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On Demand, Webinar Series

Exploring Genealogical Translation: A Roundtable Discussion

April 26, 2022

Learn about the tremendous growth of this field and what skills are needed to succeed as a genealogical translator!

Too often genealogical translation is treated as an “add-on” to another specialty. However, this field has its own unique standard: genealogy tends to assume a transcription standard rather than a natural language standard. It also has its own special challenges: most documents are handwritten and a successful translation often requires a knowledge of vocabulary and laws that existed centuries ago.

While machine translation has impacted this specialty, it has the potential for tremendous growth. More and more, archives are digitizing materials, inspiring researchers without language skills to explore their family’s past. This is an opportunity for translators with an interest in history.

What does it take to succeed in this specialty? Join this roundtable discussion with three genealogical translators working in different language pairs to get an overview of genealogical translation. The speakers will cover the typical projects received by a genealogical translator, the background needed to successfully translate these documents, and the expected products. You will leave this session with a better understanding of the common challenges that genealogical translators face and the typical assumptions that shape the client-translator relationship.

You will learn how to

  • Recognize the types of projects a genealogical translator generally receives
  • Deliver the expected work products
  • Acquire the skills and background needed to successfully translate a historical document
  • Identify and overcome the common challenges in translating genealogical documents
  • Manage the assumptions about genealogical translation that can impact the client-translator relationship

This webinar is organized with the assistance of the French Language Division.

About the Presenters

Bryna O’Sullivan is a Middletown, Connecticut-based professional genealogist and French-into-English translator. As a genealogical translator, she both translates historic documents from the French-speaking world and educates on the topic of translation. In 2021, she presented “Navigating French Language Records When You Only Read English” to the Minnesota Genealogical Society’s virtual North Star Conference. Bryna is a member of ATA and the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Specializing in Maryland and German research, Debra A. Hoffman is a professional genealogist and owner of Hoffman Genealogical Services. She has a certificate in family history from Brigham Young University and a professional learning certificate in genealogical studies-German records from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. She is also the co-author of the National Genealogical Society’s latest Research in the States Series: Maryland. Debra is currently a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and serves as an at-large board member of the Maryland Genealogical Society and the recording secretary for the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society.

Jane Neff Rollins is a professional genealogist who works primarily with clients whose ancestors lived in the former Russian Empire, providing research and translation of 19th century Russian documents. She is an alumna of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and the Forensic Genealogy Institute. Jane has lectured multiple times at the annual conferences of the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Society, and the Southern California Genealogical Society. Her articles have appeared in NGS Magazine, FGS Forum, Crossroads, and other media outlets.

Purchase this Webinar


April 26, 2022
Event Categories:
, ,
Presenter(s): Bryna O’Sullivan, Jane Neff Rollins, Debra Hoffman
Duration: 60 minutes
Presenting Language(s): English
Level: All
ATA CEPs: 1.0

Code of Conduct

ATA is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all participants. By registering for this event, you agree to abide by the Code of Conduct for Virtual Programs.



American Translators Association