3 Terrific, Free Online Translation Tools for Genealogists

By Diane Haddad

Lots of genealogists have a goal to research immigrant ancestors back to their homelands, find old records there, and maybe even travel there one day. All this usually means working with foreign-language records, websites and organizations.

Our Genealogist’s Translation Digital Toolkit includes at-a-glance genealogy word lists in 22 languages, as well as information about online translation tools like these:

  • Google Translate: Translate words, passages and web pages from 80 languages. Google automatically detects the language of text you enter, or you can specify languages to translate from and to. The suggested translations at the bottom of the screen have helped me, too, when I’m working on an obituary in German Gothic type, and finding it hard to make out some of the letters.

You also can upload a document to translate, see a virtual keyboard with characters from that language, and hear your translation pronounced. There’s a smartphone app, too. Just remember that because the process is automated, not all translations will be perfect. Learn more on the Google Translate blog.

  • One-Step Web Pages: Characters in Foreign Alphabets: If you’re working with records in foreign alphabets such as Hebrew or Greek, the tools here help you convert from cursive to print and vice versa, transliterate. These are helpful, for example, if you want to type a name into a database search that uses a foreign alphabet, or you need to sound out names from vital records or tombstones in the Cyrillic alphabet, in order to match them to names in the Latin alphabet.