At some point in the past, many of our relatives–overseas or in the same land–spoke a different language. They used different versions of names we know. Records about their lives were created in a language we don’t know, whether their home tongue or the language of an institution, like church records in Latin.
Well, MyHeritage has just launched a groundbreaking new technology today that aims to remove language barriers in family history research. “Global Name Translation™ helps overcome the Tower of Babel syndrome,” says Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, yet information from other countries is still mostly hidden from those who don’t speak the language.
Now you can now search for historical records at MyHeritage “in one language and receive relevant results from other languages, automatically translated for you into the language of your search,” explains Japhet. For example? “A search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find ‘Саша’ (which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia) with its corresponding transliteration into the language of your search.”
This technology is also integrated into MyHeritage matching technologies, so subscribers will begin receiving transliterated matches from other languages.
According to a press release, Global Name Translation™ works with “very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user’s language for convenience. This is a unique innovation not offered elsewhere, useful for anyone interested in discovering their global roots.”
The first version works with several languages: English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. “The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.”
Ketubah Circa 1860. This is the ketubah (marriage contract) of Hannah and Hayyim from their marriage on Tuesday, April 6, 1886 (א׳ ניסן תרמ״ו) in the town of Brody. Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham on Flickr Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/epublicist/1355967207/in/photolist-.
Looking for an online resource of Jewish family trees?
“The Knowles Collection, a quickly growing, free online Jewish genealogy database linking generations of Jewish families from all over the world, reached its one-millionth record milestone and is now easily searchable online,” says a recent FamilySearch press release.
“The collection started from scratch just over seven years ago, with historical records gathered from FamilySearch’s collections. Now the vast majority of new contributions are coming from families and private archives worldwide. The free collection can be accessed at FamilySearch.org/family-trees.
According to FamilySearch, “The databases from the Knowles Collection are unlike other collections in that people are linked as families and the collection can be searched by name, giving researchers access to records of entire families. All records are sourced and show the people who donated the records so cousins can contact one another. New records are added continually, and the collection is growing by about 10,000 names per month from over 80 countries. Corrections are made as the need is found, and new links are added continually.”
The database was started by Todd Knowles, a Jewish genealogy expert at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Jewish communities from around the world have added to it: “The Knowles Collection has grown from Jews of the British Isles (now with 208,349 records), to Jews of North America (489,400), Jews of Europe (380,637), Jews of South America and the Caribbean (21,351), Jews of Africa, the Orient, and the Middle East (37,618), and the newest one, Jews of the Southern Pacific (21,518).” Keep up with the Knowles Jewish Collection at its blog.
How can you preserve a family’s history when it exists only in the memories of tribal storytellers? Visit the tribe and capture its oral history, as MyHeritage is doing with its Tribal Quest initiative.
MyHeritage recently announced a new global initiative to record and preserve the family histories of tribal people living in remote locations around the world.
Their first project is in Namibia. Next they plan to move on to Papua New Guinea. Check it out in this brief video:
MyHeritage is even recruiting volunteers who want to travel to these places and help out. You can learn more at TribalQuest.org.
FamilySearch published an article a few years ago about similar work they’ve done in several African nations. “Most African tribes have a designated ‘storyteller’ who is responsible to memorize the tribe’s oral traditions, including names of ancestors going back six to thirty generations,” it says. “FamilySearch works with chiefs and local volunteers to visit these storytellers and record the information they have been charged to remember in their heads. Sometimes the interview is audio or video recorded.” FamilySearch enters what they learn into a GEDCOM (the universal family tree file format) and put it on FamilySearch.org for others to use.
How far have YOU gone to capture your family’s oral history? Probably not to a remote tribal home! Why not use the resources below to help you with your next oral history project?
I’ve heard from many of you since publishing my interview with Diane Loosle, Director of Patron Services at FamilySearch on the topic of FamilySearch ending its microfilm lending program on August 31, 2017. As fate would have it, just as the interview published, the unexpected happened – microfilm ordering capability ceased. That was when emails like this one started to arrive in my inbox:
Last Monday there was a computer software upgrade (or downgrade as I call it) in the FamilySearch catalog system which now prevents ordering of a mass number of microfilms ahead of the deadline this week…I am not confused about what is going on. I volunteer at an FHC and to date we have ordered some 600 films to complete our collection (these records will never be digitized.) We have ordered all the vital records we can. We have more than 9000 films at our little FHC, but now we want to order the Naturalization records and the system says “Film #—- does not exist.” This is happening on a global scale and even with films we already own. German, Lithuanian, Swedish, Chicago, Sacramento, Dallas, you name the city, this error message is showing up…Since you had a conversation with Diane recently, is there a way you can share this with her and find out how we can address this stumbling block. This is now a week old…
Many of you asked me to reach out to Diane, which I did. And thanks to your involvement, I received the following from Diane this morning:
Diane Loosle, Director of Patron Services at FamilySearch
“There was an update to the software that had unintended consequences in that it broke the online film ordering systems connection to the FamilySearch Catalog. People were unable to order the films they desired for a little less than one week. This timing of course was very unfortunate. The situation has been remedied in the software so orders have resumed and because of this issue, the decision has been made to extend the film ordering deadline by one week toSeptember 7thto make up for the week that the software was down. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused people and are anxious to ensure that they are able to order the films they desire. We now need everyone’s assistance to get the word out to their friends that if they experienced this issue in trying to order they will be able to get their orders in now.
Thanks for your help on this Lisa. This was an incredibly unfortunate event with timing which couldn’t have been worse. This is of course and evolving situation at this point. I will keep you posted if anything else changes. The software that we use for this is quite archaic, a real dinosaur in the technology world. We are literally praying that it will hold up under the additional load. While we don’t anticipate any further problems, it is possible, so I will keep you in the loop should anything happen” -Diane
As you can hear, it was genealogical serendipity struck in an unusual, and unfortunate way. But as soon as FamilySearch became aware of the problem, they went into action. I’m pleased and grateful that they have extended deadline, and that they make millions of genealogical records available to us every day. And I’m grateful to you, our Genealogy Gems community for getting into gear and bringing the situation to the forefront.
1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in “spyglass” format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at DavidRumsey.com.
I love showing people how to use online tools to compare historical maps to modern ones. You can map out your ancestor’s address, check out their neighborhoods “then and now,” map their route to work, see if their old home still exists and more.
Well, the online Smithsonian magazine has created an exciting new interface for six American cities. Now you can compare modern satellite imagery with bird’s-eye views of:
You’ll see great city layouts before the fire that claimed much of old Chicago, the San Francisco earthquake, the Lincoln memorial and more. The historical map of New York City is the oldest, but the other maps capture each city at a critical point in their growth. For each city you can look at a historical map with a “spyglass” mouse-over of a modern satellite image, or vice-versa, as shown in the New York City map on the right. Each map is accompanied by a fantastic Smithsonian article; the historical maps come from the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection.
As many of you know, it’s possible to do something similar (or even better) with Google’s amazing mapping tools. Learn how to do that with these three Genealogy Gems resources:
1. My FREE Google Earth Video, which teaches you how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads;
3. My new Time Travel with Google Earth video, in which you’ll see old maps, genealogical records, images, and videos come together to create stunning time travel experiences in Google Earth. This is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members (learn more membership here).