I use Google Drive to keep ALL of my genealogy records stored in the cloud. I love this because I get 15 gigs of space for every gmail address I have and I can access those records from any computer. I can have a specific email set up for each surname and then I can email documents directly to that address and then later, move them into my Google Drive. (I’ve talked about this before – see Gmail stands for Genealogy Mail.)

But last fall, a new tool was introduced that is just about a dream come true. It’s called “Voice Typing” and I tried it for the first time yesterday. It is truly amazing! So here are a couple of tips if you’d like to try it out.

  1. You have to be in Chrome for it to work.
  2. Once you open a new Doc, you can find it listed under the tools tab. (I was getting pop-ups for it every time I opened a new Doc, but didn’t try it for quite awhile.)
  3. I didn’t try it because I didn’t think I had a microphone, but then one day, I realized that the Apple earbuds that I use at the gym have a built in microphone and those worked great!
  4. My first document was not the easiest thing to test with, but I discovered a lot. I decided to transcribe a very long deed in which two ancestors were selling all of their shares to their deceased father’s land to a brother. There were 5 tracts of land, each with quite a list of metes and bounds descriptions. (Beginning at a beech and a hickory thence S34 E117 poles, etc.). Some of the language used was not something that Google interpreted well, so I did have to come up with a couple of short cuts. I decided to use specific words as substitutes for some of the common words in the deed that Google consistently missed. For example, instead of saying the word “thence”, I said “Toshiba”. And instead of “to wit”, I said “Seagate”. (Can you tell I had some external drives sitting on my desk?) I kept a post-it note on my screen to help me remember which word to substitute. After I had completed the transcription, I used the “Find and Replace” tool and told Google to replace every use of “Toshiba” with “thence”, etc. It was a fast fix. For my next deed, I will also have a word to substitute for “poles” because that word was interpreted a dozen different ways!
  5. As I was reading, I did say “South 34 West 117” and then used “Find and Replace” to change it to S34 W117. (Replace “South” with “S”, etc.) This did result in a couple of additional places to check like when a parcel of land started on the south side of the river, but those were pretty easy to find. I could have tried to read it as S34 W117, but I’m sure that every S would have been interpretted as “is” and every N would have been “in”.
  6. Many of my numbers had a “th” added after them. For example, “South 34th West 117th” and I’m not sure why. That was a bit of a hassle, but now that I know it’s an issue, I will try to speak slower when saying the numbers.
  7. You will have to speak any punctuation such as period, comma, question mark, etc. But in my experience, there is not very much punctuation in documents like this. I think I had a 4 page deed and there may have been 4 periods total.
  8. Google made some interesting decisions on what to capitalize. I’ve decided that instead of spending time going back through checking which words were capitalized originally and which were not, I will just add a note to the bottom of my document that says I was using the Voice Typing tool and that capitalization may not match the original. (Not a huge deal in my book.)
  9. If you are transcribing a long document, you may want to stop every half page or so to proofread what you have so far. I read the entire thing and then went back, which made it a little harder to find errors. The proofreading took a little while (I will not do a long document in one reading again) but compared to the headaches I get when I’m trying to type those metes and bounds descriptions, proofreading was a piece of cake.

I hope that you’ll give it a try if you do a lot of transcribing. I also read somewhere that a person played a video on one screen and had Voice Typing transcribe as it was playing. That’s something I’m anxious to play with using some of the digital recordings I’ve made of family interviews!