A Translator’s Guide to Online Translation Tools: What to Use and What Not to Use for Your Genealogy Documents

Deciphering German records if you can’t speak the language can be a challenge, to say the least. While I am always here if you’d like the help of a professional, sometimes it’s nice to have quick and easy online resources you can turn to in a pinch. Below, find four popular online translation resources, and my thoughts on each:

1. Google Translate

Google Translate is perhaps the most well-known online translation tool. While Google Translate can work well for individual words (such as Bruder for brother) or very short phrases, you do need to be cautious when using it for anything else. In Six Reasons Why a Human is Better Than Google Translate for Genealogy Documents, I outline the shortcomings of this tool for genealogy. For the purposes of this article, however, the two most important factors working against this tool are:

  • Genealogy documents contain many old-fashioned words and idioms that this machine translation doesn’t recognize.
  • Google Translate can’t always tell the meaning of the word for the context that pertains to your specific document. 

Take the English word “run”. “Run” can mean jog quickly (She runs in the park), manage (She runs a business), a tear (a run in your stockings), and so on. How is Google to know exactly what definition your document requires?

That being said, Google Translate is continuing to improve, so feel free to use this tool – just try to stick to individual words or phrases to give the site less room for error. And if you can, verify the definition provided with a second source.

In the example above, I was trying to figure out what the Latin phrase “natus et renatus est” meant in my German document. Google, for some reason, came up with “buttocks and revival”. Not sure where that came from – the phrase means “born and baptized”. So always take Google’s translations with a grain of salt!

2. Deepl 

Deepl.com is a relatively new translation tool, and I like it better than Google Translate. While it does have similar shortcomings to Google Translate in terms of genealogy documents, I find it to be more accurate overall.  It’s actually helpful to use both together – copy and paste your phrase into Google Translate, and then copy and paste it into Deepl. Does one give you a better translation than the other?

If you are dealing with idioms, Deepl is definitely better than Google Translate. While Google Translate still tends to translate idioms word for word, providing you with a literal translation (cats and dogs are actually falling out of the sky, instead of it’s raining hard), Deepl will often provide you with the actual meaning of the idiomatic phrase.  

Below, I typed the German idiom “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof” (I don’t understand anything at all) into both tools. Google translated the phrase literally, giving you the result “I only understand train station.” This would make no sense to you as an English speaker, and could completely change what you think your ancestor’s document means. Deepl, however, recognized that the phrase was an idiom, translating it as “It’s as clear as mud” and providing you with an alternative below that “It’s all Greek to me.” One point for Deepl!

 

 

 

 

3. Linguee.com

If you have a word or short phrase and want to be more certain of an accurate translation, then Linguee is the site for you. This tool shows you your German word or phrase translated into English by actual translators instead of machines. Upon clicking search, the site provides you with the word’s definition, as well as various sample sentences that include your word/phrase in a specific context (in both German and English). Scroll through the examples, and find which definition of the word best matches the context of your document. 

Usually, the translation that occurs the most on the right side is the accurate translation, but make sure that it makes sense within the context of your own document. 

4. Word Reference 

Word Reference is a great online dictionary that often provides sentence examples for the word in question. Again, this helps you to understand if your word is being translated correctly in context. Notice how it provides various meanings and examples for the word “married” below. 

In conclusion, we are lucky we live in an age where there are so many translation tools available on the Internet. However, it’s important to understand how each tool works, as this will allow you to make sure you are translating your German words as accurately as possible. 

Finally, if you’d like a bit of a boost with the German language, see German Language Insight for Genealogists. And if you do choose to go with a translator, see 5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Genealogy Translation.

Happy translating!

The Top German Words to Find Your Ancestor’s Hometown

Discovering ancestral towns is a thrilling part of any genealogist’s research. But if you don’t speak the language, how are you supposed to know if a word is the name of a town or simply another foreign term? In the table below, find all the town-related words you’ll need to know when working with your ancestors’ German records – as well as what these words may look like in the old German handwriting! 

The table starts out with prepositions that may come before the name of a town (all with slight variations in meaning, but which all can be translated with “from” if appearing before a town), followed by many words meaning “here” (many of which are old-fashioned), and concluding with some general town vocabulary that’s important for any German genealogist’s knowledge base. For more information on discovering your ancestor’s hometown, see 5 Tips for Deciphering Town Names on German Records. Best of luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Reasons You Should Be Using Newspapers.com For Your Genealogy Research

Eight Reasons You Should Be Using

Newspapers.com For Your Genealogy Research

Please Note: This post contains some  affiliate links, which does not affect you at all, but does help support my business as I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. This in turn helps me to continue providing you with educational genealogy content and freebies for your genealogy research. Thank you for supporting SK Translations, and happy hunting!

