Learning Languages

Doing genealogy research will ultimately mean running into an unfamiliar language.  Whether it is Latin when reading Catholic records, reading Foreign Church records, or Ethnic churches here in the U.S. we will all need to learn some new terminology.

There are many books, websites, and wikis that can be Googled for genealogy terms or word lists to get us started.  I have been able to learn to read Norwegian, German and Latin records without a lot of formal training.  Reading for basic facts can be accomplished by learning the terms for vital records, dates, and learning patterns of records.

There may come a time when you will want to learn more.  The offerings in your area may differ.  Some community education programs offer language classes as do many colleges.  You can also Google the language you would like to learn with specific terms.  For example if you search “learn Norwegian free” you will be given many free online programs.  Some libraries such as my Hennepin County Library System offer online language study for those with library cards through their website.

In the age of “there’s an app for that” there are also applications that you can download to your mobile devices.  I was recently introduced to DuoLingo.  It is a free app and/or a website that currently offers 5 different languages with an additional 9 others in various stages of development.  My 11 year old niece has been using it to learn Spanish.  I am currently using it to help me better understand German.  Will it help me become fluent?  Perhaps not, but it will help me understand the language better.

Whatever your chosen method of study, at some point in genealogy research you will need to learn more about the country and language of your ancestors.  Thankfully we have a lot of options to choose from.

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