Translation Aids


Workshop Handouts for Translation of Polish and Cyrillic Handwritten Records

Sigrid Pohl-Perry has conducted translation workshops at several annual meetings. The handouts she uses here provide examples of how to better recognize the format of the various records in both languages, indicates translation of key terms on the records, and gives translation lists of important words such as dates and numbers. The following two sections on this page are additional resources to help you work on your translation skills.

Cyrillic & Polish Parish Records

Workshop Handout 2018

Sample translations of Polish Language Church Records

This section provides links to sample translation pages of Polish language Napoleonic records provided by Jack Bowman and recovered by SGGEE from a previous web site. He has given SGGEE permission to use these documents for which we are grateful to continue to use these effective tools.

Birth Record Page 1, Page 2, Page 3. (PDFs)

Mr. Bowman's Polish Translations (PDF) on this website.

Jack Bowman's translations also make reference to a Polish Word List which is found on the Family Search website.

Family Search also provides a helpful guide to handwriting of the Polish alphabet. (PDF)

Sample translations of Russian Language Church Records

SGGEE has created its own set of help files for translating the Napoleonic style of Russian language records. These pages include translation forms for numbers, months, and places. They also include samples of records from the Lublin Lutheran Parish.

Although we believe the above to be most helpful, Jack Bowman (see note in Polish section above) also created some samples of Russian translations and we offer them here for you - Births - Marriages - Deaths.

German Script samples

Prussian State Archive samples - in German only. The Arbeitshelfe also contains some good historical maps.

German Sütterlin Script writing exercises with examples that will also help you to read the script.

German Script writing training on line including script examples. Paricularly high quality site with both English and German support along with other languages. Highly recommended.


A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin
Includes a detailed overview of the different types of Polish language documents and outlines how to use key words to extract data and information, even if you have no experience with Polish. Also includes handy lists of words specific to certain document types as well as for certain topics such as Religious Words, and Occupations. Samples from this book are on the Jewishgen website.

In Their Words, Volume I: Polish (A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents) by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman
This book is much more detailed than Frazin's, including a variety of other documents besides those for civil registration. It also includes clues for how and where to find other materials useful in genealogical research.

In Their Words, Volume II: Russian by Jonathan D. Shea and William Hoffman
Similar to above but specific to Russian language and Cyrillic script.

Decipher Germanic Records by Edna M Bentz
Detailed overview how to interpret old German script as it evolved over several centuries. Includes sections on terms found in records, illnesses, and occupations - all translated to Latin, English, and Danish and shown in original German script.

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German Occupations

This site provides a very good discussion of the development of German occupation terms broken down into a number of categories. You can browse through the info to see if you can find the particular occupation you are looking for. A separate alphabetical listing is a work in progress as of this posting and unfortunately only contains A and B categories but do not let that deter you from other good info found there.

Alternate Given Name and Alternate Surname Lists

SGGEE Alternate Christian Name List
Find the equivalent spelling or variation of a name in English / German (pdf format).

Christian Name Variations - Polish or Ukrainian to English
This site offers English equivalents for Polish or Ukrainian names. Can be manually searched for the English name using <ctrl-f>. Use it in conjunction with our SGGEE list above to find German equivalents for Polish or Ukrainian.

SGGEE Alternate Surnames List
(not substantiated)
Find the equivalent spelling or variation of a surname as found in the SGGEE Pedigree database, and from other sources. There are now two different lists - substantiated and not substantiated. That does not mean that the unsubstantiated list is of no value. It does mean that the names listed there have not been substantiated by someone using more than just personal family records or family lore.

SGGEE Alternate Surnames List
This list was reviewed and updated by our member Antje Mass. It represents valid alternates that can be verified from records sources, factual translations of surname meanings, etc.

The etymology and history of first names of many different languages including Polish, German, and English.

Dictionaries and Translators

NOTE: SGGEE does not endorse nor specifically approve of any professional translations services (fee based) listed below. The listings are provided for your convenience only. Use of any such services is at your own risk.

Note: Some of the sites listed below, such as Babelfish, will allow you to insert the link for a web page and it will then translate the entire page for you. But a word of caution. Electronic translations devices are far from perfect, which can lead to some odd translations as well as significant errors. For example, it does not know if a word is a name or not. So a phrase like "Herr Steinwand" (Mr. Steinwand) might be rendered as "mister stony wall". Similarly, the electronic translator can only make a best guess as to which of several alternate meanings is required. If the material is really important to your research, use a qualified human translator.

Genealogical Word Lists from Family Search.

GOOGLE Translator - does a fairly good job of computerized translation, at least adequate to establish context. Surprisingly seems to do better with Russian Cyrillic than with German.

QuickDic - German to and from English. Includes features not found in other dictionaries such as phonetic transcriptions and others. Regularly updated to increase the number of words.

1-800-Translate is a site that offers professional translation, for a fee, of an entire document, from 115 languages that include Russian, Polish and German and Ukrainian.

InterTran provides a variety of software and other electronic translations services as well as professional human translators.

Slovnyk works with a variety of languages, including those typically found in our research.

Russian Translation USA - Professional translation services in all major areas between the Russian and English languages.

Babelfish - Free on line translator, German or Russian to and from English. Can do entire web pages.

Leo - Free on line translator, German to and from English.

Prompt - Free on line translator, German and Russian, to and from English.

Freeware - Free on line translator, Russian to and from English.

German Occupations - somewhat geared towards Jewish trades but good for general use as well.

Wiki (occupation) - Translates old German and Latin trades or professions into modern German equivalents. Use this in conjunction with a good German to English dictionary.

Wiki (illness) - Translates old German and Latin terms for a variety of illnesses to modern German terms. Use this in conjunction with a good German to English dictionary.

Fonts for viewing and typing non-English text

Fonts including Russian Cyrillic, Polish diacritics, and German umlauts are typically available in many word processors. For Word or Word Perfect, click on "Insert", then "Symbol" and search for the specific sets you require.

Macintosh Truetype - from our own SGGEE server.

Windows Truetype - from our own SGGEE server.

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