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01 January 2009

Gravestones & the Google Translator

The great United States of America is a melting pot of people born in this country, as well as individuals from different countries and cultures. Many of those individuals speak different languages in addition to English. Those different languages can sometimes carry over into the cemeteries which hold their gravestones.

I am fluent in one language - English. I took Spanish in high school, so I can pick out words here and there. Also, I lived in Germany for a few years when I was a child, so I can pick out a few words of that language. That's it. So when I come across gravestones inscribed in a language other than English, I'm pretty much lost.

You might not think that would be a problem when visiting local cemeteries, but you'd be surprised. A huge cemetery in Macon, GA named Rose Hill has several hundred tombstones on which the Hebrew language is dominant. A cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina named Bethany is the final resting place of many German immigrants. Their native tongue is found on their tombstones. And even in little Bonaire, GA I came across the German language inscribed on a stone. That's just a few examples of some Southern Graves not in English.

So are we graveyard rabbits supposed to just say, "Oh, well. I don't know what that says," and move on to the next stone or cemetery? Absolutely not! First, we make sure we take great pictures and transcriptions. Then all we have to do is visit a website all of us have visited many, many times before -- Google. From their homepage, click on Language Tools. You will be taken to a page that lets you input the text and with the click of a button, it is translated for you. You can also go directly to translate.google.com.

Here are some examples of text from gravestones from Bethany Cemetery (mentioned above) I was able to translate from German to English.

Hier Ruhen In Gott [Here Rest in God]
Claus Diedrich
12 Oct 1873
18 May 1886
Anna M. C. A.
2 Nov 1885
19 May 1886
Kinder von [children of] H. F. Bittesohn and Meta Geb Meyers

Below this angel atop the tombstone for Henry & Elizabeth Knee is the phrase "Zur Erinnerung An." This translates to "As a Reminder to."

Darius Gray Ornston, Jr., M.D.
September 13, 1934
November 19, 2003
Die erde hat mich wieder! [The Earth has me again!]

Hier Ruhet In Frieden [Here Rest in Peace]
Meine Geliebte Gattin [My Beloved Wife]
Meta C. Hastedt
17 Oct 1820
Wulsdorf, Hannover
17 Nov 1880
Charleston, SC

Here is transcription of a stone from Bonaire Cemetery:

Franziska S. Kunz
May 11, 1907
Jan 23, 2003
Hier Ruht Unsere Liebe Mutter [Here Rests Our Dear Mother]

Southern Graves Home

7 comments:

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I'm so glad I read this post. I have a document written in German that I believe to be a birth certificate. I found it in a rental house that belonged to my mother, and after her death and the house went into her estate I found it in a closet.

I had never thought about how to translate it ~ now I can do that with help from Google and put it online. Maybe then a descendant will be able to identify it and I can get it back in the hands of the rightful owners.

Judy

S. Lincecum said...

I'm glad, too! :-) There's no telling what good things are in that letter.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips

Jason said...

Came back from Bethany Cemetery with pics of the "die erde hat mich wieder" determined to find out what it meant...thanks for the info!

S. Lincecum said...

You are quite welcome, Jason!

Anonymous said...

Hello I think you're wrong. I'm sure. I can prove it.

S. Lincecum said...

Please - feel free to do so.

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