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Faces of NextGen: Meet Cindy Medina

Cindy Medina, 40, Texas

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Perpetual learner, seeker, adventurer, researcher, and writer.

Why genealogy? Genealogy was instilled in me at a young age. My father would always talk about his grandparents and great-grandparents very fondly. Every chance he had he would talk about them. Fortunately, I also have a baby picture at the age of one, with five generations of women, including myself, aunt (in lieu of my dad), grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother.

On my mother’s side, an aunt and uncle would talk about my great-grandfather, James Gallardo, working for the Alton, Illinois railroad. My grandfather and his siblings were born in Alton. With all this, I knew how important it was to remember who you are.

I was always the kid or teenager that asked my friends questions about their family. If they had vintage pictures, I would run to go see them. I always connected with my friends by pictures and stories they told me about their family, always was inquisitive, and at that age I didn’t realize I was already practicing GENEALOGY. Throughout the years, I have asked my living grandmothers (maternal and paternal) questions and inquired about their life stories. They have always been open and I am thankful for that! I always kept a mental note or jotted down any name they mentioned. Uncles, aunts, cousins, first, second, third, etc. They all matter! And due to that information I have been able to knock down many brick walls. There is no doubt I have Native American and Spanish heritage. I can’t claim a tribe, because Mexico has been mixing for five hundred years and all their birth certificates till 1750 so far state “Mestizo” which means of mixed heritage. I am definitely of Spanish Colonial heritage of the 1700s, not sooner. It is my aim and goal to find out my “Missing Spanish Link” and find out who was the first Spanish ancestor to arrive in “New Spain” a.k.a Mexico.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? I found two months ago my sixth great grandmother, Roberta Baylon, and my sixth great-grandfather, Jose Gutierrez, married in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1793, then “New Spain.” The certificate shows their parents’ names, my seventh great-grandparents. I was so excited to see this!

What are you working on this week? I am working on organizing all newfound research of the past months, which has been vast, on all lineages, maternal and paternal. Once I am ready to continue to do more research I will continue with Roberta Baylon and Jose Gutierrez.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? PERSISTENCE! It never fails. I can take a break, but once I am ready, BOOM, I find something awesome! As a genealogist, you can take a break, but don’t let too much time pass by. It should be something continuous, something you do for a minute every day or weekly. When the minutes add up, it is a bank of knowledge and research! Last, if one website doesn’t give you anything, always try other routes and get more information, then try again and you will find something!

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? I knit! My Facebook Page is “A Knitting Journey.” That is another passion of mine. I come from a line of “crochet ladies” on my dad’s side (five generations) and I took the road for knitting with two needles. I can crochet, I can definitely hold my own, but knitting is my FORTE!

Anything else you’d like to share? I have researched my own family, helped friends with “brick walls,” and I have also met great people in the genealogy industry in the states and abroad. I look forward to growing my network more. I would like to support others and be supported. What we do is not easy. We do it because we have a passion for it and we know the value of it. It is nice when you have other passionate people in your circle that share the same genealogy dreams and struggles. I look forward to connecting with many!

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.


Transcribing Old Handwriting

“What do you do?” is a question that I bet all of us have answered countless times throughout our lives. Depending on your career, it can be a question you either learn to dread or love. Fortunately for me, I love it. I started working as a translator while earning my German Masters degree in 2010, and within the last year, moved my focus more to the German genealogical field. Now, when someone asks me, “What do you do?” I need to stop myself from getting too excited, as I could go on for ages about translating letters from a lady in 1868 writing her sister about Indian attacks in America or a family in World War II describing the war-torn conditions of their city.

So what does this have to do with you? Well, as genealogists, it is likely you have come across documents in languages other than your own. As you are eager to learn all you can about your ancestors, you then send the document to a translator to have him or her decipher the text. But how does it proceed from there?

For me, although every document is unique, the process itself is relatively the same. First, I examine the copy of the document (usually received via e-mail) and try to estimate how long the handwriting transcription and the actual translation will take me. To be honest, the transcription from handwriting to text is usually much more time-consuming than the translation itself. This is due to the fact that the handwriting in Germany pre-1950, known as Kurrentschrift, is completely different than the modern day handwriting taught in schools today (so different, in fact, that my Austrian husband cannot even read it). Although I am now able to read the script myself (learned through video tutorials, alphabet keys, and a lot of practice!), everyone’s handwriting is different, and what looks like an “e” in one letter may be an “h” in another. Below are some transcription tips I have learned the past few months.

