Human OCR website?

+3 votes
Hi everyone,

I'm mainly using Ancestry to build my tree, accessing the many scanned documents they have. However, sometimes the scans are very difficult to read and additional details haven't been added to the metadata (for e.g., occupations listed on marriage certificates). More worryingly, I think I found an incorrect date. I'm 90% certain that the handwritten date is Oct 13 (on the previous page is a Sept 19, and the month looks different on the two pages, and Sept 13 coming after Sept 19 seems unlikely. To be clear, this isn't a fault with Ancestry, but an issue with anything that has relied on computer OCR and human volunteers (or lowly paid civil servants).

Anyway, it gave me an idea, but I wonder if it already exists. Does anyone know of a human-powered OCR project where users can upload images and ask volunteers to enter the text that they see? Google has run such things as game for machine learning, so it wouldn't surprise me if someone set up something like this, and I figure genealogists would be ideally placed to know the answer!

If no one is aware of such a website, would you find such a thing useful? (I know I would - I'm relying on friends and family to give me their opinions on words).


in Genealogy Help by Graeme Wilson G2G Crew (530 points)
Brilliant idea.

A volunteer translation site as an alternative to Google would be good as well.
Hi RJ,

Thanks for the comment. There are plenty of places to find free translations of small pieces of material (e.g., - professional translators who will do small translations for free to demonstrate their skills). There are other places out there, but not sure if there are any genealogy focused ones. I got a colleague at work to help me with the wording on a French document for military draft.


2 Answers

+1 vote

I am not entirely sure that I understand your question, but you are asking for help to read old handwritten documents, right?

There is an enormous amount of efforts being spend on transcribing and indexing the old files, and sometime in future, I am sure you can look most things up in databases.

And maybe OCR software will become available that can read the old files, what a wonderful thought!

Until that time, you still need to be able to read the old style handwriting, and I grant you that it is difficult or next to impossible in some cases. But there are groups and forums  on the internet that provides help. If you are working with Danish genealogy you can find such a forum here:*). I guess that there are similar places for genealogy in other countries. Do some search on Google, and something will turn up for the place that is of interest to you


(*) The forum is not as such limited to Danish sources, but the people following the forum are skilled particularly in the Danish files.


by Torben Friberg Sørensen G2G6 Mach 1 (12.7k points)
edited by Torben Friberg Sørensen
+1 vote

In Sweden there is a subforum of Anbytarforum dedicated to help with the reading of old handwriting. It's subdivided into regions, so if you're not familiar with those it might be easier to ask for help in the other, English-speaking subforum.

I also know of one or two groups in Swedish on FaceBook where novices can get that sort of help - there may be other local-language groups doing the same.

Apart from that, WikiTree G2G seems to work as a contact surface for this sort of thing, particularly across languages. It has the advantage that we are all here, already ;-) - but the uploading of images is not the strongest feature of the site. And it's question by question, probably not so easy to find the same document again for the next person.

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (501k points)

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