Week 20 – Another Language

The prompt for week 20 is Another Language. Most of my ancestors are from English speaking countries, so I do not have many records that are in other languages. I do have French Canadian ancestry, and some fairly recently discovered Italian, so I have definitely felt the frustration of trying to decipher records that were written in an unfamiliar language.

My late father’s maternal line has a good bit of French Canadian. When I started researching these ancestors, I made a list of translated keywords that you would expect to find on a birth, marriage, or death index. Son, daughter, mother, father, born, married, died, etc. I also included the names of the months, and common prepositions. I’ve found my list invaluable, as it saves me from running to Google Translate for every other word. I’m so easily distracted, and know that every time I look at anything other than the record I’m working on, there is a great possibility that I’ll fall down some other research rabbit hole.

Even armed with such a list, foreign records can be so hard to figure out. Most of the records I’ve looked at have been online. So, in addition to the strange language, the image maybe be poor. And the archaic handwriting! That can be hard enough to read when the document is in English. Let’s not forget spelling errors. If a record is in English, I at least have a chance of detecting a spelling error. They’re near impossible to spot when dealing with a different language.

My mom’s ancestors are primarily Irish, and I haven’t found any documents written in the Irish language. Yet… Though, I have found some that were written in Latin. Mostly church documents, as you might expect. I find those easier than the French. I took a year of Latin in High School, and though it was nearly 3 decades ago, I remember much more of it than I would expect to. The tricky thing about the church records is that the given name of each person is written using the Latin equivalent. Some are easy to decipher; Elisabeth for Elizabeth, Marcus for Mark, etc. Others require looking up. Thank goodness for the internet! Otherwise, I’d likely never figure out that Coemgenus is Kevin or Jacomus is James.

My Dad’s paternal grandparents were both from Poland. I have had no luck (so far) finding Polish records online. The changing boundaries in Eastern Europe in the 19th century don’t make searching any easier. And don’t get me started on the creative spelling of names by the record keepers. Having seen some of the documents, I’m almost relieved I haven’t come across any relating to Dad’s family!

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