Variations and Translations

Wed. 22 Sep 2010. 3:30 pm

As you have been reading the posts I’m sure you have noticed there is a lot of differences in spellings particularly for names and places. This is one of the biggest puzzles when looking at the past.

Ironically as I’m writing this I’m listening to an NPR story about the United Nations and how they have a program where interpreters are having to learn the differences in languages, words and phrases and the problems they may encounter.

Ok back to what I was talking about.

Let’s start with someone, an immigrant, who uses an original spelling, pronunciation and meaning of a name or place. The translator may or may not understand the pronunciation and incorrectly writes down the information. The Ellis Island manifests are a good example of this.

Another situation could be where the original person intentionally changes the pronunciation or spelling. Maybe they want to simplify things; maybe it’s to make themselves different than their family; or maybe the want to Americanize themselves.

I had heard that immigrants coming through Ellis Island were so wanting to fit-in they changed names. I mean I can imagine coming to America and thinking, “…hey it’s a new beginning so let’s start over.”

Of course there maybe reasons for the changes that are not quite so honorable too.

By and large though I think the problem is in the transcription. When dealing with transcribed records names and place names can be really off. One of the things that I do is transcribe original documents for FamilySearch. FamilySearch is part of The Church of the Latter-day Saints. By far the biggest issue I see is sloppy penpersonship. (Pen-person-ship? I made that up…and yeah I know that sounds like a crappy term to me too.) Sometimes the writing is so bad it makes it nearly impossible to get the correct information transcribed.

Now I know what you’re thinking (picture one of those little thought bubble things above your head). “Why am I reading all this? And what is Glenn getting at?”

I’m getting to where it’s a lot of extra work going back and forth finding out if “Delcourt” might be the same spelling as “de Corte”; that they spell Flanders in Belgium as Vlaanderen; and that “van” means “of” in all those Flemish and Dutch names and is the same as “von” in German.

As a result I will be adding a couple of new pages that, I hope, will make some of the translations a little easier. Let’s see…I think I’ll call one…”TRANSLATIONS”.

And for all those names whose spelling seem to keep changing I think I’ll call that page….”VARIATIONS” too.

Since some of us are also German, French or Italian (and possibly Polish) I’m planning on including those translations and variations too.

So check the Index at the top there for these new pages.

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2 Responses to “Variations and Translations”


  1. For a really good explanation of how Dutch and Flemish names work see the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_name.

  2. kris newport Says:

    Ist ien shist koph? bad penpersonship?


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