Friday, March 4, 2011

Dealing with Researchers and Translators

My blog has been quiet for a few months mainly because I've been waiting for hired researchers and translators in Europe, in this case Poland and Belarus, to finish their work. The delays I've encountered make me glad I negotiated flat rates in advance versus waiting for the surprise of an hourly total at the end of the projects. I'm just glad we're finally finished so I can begin moving forward again.

I won't mention the name of the translator in Poland because I think he did a good job on the translations (except for his unfamiliarity with Jewish names). He was just slow. I sent him 25 Polish & Russian birth, marriage, and death records 6 months ago, as well as 4 census cards from the 1939 Biala-Podlaska (Poland) 1939 Census. We agreed that he would just do extracts of the pertinent data for the BMD records. I normally prefer full translations so nothing is missed but I've been sitting on these records for a while and just wanted them translated already. So on those 25 BMD records, all he had to do was decifer some bad handwriting to pull names and dates. The 1939 census cards were more modern with handwritten data on pre-printed forms. 6 months is just ridiculous!

I'm a tax consultant. When one of my clients needs me to work on something for them and that work is going to generate income for me, of course I do the work as promptly as possible. They want the results and I want the income. It seemed to me that this translator was only working on my stuff when I would ask for a status. After 4 months we even set a deadline for him to complete the translations within the next few weeks. He stepped up made a lot of progress at the 11th hour but still had 6 translations that were not completed until 3-4 weeks after the deadline.

As for the researcher in Belarus, I don't know exactly what happened. This is a knowledgeable researcher. Part of the problem was a nationwide internet outage which obviously was not his fault. For one set of records I don't know why he gave me the default answer that the records were destroyed in the war. The problem actually came down to records being transferred from local to state archive locations and from one state archive to another. The records still aren't available for research which means we still don't really know what is there. Belarus, being one of the last dictatorships in the world and having an anti-semitic government, is tough to deal with in general.

Unfortunately we sometimes have to hire someone to help us. Not all are bad...I've had good translators in the past but lost them to projects bigger than my piddly translations. I can usually make out the names on the old Polish records but that's about it. Forget the Russian/Cyrillic records. Even my Russian cousins can't read them. For records, I'm happy to contribute money to record indexing projects for the towns I'm researching so I can have a nice database to search online (or an Excel file) and then I can just order copies of records. Luckily this has been the case for much of my research, even when it comes to records from the Old Country. I'm just glad to be past this bump in the road and I can dig into the new details I've received.


Greta Koehl said...

If you have something in Russian or Polish that you believe to contain information that might be critical, I might be able to give some help - can't guarantee that I can read the handwriting, but I can give it a try.

Sharon said...

Thanks Greta, I'm good for now. I'll keep you in mind if I need help in the future.