Foreign Language Special Characters in FamilySearch & Ancestry

In this article, I'll show you how to enter foreign language characters in FamilySearch and Ancestry. I'll also show you how to change the display language in FamilySearch. 

Typing & Entering Foreign Language Special Characters

In these screen shots, you can see that the names and places have been entered in Russian – using the Cyrillic alphabet. 

To do this, start by opening your FamilySearch account and finding an ancestor who needs his or her name or a place entered in their native language.

Click on a name and open their “Person” page by clicking on “Person”:

You should now be seeing their “Person” page. Click on the person's name.

The name editor opens. Click on 'Edit'.  

Notice that the language selected (circled in orange) is Russian. Two sets of fields allow entry of the person's name: one in the Roman alphabet (to write an English equivalent) and one in the Cyrillic alphabet that enables you to record their actual Russian name. Click on the language dropdown:

Select the language you want:

Now you will have fields for entering your ancestor's name in his or her native language, as well as being able to record an English equivalent so that you and the temple workers can read it.

The next step is transcribing your ancestor's name from your records into the computer. We'll use Google Translate to write the name of your ancestor in its native format. Open (Opens in a new window).

Notice that we have Russian selected on the left, English on the right, and a clickable keyboard with foreign characters that we can use to write names and places with:

Once you're done, if it's still there you'll click out of the predictive text dropdown, then highlight the newly-entered foreign language characters with your mouse and copy, paste, save. You can also write place names.

You can paste this information into both FamilySearch and Ancestry, and both systems can use this to search both English and Russian records (or whatever language you're working in). You can enter foreign language special characters in the search functions in both.

This neat little tool has got to be the best kept foreign language secret on the internet!

Changing the Display Language in FamilySearch

By default, FamilySearch is displayed to the user in whatever language is associated with your browser. Of course, some people will want to be able to work in their own native language. Let me show you how to change the display language.

Open FamilySearch in your browser and log in. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Click on the link next to the little world icon that says shows your current language. 

The system gives you this pop-up window that says 'Select a language'. As you can see, in my case, 'English' is currently selected. Click on the language of your choice. In this case, I'm going to select 'Русски'.

You've successfully changed the display language!