Handwritten Documents

If your source text is in German script or poorly legible Roman script, I start by making a line-by-line transcription, retaining the exact spelling, capitalization, punctuation of the original, including errors, insofar as legibility allows. I do this primarily for my own use, to expedite translation and proofreading, but I send it along to the client at no extra cost.

Here are some ways you can help streamline my task:

  • Provide background information
    Supporting information can save verification time. The biggest challenge with old handwriting is unfamiliar names. If legibility may be an issue, please tell me you already know, such as names, relationships, and locations, and especially where the documented event was recorded.
  • Optimize legibility
    Please scan in color or grayscale. For originals that were written in pencil or are faded, damaged, or too dark, I prefer JPEG images, at least 200 dots per inch (dpi), which I can adjust as needed. PDFs are fine if there are no legibility issues, but they cannot be modified. Copy oversize pages in parts if necessary, but send a reduced copy of the entire page in addition (see below).
  • Send entire pages
    The larger sample of handwriting makes deciphering easier. Column headings are also important, and records often contain ditto marks or other references to an earlier entry on the page. The location and year may appear only at the top of the page. So even if you need only part of a page translated, send the entire page, and clearly mark the needed part(s).
  • Margins
    European standard A4 paper is slightly longer and narrower than US letter. Especially if there is writing in the margins or the main text extends to the very edge of the paper, check your copy against the original to make sure that nothing has been cut off.