Autobiography of Lester W. J. “Smoky” Seifert, 1940s

Lester W. J. “Smoky” Seifert (1915-1996) was a leading figure in the development of German-American linguistics. Prof. Seifert was born and raised in Dodge County, WI, and grew up speaking the Oderbrüchisch (East Low German) dialect, High German, and English. Originally intending to become a Lutheran minister, he was educated at Northwestern College in Watertown, WI, and Brown University, and eventually became a professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most of his published research was on German in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Dutch, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. In this clip Prof. Seifert interviews himself, recounting some of his family history.

Dialect: Oderbrüchisch, Wisconsin German Dialects

Location: Dodge, Wisconsin

My name is Lester Wilhelm Julius Seifert. I was born in Juneau, Dodge County, that’s here in Wisconsin, in 1915, on August 15th. My father, his name was Julius August Seifert. He was born in Hustisford, Dodge County, Wisconsin. My mother, her name was Anna Sophie Ernestine J. She was born near … between Mayville and Theresa, in the year 1878, I believe, I’m not too sure about that. And my father was born in 1872, but there also I’m not too sure. My grandparents on my father’s side, Grandfather Seifert, his name was August Seifert. He was born in Germany, but was just five years old when they came to the U.S., his parents. They settled near Hustisford, had a farm there, but when my grandfather was older, and he also had a farm, they sold the farms and moved to Juneau, and there we always had the same farm.