Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Giving Those Online Translators
a Workout

In order to find and put to use those foreign online databases promising to help discover my Polish roots, it wasn't just a matter of clicking "translate this page" and jumping in. Before I could track down those Polish roots of my Gramlewicz relatives, I had to do some foundational preparation.

For one thing, websites like the one recommended in a recent comment by fellow genea-blogger Patrick Jones included clickable icons signifying on-site translation services. Those were, however, abysmal in my opinion.

There was another option. As I've mentioned before, Google Translate has become my friend. I got quite handy at popping back and forth between the open window for my Polish webpage and the window for the Google translation service.

Still, there were problems with this option. If it had been a translation from a language often used in the U.S.—Spanish comes to mind here—results would likely have been far more satisfying in their accuracy than the results I got, moving from Polish to English. There were far too many sentence results that seemed to make no sense whatsoever in the target language—results like "lack of position" or "crawl your Świerczyńska." Obviously, someone needed to head back to the drawing board on these.

There are more options in my translation bag of tricks, obviously. The main tool turned out to be an outright switch from one browser to another. I'm generally a habitual user of Firefox and never opted to make the move to Chrome when it was developed. However, I'm aware of the translating powers of Google Chrome, so when faced with these sticky translation messes, I simply cut and pasted the URLs into a different window, using the Chrome browser.

I have several websites that I've stumbled upon, now that I'm researching my Polish roots, and it helps immensely to be able to understand what those jaw-breaking, consonant-packed multi-syllabic words are saying to me. Between Google Translate for shorter phrases, and Chrome to handle the heavy lifting of entire webpages, I've made some research headway. And even if those failed to provide understandable results, I found that if I just googled the actual website name—or even a portion of what I was trying to find—it would sometimes produce leads to other websites which provided translations in a more intact state.

Still, in researching my roots in a very specific part of Poland, I needed to add yet another step to my preparatory work. Because my family left Poland back in the late 1800s when national borders in that part of Europe were very different than they are today, getting up to speed on which part of Poland would be the correct geo-political location for that time frame became essential. 

Part handiwork in using what translation services were available online, part detective work via search engines themselves, and part putting resultant Polish websites through their paces, all of these steps required yet another process: the work of discovering the very history of a region now no longer in existence: the region the Germans used to call Provinz Posen, and the Polish referred to as Prowincja Poznańska.

Above: "Four-in-Hand," 1881 oil on canvas by Polish artist Józef Chełmoński; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Very interesting...my roots are also Polish (my dad was born in Poland) and I too find Google translate reasonably good. For me a lot of the problem comes in trying to decipher the handwriting on the documents so I can figure out what the words are to translate them. The old script is very difficult to read.

    1. Teresa, thanks for stopping by! I imagine the old script is a challenge, indeed--especially judging from different renderings in transcriptions. But tackling the original documents will have to be my next step, since the resources I'm finding direct me that way. My eyes are starting to water, just thinking about it...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...