My mom is one of ten children. Yes, you read that right. Ten children – seven girls and three boys. And the even crazier thing is that my mom’s grandmother, Florence Wolken, was also one of ten children – seven girls and three boys. 

And it was this family – all the (hundreds of!) descendants of my great-grandmother Florence Wolken and her nine siblings – who gathered together for a family reunion this past October. While I know a lot about my Mueller family history (Florence married a man named Frederick Mueller), I did not know anything about the Wolken family themselves. So the genealogist inside me was very excited to learn all the names, dates, and towns these new family members had to offer.

The day after the reunion, armed with this new information, I set off to do a bit of googling. As I typed in my ancestors’ names, one site kept coming up in the results – Newspapers.com. I had of course heard of the site before, but had never used it. Extremely curious based on those little newspaper blurbs I kept seeing, I quickly signed up and was amazed at what I found. 

So what can you find using Newspapers.com in your search for your ancestors? So much. With over 15,600 digitized newspapers from the 1700s to the 2000s, there is an incredible amount of information to discover: 

1. birth, marriage, and death dates related to your ancestor

In the past, our ancestors would often send announcements of major life events into newspapers – much like we still do with obituaries today. That means that there is a wealth of information on important dates in your ancestor’s life just waiting to be found.

Once I signed up for Newspapers.com, I typed one of my ancestor’s names – Frank Wolken, Florence’s father – into the search box, and was amazed at all the life events that showed up. One such event was his 1897 marriage to his wife Helen, shown below. I had known that his wife’s name was Helen, but didn’t know her maiden name – making this article one of my first great finds!

The above February 24, 1897 article tells us the date of Frank’s marriage to Helen Klodt. It also provides us with a number of names, a church location that would help us with further research, and more! 

The obituaries available on the site are also interesting. In this December 9, 1918 issue of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, I can see that my ancestor Frank Wolken died of influenza – which no one in my family today actually knew. It also provides the fascinating information that many of the rest of the family members had influenza as well. This gave me more of a sense of what the family was going through at the time, as well as a personal connection to the 1918 flu epidemic, which I never knew I had!

Notice how Frank’s name is spelled incorrectly in the title – it is definitely worth searching a few variations of your ancestor’s name to see if different articles appear.

2. your ancestor’s actual address

How amazing to be able to find the actual house where your ancestor lived! In the wedding announcement under Point #1, Frank and Helen’s address was also listed, making it even more of a great find. Using Newspapers.com, I also found an address for Florence Wolken (Frank and Helen’s future daughter, my great-grandmother) and Fred Mueller (my great-grandfather) in the below notice of their marriage license from October 17, 1928. 

I think a visit to their old house might be in order!

3. Your Ancestor’s siblings’ names

All good genealogists know the important of the FAN(S) Club – researching your ancestor’s friends, associates, neighbors, and of course, siblings, to see if you can go further back in time via one of those routes. With Newspapers.com, you may find these siblings’ names listed in obituaries, wedding announcements, social notices, and more. 

This December 9, 1918 obituary for my ancestor Frank Wolken provided me with the names of all of my ancestor’s – Florence Wolken’s – siblings – as well as her mother’s maiden name. It also lists the address where the family lived, and where my ancestor is buried – another great newspaper find!

4. Your ancestor’s burial plot location

As you can see above, the 1918 obituary also gives us the cemetery where Frank Wolken was buried. The below 1968 obituary for Helen Klodt, Frank’s wife, does as well:

This obituary also gives us many of the Wolken children’s married names – allowing me to take another new step in my research and look for present-day family members and cousins! This also explained a lot of those names in my Ancestry DNA matches – names I saw under relations but didn’t know who they were or why we were related. 

5. The names of the previous generation

Many newspaper articles will list a woman’s maiden name, which allows you to go back one more generation than you had before. In the below March 21, 1950 obituary for Florence Wolken Mueller’s grandmother Anna, Anna’s maiden name is listed – allowing me to start researching an entirely new family line!

6. your ancestor’s school information

Some newspaper articles may also list where your ancestor went to school, which allows you to then contact the school and ask for records. In the below August 12, 1937 engagement announcement, we find out the school history of Virginia Wolken, Florence’s sister. 

7. fascinating stories related to your ancestor 

We can of course use FamilySearch and Ancestry to find wonderful records and facts about our ancestors, but Newspapers.com allows us to fill in the fascinating details of their lives – various events that allow us to see the life in between the year they were born and the year they died. 

In the above December 1918 article, we learn that Frank Wolken Jr.’s car (or machine!) was stolen when he was in downtown St. Louis filing his father’s will. Between the obituary we found and this, we learn that this must have been a very hard month for the Wolken family – first, they all get influenza, then their father dies, and then their car is stolen. This gives us a lot more context than simply a death date on a record!

