Our US-REC study group is working on transcribing handwritten documents. This task leads me to review a difficult transcription and translation I did a few years ago, and enter the extracted information into my Research Wiki and my RootsMagic database. While the US-REC study group is focused on American records, the transcription and translation were on a letter in German. The task of transcribing, however, is the same. When I have completed this task (2 posts), I will transcribe two guardianship records from Mahoning County, Ohio, to complete my US-REC assignment.
This was a complex project. The German letter was in the possession of my Grandmother, Grace Ada Brenner (nee Mieding). It was sent to her father, Edward Herman Mieding, by his uncle, Eduard Schaar. In order to protect the letter while working with it, I pressed it between two sheets of glass and built a frame around it. This enabled me to handle the letter, viewing both sides, without causing wear and tear.
The first task was transcribing the handwritten text (in German, old script) into contemporary (German) script. I was working with the original, not the above image — the text was much easier to view. Because my command of German is not very good, this was a very difficult task… I had to make many corrections in my transcription as I started to translate. I did the transcription with a German-English dictionary (from approximately the same time frame as the letter) open and accessible. Often I was transcribing words with which I was not familiar. I ended up with 6 pages of hand-written transcription.
While transcribing I began to log the German terms that I would need to translate. These notes were altered as I chose between two or more terms, most decision determined by the context. I now have seven pages of
translation notes. At this point I was ready to begin translating the letter.
The entire process took me about 3 months to complete. It was slow going, but a genuine sense of accomplishment when I finished. A first cousin, once removed, (a grand-daughter of Edward Mieding) was teaching at a university when I completed my translation. I sent her a copy of the letter and my translation, asking her to check with someone in the languages department to see if my translation was viable. A German professor, after viewing the two documents, indicated that he was totally unable to read the old script but, from what he saw, the translation was probably on target.
I will follow up with a second post from which I will extract the crucial data for my genealogical research.