Saturday, November 19, 2011

Working with Foreign Languages on the Internet

In doing genealogical research, I often encounter documents or phrases in foreign languages that I would like to translate into English.
Over the years, there have been websites that perform translations for you online. In most cases these have been free, at least for single words and phrases. Some websites offered to translate longer passages for you for a fee.
Well, for me at least, the choice today is automatic: I use Google Translate for quick translations and even for translating documents. It doesn't do a perfect translation, but it brings you close enough to understand what the creator of the words or document intended.
Most of my experience has been in translating Finnish into English. Recently, I have been working with a client whose ancestors came from Poland in the early 20th century. He has been able to provide me with a limited number of documents, including a record of birth and baptism for his grandmother. This record, or certificate, really, was produced in 1952 by a clergyman from the original church records.
In this case, I needed to translate from Latin into English. I found that I was able to do a rough translation of the document from Latin into English using Google Translate.
To fine-tune the translation, I accessed the Latin Genealogical Research Word List offered free, online by FamilySearch.org. Working with this word list, I was able to understand some of the terminology that didn't translate smoothly in Google Translate. Working with these two tools, I was able to translate most--but not all--of the terms used in the document prepared back in 1952 by the parish priest.
I also needed to do a little research on the geography of the region in Poland to understand that the subject was born in the village of Dukla in southeastern Poland with a present-day population of about 2000. I learned this by looking up Dukla Poland in Wikipedia. I also found it listed in the website, JewishGen. The page on that website stated: 

“Althought the town began in Poland, it was part of Galicia (an Imperial Province of the Austrian Empire) from 1776 to 1919.”

This cleared up for me why I was seeing references to Galacia in this and other Polish-related records.
This all confirms once again that the Internet has many wonderful resources for genealogical research.

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