Dealing with a Language Barrier

Completing your genealogy research in your native tongue can be difficult enough as you trace moves, name changes and marriages. However your search may come to a screeching halt as soon as you hit a language barrier. It is difficult to read old handwritten records, but even more difficult if the records are in a language that you do not understand. However there are techniques to help you cope with language barriers.

One option is to hire a genealogist that can also serve as a translator. If you do this you may want to have this genealogist go back as far as she can on this particular family line. Be sure that you take the time to prepare a written statement regarding fees and expected research time. This will protect both of you.

Another option is to take a basic class on researching in that particular language. Many of the larger genealogical societies will offer classes like this. They may choose to focus on the language of origin for most of the original settlers to that area though. If you can’t find a specific class consider taking a class at your local community college or hiring a tutor to help you grasp the basics you need. This knowledge and a translation dictionary can help you.

Another option is to take advantage of many of the free online translation services available on the Internet. When you are looking over records there are just a few words that you need to learn in the foreign language. Birth, death, and location words will begin to stand out, as will the words for the different dates. This does not require a lot of translation, and you will quickly recognize the words. The part that may be more difficult is ascertaining that you have found the correct records for the region and time period that you are searching for. also has several databases and records from different countries online that you can look for as well. This may make the initial search into a foreign language a bit easier, but eventually you will need to go original source documents to complete your research.