15 July 2016

Hints and Tips: Latin word resources for family history research

I've had photos of German Roman Catholic parish registers for ages that I've been meaning to go through and translate, and I'm finally getting around to it. Many old Roman Catholic registers are written in Latin, as are these.

My Latin knowledge extends mainly to those words used to describe plants (I'm a botanist), but not so much to those words which might be used in a parish register. However, I've found three very useful resources, which used in conjunction, I have been able to make sense of much of the entries I've been looking at so far.

The first one is the Latin Genealogical Word List from FamilySearch. It gives a great general overview of words that might come up in your family history research. 

The second one is a list of Latin place names. Without that I would never have guessed that Moguntiae actually meant Mainz, Germany.

The last one is Parish Register Latin: An Introduction, by C. Russell Jensen, available on Internet Archive. This one is a lot more comprehensive than the first resource listed here, and you could possibly teach yourself how to read the Latin reasonably well with it, if you had the time or inclination. For me though, the most useful part was the Latin-English Word List, starting on page 385. Often I can work out some of the letters in a handwritten word, and being able to look at words which might be used in the same context and/or start with the same letters can often help me decipher the likely word. 

Hopefully these resources might help you to make better sense of your Latin parish register entries as well!

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