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Unlocking Your Past

Unlock Your History helps people along a marvelous journey: one that begins with a tantalizing, but frustrating family document. It could be a postcard, an old passport, a will, an invitation or obituary. It may have been handwritten by a recent or long-departed ancestor. It's certainly in another language.

We call it genealogical translation, but it's so much more meaningful than that. Unlock Your History specializes in Germanic languages (German, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, even English from earlier centuries) to help families translate and understand the context of their enigmatic documents.

With a digital scan placed beside the translation and rich information to give context about the original, plus suggested next steps, Unlock Your History takes genealogical translation to a new level.

Browse our site and blog, learn how genealogy and family history have enriched our lives.  Have any old papers you can't read? We'd love to help you unlock some of your history as well. Please reach out!

Unlock Your History is an affiliate of the Heinz History Center.

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Unlock Your History is committed to providing you with a richly informative packet. We will always help you understand more than simply the words on the page. Each packet we return includes an introductory page and "Extras" to help you understand the context of the document and what you can do next once you have it in hand.

Our language experts are more than just translators. They care deeply about the significance of each document and will help you understand details others might miss. Stefan, our lead has a Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics, has been a German professor and a professional translator for over 15 years.

Translating historical documents entails many factors: language, legibility, use of abbreviations, technical terms and more.

Because each document is unique, we review scans of your document for free and provide a custom quote.  We would love to learn how we can help you. Please reach out so we can help unlock your family history.

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Unlock Your History provides much more than simple translation. We want you to really understand more about your ancestor, so we do the extra work so you can have the context about your document and so that the translation makes sense. We also have decades of experience working with handwriting from previous centuries.

Some people ask about just having software do their translation, but software still has a ways to go! A computer might do an adequate job in giving you an idea of what the words might be, but it's best for contemporary writing. 


We aim to give everyone a quote within 5 days. At that time, we can provide an estimate for how long it will take to create a full packet depending on the complexity and length of the translation. Usually we expect we can deliver your translation within 3 weeks.


Currently we specialize in German and Germanic languages with a particular emphasis on handwritten documents, although we can easily do printed ones as well.

We work with documents going back from the Middle Ages to modern times.

Specific languages include German, and its dialects, as well as Danish, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian. We also older English. This includes transcribing the old script into readable form, but also ‘translating’ unfamiliar words and phrases and the frequent parts in Latin.

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