I had the most wonderful experience yesterday at the Virtual Genealogical Association’s conference. I’ve been fortunate in the last five years or so to be selected to present at conferences and to genealogy societies about my favorite topic. I’ve gotten to meet some very nice people. I’ve learned more about my own family as I’ve tried to come up with examples to demonstrate a technique or website. I’ve made a little bit of money to spend on my genealogical addiction. But my favorite part is having a captive audience who might have an answer to one of my own questions.
Yesterday I presented “Fraktur und Fremdwörter: Hacks for Reading Foreign Books & Newspapers” at the VGA conference. I had a chance to demonstrate how a hopelessly English-only reader can find an old German fraktur font newspaper article about their ancestor and easily, painlessly, and in only a few minutes, translate it into something they can read. I demonstrated the how-tos for all my favorite newspaper sites.
In addition to finding newspaper articles on websites, I think genealogists often have snippets of things in their family papers – perhaps an article pasted into a scrapbook. I have one such article from my Dad’s cousin Thelma with the notation “Translation? Appears it concerns Louise Hartman, Syracuse, N.Y.” I played around with finding a way to scan that article and convert it to OCR. None were terribly effective.
In my presentation, I showed my unsuccessful attempts with the caveat, “Sorry folks, on this kind of an item, you just might need to buck up and try to transcribe that article yourself. Unless…. If anyone knows some better way, I’d love to hear about it.” And in that captive audience, Mr. Miles Meyer piped up (in the chat box) and suggested NewOCR.com. From their website: NewOCR is a ”free online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) service, can analyze the text in any image file that you upload, and then convert the text from the image into text that you can easily edit on your computer.”
I’ll post again in the next few days about my attempts to transcribe my scrapbook article with my new-found tool. But in the meantime, thank you Miles, thank you Katherine Willson, Dan Earl, Linda Debe and the rest of the people at the Virtual Genealogical Association for putting on a great conference. If you’re interested, check them out. You might be able to be able to catch up on the recordings of the great sessions they have offered at their second virtual conference.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.