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1880 telephone book
Converting of an image of an old telephone directory can make it searchable by Google.

There are two advantages to converting an image to text. First, it can be very handy if the genealogy record is written in an unfamiliar language of your ancestor. Secondly, it conveniently makes the image searchable by Google and other search engines.

The Free OCR website supports images in many different languages (everything from Bulgarian to Vietnamese). All you have to do is to supply the image. Images can be in jpg, pdf, giff, tiff and bmp format. [Free OCR]


Decipher Partial Names

A common occurrence in genealogy is that only a partial name can be read from an old handwritten document. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a website where you could enter just a partial name and it could provide you with a complete list of all the potential matches? In fact, such a website does exist, at least for first names. The website is called babynamewizard.com and (as the name suggests) it is actually designed to help parents chose a baby name.

In addition to the usual database of first names and their meanings, the website has an Advanced Baby Name Finder that is particularly useful for genealogists. It can be used to help decipher a partial first name from an old handwritten document. Basically, you enter the partial name and it provides a list of all potential matches. It even organizes the list by male and female names.

1700s English baptism record
Not all historic handwritten documents are as neat as this baptism record from the 1700s.

To help narrow the search, the calculator provides all sorts of options. For example, a user can enter just the starting letters of the name or just the ending letters of the name. This can be combined with choosing the minimum/maximum name length. If that is not enough, further refinements are possible, such as listing only traditional names, names from the bible, Jewish names, nicknames and so on.

The website also has other features that are useful to a genealogist. A function called NameVoyager tracks the popularity of first names from the 1880s to the present. You can use this function to help decipher name trends within your family. For example, if your family tended to pick names that were not very popular at the time, then this could be an indication that your family used a naming convention (such as the first male being named after the father’s father and the second male being named after the mother’s father, etc.).

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