Five Things I Have Learned Transcribing Old Handwriting

1. As stated above, everyone’s handwriting is different. Just because one shape is a certain letter in one document does not necessarily make it that same letter in another.

2. Words can be spelled wrong. The authors of these letters were only human, and it was not uncommon for them to make mistakes while writing. As 7th grade spelling bee champion of Little Flower School (yes, it is really called that-St. Theresa of the Little Flower), this was a little hard for me to come to terms with at first, but once I started thinking outside the box, I was able to recognize previously undecipherable words.

3. Some words were actually spelled differently in the 18th and 19th century. The German language has undergone multiple spelling reforms over the years, so being able to recognize old spellings of words is crucial. An easy example is that the word for married–”verheiratet”–is usually written with an extra “h”–verheirathet.

4. The choice of words can also be completely different from words we would use today. German, as any language, has developed over time. Just as we no longer walk around using “thee” and “thou”, many German words have also gone out of style. This makes these words hard to find in an online dictionary, but the internet is an amazing tool. Creative googling can usually provide you with at least an example of how the word was used, which provides more context than simply the document in front of you.

5. The lines on a page are not always taken into account. If, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how those four letters on one line are supposed to make a word, I then remember to look at the next line and realize that the word simply continues there. There are no hyphens or clues that the word was cut off, just a mere continuation of the word below.

As you can see, reading old handwriting is definitely a learning process. But a fun one! And once the transcription is finished, the actual translation begins. This is usually my favorite part of the process, because this is where the documents come to life. From excitement about riding on the new methods of transportation in the late 1800s to worries about cooking a lamb large enough to feed the nosy neighbors who dropped by, these letters and documents never cease to fill me with wonder. After going through the translation a first time, I then double-check my work against the source document, making sure I did not miss a word or idea. Finally, I read through the translation on its own (without the source) to ensure that it flows well in English. A mark of a good translation is that it sounds like it was originally written in the second language–it should not be awkward or stilted and should read as if written by a native speaker. As I enjoy writing and editing, this part is usually fun for me.

And that’s it! With the translation complete, I send it on to you, the family historian, for your reading pleasure. I hope that it helps you on your journey to learn about your ancestors, and wish you all the best for your future search!

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Katherine Schober is a German translator at SK Translations, specializing in genealogy. After spending several years living in beautiful Salzburg, Austria, she recently moved back to the States with her Austrian husband. She now works with old German handwriting in letters, marriage and baptismal certificates, church registers and other documents. 


Education Hangout: Genealogy Societies and the Young Genealogist

Have you ever wondered how to attract younger genealogists to your society? Or are you a younger genealogist who would like to be more involved within your society? Hear from Education Co-Coordinators Shannon Combs Bennett and Eric Wells in their latest Education Hangout:

Don’t forget to bookmark our YouTube Channel and listen in for fantastic, friendly advice on a variety of topics relevant to the young genealogist!


Faces of NextGen: Meet Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor, 36, Utah

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Curious, careful, personable, busy, learning.

Why genealogy? When I was at BYU shopping for a major I knew I liked history and I liked ancestors so putting them together would be fun! Genealogy is great “hands-on” history.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? That the genealogy industry is a really exciting place to work right now.

What are you working on this week? I run a genealogy firm, so I get to work on the “inner gears” running the genealogy train, if that makes sense. So this week I’ve been coordinating improvements to our site’s SEO, helping onboard new affiliates, getting us set up to participate in radio over at Extreme Genes, and finalizing a change to our Worker’s Comp Insurance. Lots of variety!

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Working with incredible people.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? Direct communication with ancestors, of course! That would speed up a lot of our tapping at brick walls! Besides that, not needing to sleep would be really useful.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Playing with my three little girls, walking our Shih Tzu, or running.

Anything else you’d like to share? I admire NextGen because I spent about ten years in this industry hiding my young age because I felt intimidated. So I’m glad you’re getting the young ‘uns out there and involved!


The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.