But it wasn’t all sad. The below 1922 article tells me that my great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother took a trip to Yellowstone in July of that year. I always thought that my family stayed put in St. Louis, so that was interesting for me to see as well. 

Finally, in this 1896 article, I learned that Frank Wolken’s father, Gerhard Wolken, had to deal with neighbors complaining about his dairy business. It has long been in our family’s oral history that the Wolkens owned a major dairy company in St. Louis, so this was fascinating for me to see proof of (not that I didn’t believe my family, of course, but it’s nice to see documentation).

8. Chuckle at the old-fashioned ads and stories. 

In addition to looking at your own ancestors’ stories, it’s also extremely amusing (and addicting!) to scroll through the old newspapers themselves and see what else was going on or deemed worthy of reporting in those years. See a few of my favorite examples below:

No photo description available.1921 Article

1896 Fashion

Advertising arsenic for women’s faces!

So there you have it! Eight wonderful reasons to sign up for Newspapers.com. It is my new favorite way to research my ancestors – and have a lot of fun along the way (to be honest, I often find myself getting side-tracked and looking up article after article when I should be working – just ask my family about all the stories they’ve been receiving via text)! 

A small portion of the Wolken descendants at the October family reunion! Can you find me hidden on the left, third row from the back, next to the lady in the orange vest?

How to Use Social Media in Your German Genealogy Research (Guest Post by Lianne Kruger)

This article shares ways to use different platforms of social media for your genealogical research in Germany. As social media and websites change constantly, I have included the steps you will need to find new items. We will discuss Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. 

The advantages of using social media for genealogical research in Germany include:

  • Being able to talk to people who live in the area
  • Being able to access current information
  • It’s free!

Tree, Structure, Networks, Internet, Network, Social

1. Facebook

It would be nice if we could be members of all the genealogical societies where our families lived. Most of us, however, can not afford that.

Enter Facebook – the next best thing.  These groups are available through the popular social media platform, which includes many pages which can help you in your German genealogy.

To find these groups:

  1. Click inside the search bar at the top left side of the Facebook page.

 

 

2. Type in German Genealogy.

A list of Facebook pages then appears, which includes three different categories:

  1. Lists of relevant groups
  2. Articles that mention your search items
  3. Facebook posts by those you are friends with who mentioned your search items

Groups

Below are a couple of descriptions of German genealogy groups:

German Genealogy Group

“Join us and discover that family research is the most interesting and rewarding hobby that will enable you to discover your past and preserve your heritage for future generations. Be a part of the fastest growing hobby today!”

International German Genealogy Partnership

“The International German Genealogy Partnership’s mission is to facilitate German genealogy research globally as the internationally recognized federation of German genealogy organizations. Lists session on German genealogy”

Click on the + Join button to become part of a group, receive notifications of posts made in the group, and have the ability to add posts yourself. You will also be able to talk to others trying to research their family.

Many groups will ask you to answer two or three questions before they allow you to join their group. They want to make sure that you are actually interested in their topic. Do not be offended. This helps to keep the posts centered on the topic.

Articles

These Facebook articles link to a blog post for each group or person.

Click on an article not just to read the article, but to get to know the blog itself.

Follow the blog if you like the article(s) so you will get an email when new articles are posted.

Pages

This last search list shows Facebook pages that are open to everyone that you can like. Once you click like, their posts will appear on your newsfeed stream.

Add comments and ask questions to posts in groups or to the regular pages. Get to know these people. Help others and get help from throughout the entire world.

Searching Locations

You can also search for the town your family is from in the Facebook search bar. Not only will genealogy groups appear, but history groups and chamber of commerce type pages will show up as well. Like these pages. They will help you with the family history part of your research. You might even find cousins who still live in your ancestral hometown!

 

2. Twitter

Twitter allows you to chat with others all over the world. Follow fellow genealogists and those specifically researching or who know about the topics or areas of the world you want to research. Read the tweets. Many tweets will have links to their blogs with posts on the subject, such as German genealogy. The following list appeared today when I searched German genealogy.

If I wasn’t following these people already, then the “Following” button would say “Follow”. Click on the Follow button to have their tweets appear on your feed. Ask questions and make comments to engage with others in the genealogy field.

@GenChatDE

This genealogy chat meets together on Twitter for an hour on the second Wednesday of each month. Questions are asked on a specific German genealogy topics. Other questions can also be asked, and answers are given by anyone who wants to answer. You may contribute or ask questions on the topic or related items. Their twitter page is https://twitter.com/GenchatDe

To connect and see past tweets, search for the hashtag #GenChatDE.

Get to know people on Twitter from the areas of your ancestors. They could be a relative!

 

3. Pinterest

Pinterest is a platform where anyone can create “pins” related to any topic. Imagine it like a giant bulletin board where you save your favorite items. Effective pins have a link to a website or blog post where more information can be obtained.

