New: “Anna Seifert: Letters in German from a Wisconsin Farm”

Anna (Jagow) Seifert’s Letters to Her Son Lester “Smoky” Seifert: 1932–1942

The Max Kade Institute holds a collection of 164 letters and postcards written between 1932 and 1942 by Anna (nee Jagow) Seifert (1876–1958) to her son, Lester W. J. “Smoky” Seifert (1915–1996) who was a professor of Germanic linguistics at UW–Madison and a pioneer in research on German-related heritage language varieties in North America. Anna and Lester themselves were German heritage speakers in the second and third generation, respectively. Written in Kurrent (the old German script), the correspondence was transcribed by the MKI Kurrent Transcription Group. Anna Seifert wrote from the family farm near Juneau, Dodge County, Wisconsin. Her letters span a decade when Lester went to Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for a master’s degree, pursued doctoral studies at Brown University in Rhode Island, and conducted fieldwork recording the Pennsylvania Dutch language in rural southeastern Pennsylvania. At first glance, Anna’s letters would appear to be just simple notes from a mother to her son. Taken together, though, they offer unique insights into a rural German-American community during the Great Depression, the world of a woman on a small dairy farm, and the use of language(s) in this corner of southeast Wisconsin

Click HERE for sample letters with transcriptions, translations, a background information, as well as additional information on the Jagow and Seifert families, language use, the significance of the locations in the letters, and Lester Seifert’s research on German in Wisconsin.