Last week I received in the mail copies of my grandfather’s baptismal record and my great-grandparents’ marriage record having requested them from St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Atchison, KS. As a genealogist, I don’t have to tell you how exciting it was to see the records. And I must say the good folks at St. Benedict’s turned around the request in what had to be 24 hours. God Bless, ’em!
But, The Records Were in Latin!
As exciting as it was to see the records, I was just a bit frustrated in my research by the language barrier. You see, the good Benedictine priests of early 20th Century Atchison, Kansas documented everything in Latin, as I suspect most Catholic Church records were at the time. Unfortunately, my linguistic skills stop with English. Fortunately, the documents are neither involved or lengthy and a little reasonable deduction got me at least part of the way when trying to interpret the documents.
However, once I nailed down the names and the record type, I couldn’t connect the words in sentences without help. Fortunately, there is a free and amazing tool on Google, which seems to be designed for this very purpose. It’s Google Translate. It works just like a look-up tool or a spell-check tool in that you type in the word or phrase and it automatically translates it. It will by default try to guess the native language of the word and translate it into English. However, you can set the parameters to whatever you want – French to English, French to Spanish, German to Spanish, and so on. Further, and I didn’t expect this, it will translate proper nouns, i.e. names. My grandfather’s first name is William, but on the documents he was listed as “Guildimum Francisi” or William Francis. I could have gotten Francis on my own, but getting “William” out of “Guildimum” was above my pay grade. Fortunately, Google Translate unlocked the mystery in a matter of seconds.
Finding Google Translate
If you haven’t used Google Translate before, you might find it hard to, well, find it. Naturally, you’d start at www.google.com. If “Translate” isn’t on the top menu bar, then you will want to go to “More” and look for it in the drop down choices. If it isn’t there, then click “even more” and look for it on the full-page of Google aps. Alternatively, just go to www.google.com and search for “Google Translate.”
About the Records
Once I translated the baptism and marriage records I had nuggets of information previously unknown and further confirmation of the facts in hand. Here are a couple of samples.
- Grandpa’s marriage date, wife with maiden name, and the church with celebrant, city, and state were noted in the margin of the baptism record! [I’m guessing he had to get his baptism record before getting married and the parish clerk made note of the event on the baptism record.]
- Grandpa’s godparents were listed on the baptism record. Never knew who they were.
- The witnesses were listed on the marriage record. Didn’t know who they were, either.
- The marriage record also confirmed the names of my great-grandparents’ parents.
It was a very interesting find receiving these two documents and made all the better with the aid of Google Translate.