The diaries, letters, and documents gathering dust in your attic connect you to your family history in ways that even the most elaborate family tree never will. These writings may also contain information or first-hand accounts of general historical value. Certainly they can help you to understand the personal lives of your forebears and the world in which they moved. My own family background, and many years of experience, have given me the perspective necessary to translate this kind of material, and to help you to place yourself and your family in historical context. I work with clients for private use or for publication. For more information, see my FAQs.
I have been a professional translator for more than 20 years. Translations for private clients include:
Letters (~450) between a mother in Germany and her daughter who worked as a governess in Constantinople between 1884 and 1888. Here is a talk I gave about this correspondence in 2002.
Letters (~250) from Jews in Vienna before and during World War II. I am lucky to have had three clients with relatively large collections of family letters.
Letters of response (40) to a questionnaire sent in the 1830s by William Siborne to officers who fought under German General Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Siborne used these detailed letters, which are in the British Museum, as the basis for a scale model of the battle.
Many shorter correspondences and diaries. Whether you have only a few letters or a large correspondence or diary, I would be more than happy to evaluate them.
Alice Ehrmann. "Terezín ghetto diary." In Alexandra Zapruder, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
Kenneth Kronenberg, Lives and Letters of an Immigrant Family: The Van Dreveldts’ Experiences along the Missouri, 1844-1866. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. This correspondence was my introduction to the translation of letters. Here is a paper I gave about the van Dreveldts.
Udo Kraft. Self-Education for Death for the Fatherland. (Originally published in Germany in 1915). I translated these illuminating diary entries and letters (1886-1914) of a German nationalist out of my own interest. I have made the translation freely available through a Creative Commons license.
Current book project:No Justice, Nowhere. The diaries of Willy Cohn (1933-1941). Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming late 2011. Cohn was a historian and teacher who lived in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). His diary testifies to the progressive contriction of Jewish life under the Nazis. In 1941, he and his family were taken to Lithuania, where they were killed. (If you have letters or diaries from Breslau from this era, I would like to see them).
The cost of translation is always a factor with family documents. Please contact me with any questions; I can help you to decide which papers are likely to be worth the cost of translation and which may not be.
Translation of old German script is time- and labor-intensive. Because of this it is more expensive than the translation of printed text. My base rate is US$20 per 100 English words for handwriting, depending on legibility. If the handwriting is easier, the rate is lower. To give you an idea of what this means, the following sample came to 175 English words, or US$35.
If you send me a sample, I can estimate what that particular sample will cost. The translation will be publication quality
My base rate for the translation of printed text, including Fraktur, is US$15 per 100 English words. A standard 8.5x11 sheet of modern typing paper, which holds about 600 words single-spaced (using 12 point Times New Roman font), will cost approximately $90.For more information, see my FAQs.