Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interpretation vs Translation

notice of intended marriage

Image via Wikipedia

I missed my post yesterday and I’m sorry about that.  Things have been pretty busy here of late, I have many things going on in real life that prevent my usual persistence with the family history.  So, for the time being, it’s going to return to kind of a weekend hobby.  I will continue to post daily if I can, but I won’t make any promises of that either.  I’m on a different kind of hunt at the moment and hopefully will be successful very soon.

I’ve learned that one part of the family left England to find freedom from the church, and a profitable future.  They found one, not necessarily the other.  I have learned not to trust family “lore”, no matter who it comes from.  The other hard lesson I have learned, is that genealogist’s results can vary depending on the part of a family they are researching, and how dedicated they are to documenting the records they find. 

What do I mean by results may vary?   It really comes down to how well the individual doing the research followed the records, and interpreted them.  What I’m talking about, is three separate results I’ve found on line.  Each one covers a different sibling of a particular family.  What I found is that each one was a slightly different variations on the make up of the family.  At first it took me a little while to figure out the first one.  That was simply because there was a marriage I had been unaware of.  The father of this family had been married three times, instead of two, or even just once.    The first born child, a son was actually the result of the first marriage, then four by the second marriage, and one by the third.  Can you see how things could get a little twisted around in interpreting these records.  Now take into account that all of this occurred in the mid 1700’s.

Many of the older records are more difficult to reason out.  You’ll find that they kept records in a different language than the rest of the populace.  I’m not talking about language like French, German, or English, although it is not uncommon to find church or government records from the old days kept in Latin.  What I’m talking about, is the difference between the way to educated spoke or wrote and the general populous who were usually peasants.  Then factor in the fact that you might be translating the record from French, German, or maybe Latin, and you have the makings for some real confusion. 

One of the most useful tools I’ve used so far, is the translator in the Google toolbar.  It has been invaluable to me of late.  You still have to remember that other languages, sometimes structure their sentences differently than we do in English.   So even after you translate a page, you still have to interpret it correctly, and mistakes can be made.  All of this is why I have been saying you have to do your own confirmation or corroborating research.  You never know, you might be the one to stumble across something all the others who have researched this family missed.

There is another thing this research has reinforced, I am not infallible and I will always be learning myself.  It never ceases to amaze me, where I can find the next lesson.  Sometimes, that invaluable lesson comes from a completely unexpected direction.   It’s amazing just how educational, my own family history has become, in more ways than I ever imagined.

Quote of the Day:
”School is a drill for the battle of life. If you fail in the drill you will fail in the battle.”
--Karl G. Maeser



Anonymous said...

Feel free to copy and mail material in French (or any of the romance languages) to me for backcheck on the Google translation. One of my undergrad degrees was in French, and I've been working in it off and on, as well as Spanish, for a number of years now.



Eric S. said...

I certainly will. Right now, German is the most common of the languages. Even the relations from Canada, were English in background.

kkipp said...

I haven't any useful level of German, darn it . . . though have intended for a number of years to add the language to the queue because of the family history.