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Do I need to have documents translated for my lineage society application?

As you’re preparing a lineage society application, you may discover some of your ancestor’s records are written in a non-English language. Because of the settlement patterns of the United States in the 18th and 19th century, French, German, and Spanish commonly appear in records. That usually raises a question: do I need to have these records translated?

The short answer is: maybe. If you’re preparing a Daughters of the American Revolution application, check with your registrar. That society has typically had verifying genealogists who read at least French and has not always required translation. The Sons of the American Revolution requires all non-English documents to be translated. (See page 18.) For other societies, it’s best to ask your historian or registrar.

If translation is required, what do you do? Look for a translator who specializes in genealogical translations. Unless the documents are preprinted, the average translator may not have the experience with handwritten documents needed to transcribe and translate the document for the application. I offer French to English translation. Need help with other languages? Visit the American Translators Association or Association of Professional Genealogists directories.

To learn more about genealogical translation, check out articles in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly or this one, from the American Translators Association.