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Ancestral Historical Document Translations

March 01, 2012

Ancestry.com: A Translation Service?  I Thought They Dug Up Ancestral Pasts...

For a large percentage of Americans, ancestries inevitably trace back to the Old Country, or at least somewhere in the Eastern hemisphere. It's a pretty obvious observation that several centuries ago in Europe, English was not the most widely spoken language.

So naturally, many of the documents discovered by users of Ancestry.com are written in older European languages: French, German, Italian, or even more "exotic" languages like Romanian, Georgian or Catalan. This can be both exciting and frustrating. Some of the answers to the mystery of one's ancestry are right there - but can't be understood.

True, Ancestry.com does offer their own human translations: a nice gesture to make ancestral document translation and discovery a bit more convenient.

Without any negative implications intended, Ancestry.com is an ancestral/historical records, documents and information database - not a professional localization and translation service. While some of the translations provided through the site are probably fine - there is no way to verify if the translators bidding on your translation project are really qualified. And, if you can't read or speak the language, how do you know if the language translation is what it should be? Who do you get to proofread it? Another Ancestry.com translator? - Obviously not the most logical solution.

Technical Translations Require Technical Training

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of possibilities for technical and industry-specific records and documents that can surface while exploring Ancestry.com: medical documents and records, legal documents, immigration records, military records and drafts, and detailed census records. While Ancestry.com offers a wonderful service that provides users the opportunity to discover more about where they came from and who they are - they simply are not simultaneously a professional translation service.

What if you should discover a technical patent from Yugoslavia belonging to your great-great-great uncle? Languages have changed and altered throughout the six nations that now occupy the same territory - that, and, patents can be an extremely technical translation project. Or perhaps you uncover old hand-written memoirs of your great-great-great-great-grandmother, written in Czech, Swedish, Algerian French, or Russian Tartar - well, that's pretty cool.... but now what?

Does the average person understand the language spoken in Shakespeare's time? If we did, cliff note makers would go out of business. The same is true for speakers and translators of many European languages, and exponentially so, because those languages have been around for much longer, and have had over two millenia to change over and over. It requires specific training to accurately translate texts from older language versions.

Other possibilities likely to be difficult to find translators for, are the rare and precious documents written in any kind of Native American dialect. Native American languages that are extinct or may have only a few speakers - well, good luck finding a translator through Ancestry.com. Tomedes provides translations in Cherokee, Inuktitut, Navajo, and several other Native American languages and dialects.

Ancestry.com does a wonderful business of helping users dig deep into their historical pasts - their specialty. But, if while using their service you come across ancestral documents in need old-world Turkish to English translation, Bulgarian to English translation of a patent, medical document Finnish to English translation, or any other kind of highly technical translation - well, this happens to be our area of expertise.

It would be a shame to investigate your ancestral past, only to short-change yourself in the accuracy of those exciting document translations - documents which belonged your to Russian, Icelandic, Luxembourgian or Sicilian ancestors.

When you begin such a personal historical adventure - you want to be sure that the answers you find are as accurate and reliable as possible. Whether you investigate with Ancestry.com or any other means, and come upon documents in a foreign language, only professional translation and localization services will help thoroughly uncover the meaning and the answers you're looking for.

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