Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 20 Language

Doing genealogy has taught me to be creative doing my research. Since my ancestors are recent immigrants, I have been using European Church records from almost the beginning.

I feel very lucky now that I took Latin in high school, since it’s really getting a work out as I use church records in pursuit of my ancestors. Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, and other European countries had state religions which were very strict about recording the vital events in the lives of their citizens. These records were usually kept by clergy members who had been well educated and were written in a mix of Latin and the native language of the country.

As I looked at the records, I realized that the names were usually written in Latin, so they were easily read. Finding the meanings of the column headings was a task for Google Translate.


In the case of my paternal grandmother’s family who lived in Milwaukee after they immigrated, I needed to use some of the German language newspapers to completely understand the details of a drowning death. Fortunately, I made the acquaintance of a gentleman in Milwaukee who has indexed the German language news papers and he was able to provide me with obituaries and their translations as well as other news articles about the family I was researching. For this family I have all their death notices in both English and German.

 There was a book written about my Norwegian great-grandfather in commemoration of his 150th birthday which I have a copy of but it is in Norwegian, so I can’t read it. I do have the author’s permission to translate it but that’s a project for another year.

There are similarities in the Scandinavian languages which helped me with tracing my husband’s Swedish ancestors.

To help me with entering data into my program, I have a chart giving a numeric code for typing foreign letters, so I can enter names and places with the correct diacritical’s.