To find pins on a specific topic, type the subject, such as German Genealogy, in the Pinterest search bar.

A list of pins appears. A different list appears if you type in German Genealogical Research and another list if you type in German Genealogy Research – so try out different searches and see what works best for you. If you are looking for maps of Germany, add that phrase to the search. If you want a specific city, add it to the search. 

 

Save

If there is a pin you like:

  1. Move your mouse over the pin
  2. Click on the Save
  3. Select a board to save it to.

This pin is now filed for you for later reference.

Go directly to website

  1. Move your mouse over a pin.
  2. Click on the black bar with the name of the person who posted the pin.

               This opens the link in a new browser tab.

Pin

Click on the pin to open it. The following appears with the pin on the left and more information on the right. You can hit the Save from here if you would like.

Follow

The person who posted this pin was Legacy Tree Genealogists. There is a Follow bottom to the right of their name. If you click the follow button here, you will follow all of their posts from all of their boards – just make sure you check out their boards and like what they post before you follow.

To view all of their boards, click on their name instead of the Follow button. All of their boards will then appear, as shown below. Review their boards. If you like what you see, then click Follow at the top. If there are some boards you do not want to follow, the simply click Follow beside the boards that you like, and you will only follow those.  

 

4. YouTube

YouTube has videos on “how to’s” for everything and can be a great resource for genealogy. And not just for Germany – for all aspects of genealogical research.

At the top of the screen is a search bar.

In the search bar type in German Genealogical Research or German Genealogy Research.

Videos that meet that criteria will appear. Below is the list that I saw today. However, with more videos uploaded daily, this list will constantly change. 

 

Watch later

After searching for a topic, a list of videos will then appear. If these look like videos you would like to watch, and you want to make sure you don’t lose them, then mark them as Watch Later by taking the following steps:

  1. Move your mouse over the video.

A clock will appear in the top right corner.

  1. Click on the clock.

The clock changes to a checkmark.

The video is now on your Watch Later list.

The watch list appears on the left menu of your YouTube page, as shown below.

#Hashtags

Check the bottom of videos that have content you like. Some videos have hashtags. If the hashtag matches a subject you find interesting, click on it. A list of videos with the same hashtag will appear (if there are any, otherwise it will just lists random videos).

Use these social media strategies to supplement your genealogy research, and you will be amazed at the doors opened for you. Do you have any more strategies? Let us know in the comments!

LKruger Genealogy.jpg

From microfilm and a list of names as a teenager to researching her paternal grandmother’s line back to the first white landowners of Canada, Lianne loves to share her knowledge, experience, and love for genealogy and technology. She has published articles and spoken at conferences in Ontario, England, Saskatchewan, multiple locations in Alberta, and Utah including RootsTech.

 

 

Follow Katherine Schober on the following social media platforms for more German genealogy tips!

Facebook: @SKtranslationservices

Twitter: @SK_Translations

Pinterest: Katherine Schober, SK Translations

Instagram: @katherineschober

YouTube: Katherine Schober

 

 

Free Webinar: Six Things You Need to Know About Church Records

overwhelmed by german church records? you’re not alone!

Church records can be gold mines of information for German genealogists. But let’s be honest – they’re kind of overwhelming. In this webinar, professional genealogy translator Katherine Schober shares six things you need to know about German church records before you start working with them – making your time with these records much more beneficial for your genealogy search!

When: Tuesday, October 22, 1:00 p.m. EDT

Cost: Free!

Sign up: I want free Church record tips – sign me up!

 

 

The Ultimate List of Months in German Genealogy

When analyzing  your ancestors’ documents, you are likely looking for two things – events and dates. Being able to read these dates, therefore, is of the utmost importance for your genealogy research. In an ideal world, all you would need to do would be to memorize the 12 German words for the months (German: Monate) of the year. and you’d be good to go. But because we are talking about documents of the past, there were often multiple words used for the same month, depending on the time, the region, the scribe, etc. So it’s important to be familiar with all these variations. But no worries – I’ve got you covered!

Two different words for January – Jänner and Januar 

In the table below, I’ve summarized for you the different possibilities of German words you may run into for each month. The “regular” – and most common – translation of the month in German is first, and this word is provided for you in the old handwriting as well. The words that follow are the less common – but no less important – variations, as sometimes this will be the only month word you find in your ancestor’s record.

You’ll notice that September – December are denoted 7, 8, 9, and 10ber/bris (you may also see December written as Xbris). This numbering of the months dates back to the time of the Romans, when the calendar began in March, making September the 7th month of the year. So don’t get confused and think 7bris means July!  Most of the other month words are descriptions – March as “Wind Month” and October as “Wine Month” for example – and are rather interesting in their translations. So if you run into one of these less common words, just refer to this table, and you should be good to go. Happy transcribing!

The Ultimate List of Months in German Genealogy