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Eastern European: Languages & Alphabets
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One of the biggest challenges for North American genealogists who finally cross the ocean in their research is discovering that many of the records they locate in Europe are written in languages other than English. Unfamiliar handwriting, confusing formats and cryptic looking alphabets provide unique obstacles. However, the language does not have to be a barrier. One does not need to become fluent in the Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, or other languages to be a good genealogist in Eastern European records. This course introduces the key information needed about the various languages so researchers can be successful in reading and interpreting documents and records, and in communicating with relatives and archivists in Europe.

The focus of this course will be on understanding Eastern European languages and alphabets commonly found in records. Tools for assisting with translation and transcription will also be discussed and sample documents will be provided for “hands-on” practice. Individual elective courses in the specific countries will provide more in-depth information about record-keeping practices in various areas of Eastern Europe.

Course Content

Module 1
Lost in Translation: What Languages Will I Find in the Records?
  • Introduction

    Overview of Most Common Languages & Alphabets
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia 20
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Ukraine

    Reading & Interpreting Records
  • Linguistic Orientation
  • Handwriting Terms & Definitions
  • Transcription, Translation, Transliteration: What’s the Difference?
  • Translation Example
  • Transliteration

    Abstract, Extract or Description

    Transcription Rules & Symbols
  • Document Reading Tips
  • Dealing with Foreign Letters

    Sample Records

    Module 2

    Working With Latin Records

    Latin for Genealogists: The Basics
  • Latin (Roman) Alphabet
  • Latin Noun Declension

  • Latin-English Names
  • Gender
  • Latin Numerals
  • Latin Time

    Latin & Eastern European Records
  • Key Information
  • Abbreviations
  • Latin Genealogical Word List
  • Additional Resources

    Sample Registers

    Module 3

    Working With Czech & German Records

    Czech Language Basics
  • Czech Alphabet
  • Czech Basic Vocabulary
  • Key Czech Terms
  • Czech Genealogical Word List
  • Writing to Czech Archives

    Sample Records

    German Language Basics
  • Language Characteristics
  • German Alphabet
  • Key German Terms
  • German Genealogical Word List


    Module 4

    Working With Hungarian & Slovak Records

    Hungarian Language Basics
  • Hungarian Alphabet
  • Reading Hungarian
  • Key Hungarian Terms
  • Hungarian Genealogical Word List

    Sample Records

    Slovak Language Basics
  • Slovak Alphabet
  • Basic Slovak Vocabulary
  • Key Slovak Terms
  • Slovak Genealogical Word List

    Sample Records

    Module 5

    Working With Polish, Russian & Jewish Records

    Polish Language Basics
  • Polish Alphabet
  • Spelling
  • Pronunciation Guide
  • Key Polish Terms
    Polish Genealogical Word List
  • Key Word Guides
  • Cyrillic Alphabet

    Russian Language Basics
  • Russian Genealogical Word List

    Ukrainian Language Basics
  • Ukrainian Genealogical Word List

    Working with Jewish Records
  • Hebrew Alphabet

    Sample Records

    Module 6

    Other Languages & Alphabets

    Bulgarian Language Basics
  • Bulgarian Alphabet
  • Bulgarian Genealogical Words

    Carpatho-Rusyn Language Basics
    Church Slavic Language Basics
    Lithuanian Language Basics

    Romanian Language Basics
  • Romanian Alphabet
  • Romanian Genealogical Words

    Serbo-Croatian Language Basics
  • Key Words

    Sample Records
    Other Languages

    Module 7

    Online Translation Tools & Other Options

    Key Tools & Resources
  • BabelFish
  • Digital Dialects
  • FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki
  • Google Translate
  • One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse
  • PROMT-Online
  • Translit
  • WorldLingo
  • YouTube

    About Automated Translation
  • Example of a Computer Translation

    Other Translation Options
  • Transcription & Translation Services

    Additional Resource
    Summary 140

    Module 8

    Now It Is Your Turn!
    Church Registers
    Slovakia Census
    Military Information
    Cemetery Headstone
    Emigration Document

    Recommended Reading & Resources
    Reading: Additional Articles


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