- Silent final -e is ignored; -en, both within and at the end of a word, is eliminated. Bruchenhausen thus becomes Bruchaus.
- The suffix -sen and the genitive -s are dropped. f) The letter e replaces ae and ä. g) Eu replaces aeu and äu.
- Ei replaces ai and ay.
- Low German oe becomes u.
- Eu replaces oi
- High German oe and ö becomes o.
- U replaces ue and ü.
- I replaces y.
- B replaces p.
- C replaces ck, k, g, gh, gk, k, ch, and cz (not initial).
- X replaces cs, chs, gs and ks.
- D replaces dt and t.
- Z replaces ds, ts, dz and tz.
- F replaces bf and pf.
- H is used only when pronounced (see b above).
- I replaces j.
- F replaces ph.
- Sch replaces dsch, tsch, dzsch and tzsch.
- Schm replaces the sm of Low German.
- The Low German sl becomes scl.
- F replaces v and w.
"These rules are valid only for High German names. Low German names should be left in their dialectical form, e.g. Voss cannot become Fuchs, nor Piper Pfeifer. For a complete explanation of foreign and Low German names, see the Vorwort (preface) [to Die Ahnenstammkartei des deutschen Volkes] on [FHL] film number 1799712, item 3."
The following table summarizing these rules is also from Edlund's book:
| ä filed as a
|| filed as|
| äu, aeu
| ai, ay
| ch, ck, cz
| cs, chs
| dsch, dzsch
| ö, oe
| oe (Low German)
| pf, ph
| sl (Low German)
| sm (Low German)
| ts, tz
| tzsch, tsch
This table applies to Die Ahnenstammkartei. Other card-file indexes may have varations in the filing rules, but the principle is the same. When you are working with a card-file or other index that follows a phonetic filing order such as this, be sure to look for information about the filing system being used, such as in an in introduction or appendix. If there is no explanation available for a specific index, the above rules may serve as a guide. It may also help to study the index and look for patterns. As usual in searching for surnames, if you are unscuccesful, try thinking of other possible variants.
1 Edlund, Thomas Kent. Die Ahnenstammkartei des Deutschen Volkes : an introduction and register. (St. Paul, Minnesota : Germanic Genealogy Society, c1995 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)