Wednesday, April 19, 2017

German documents transcribed

About two years ago, I ordered German church microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The only way to save the images was to snap a photo with my cell phone. The images weren't great, but using Photoshop Elements, I was able to piece two or three images together into one document. 

I could make out a few words like legitimate, baptism, family surnames but that was about all. Using a German dictionary, German word lists from Family Search Wiki, and Google translate - German to English, I still couldn't make out what the documents said. 

Earlier this month, I attended the FGS Regional/Wisconsin State Genealogical Society's conference at Wisconsin Dells, WI

On the second day, I attended a session by speaker Antje Petty. Her lecture was: “Max Kade Institute: Resources to help with your German-American Family Research”. My ears perked up, this was just what I needed. Part of my road trip this month was to research my mother's German paternal line. I spoke briefly with Ms Petty after her session and she said to email her with my German document questions. Ms Petty's office was on the University of Michigan-Madison campus near the Wisconsin Historical Society.

I made an appointment to meet with her the following Monday afternoon and sent my scanned documents in advance. Since I had planned on going to the historical society for research anyway, this was perfect. Over the weekend, Ms. Petty emailed me she wasn't feeling well, and would have to cancel our appointment. She said she looked over my scans and thought the documents might be in Latin, which she doesn't read, not German like I thought. That's why Google translate, the word lists and German dictionary couldn't decipher the documents. Wow, didn't see that coming! I would have to look into the documents after I got home.

I was disappointed we couldn't meet but thanked her for the valuable translation tip. A week later Ms Petty email me and said again how sorry she was we couldn't meet, she had actually come down with the flu but taken a second look at my documents and they were definitely in Latin. Thank you, thank you and thank you again! I won't be wasting time trying to decipher German. I'll be looking into Google translation - Latin to English. 

That invaluable tip was well worth the trip. You just don't know what you're going to learn when you attend conferences.

Copyright 2017, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

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