Few things are more deflating in family history research than finally finding a document potentially full of clues about an ancestor, only to discover it’s written in an unfamiliar language or alphabet. Fortunately, with today’s technology and the vast reach of the Internet, you don’t have to get lost in translation. Free online tools and services put translation help right at your fingertips. While many of these sites have character or word limits, most don’t cost a penny and support a variety of languages. If you’re dealing with a complex historical document or script that’s notoriously difficult to interpret, you may need to enlist the services of a human translator. (Ask a local college or university for recommendations, or check Cyndi’s List
.) But try these tools first: They can help you read the website of a foreign archive, pen a request letter to your ancestor’s parish priest, and leap over those language barriers to glean details about Great-grandma’s family in letters from the old country.
This free translator lets you convert phrases and sentences into (or out of) any language. If you’re not sure of the best way to translate a word or phrase, post it under “How do you say...” and get help from the Babelfish community. This tool supports 75 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Hebrew (Yiddish), Swedish, German, Italian, Croatian, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Serbian. You can translate a block of text up to 150 words, or type in a URL to translate a web page.