Google Voice for Cemetery Transcriptions

google voice for cemetery transcriptions

While I received an invitation to Google Voice several months ago, and I set up the account to automatically record a voicemail for incoming calls, I haven’t advertised my new phone number since I didn’t see much use for the program.

It wasn’t until today when Google announced the ability to have transcribed voicemails sent to your preferred inbox that I was willing to do some more testing of Google Voice.

Unified Messaging – Transcribed Voicemails

You heard correctly.  Google Voice will take a voicemail and then convert the audio message to text.  Here is how an incoming voicemail looks once it hits your Google Voice inbox:

google voice 01

After several minutes (depending upon the length and complexity of the voicemail) the message will be transcribed to text:

google voice 02

And now with the new feature, the text transcription appears in my e-mail inbox:

google voice 03

Test Case: Cemetery Headstone Transcription

One use for this service could be to dictate headstone transcriptions into your cell phone while performing a cemetery survey.  Unfortunately, as you will see, I don’t believe that the transcription capabilities of Google Voice are up to snuff.

My goal was to transcribe a headstone for my great-grandfather Elmer McEntee which I visited on July 14, 2008 in New Paltz, New York.  A photo of the headstone can be viewed here.

I made three different attempts at dictating the headstone details in a voicemail at my Google Voice account.  The text which I read out loud is as follows:

This is a cemetery transcription.  New Paltz, New York, July 14, 2008.  MacEntee.  M C E N T E E.  Elmer A. Eighteen eighty two dash nineteen forty eight.  Margaret M. DeGroodt.  D E G R O O D T.  Eighteen eighty three dash.

What I received via email is pretty much undecipherable:

This is cemetery transcription, newport’s still you work. July 14th, 2008. Had stone. Nick and TNC E N T E. Elmer a 18 82, dash 1948. Margaret them to group the G. E. R. Or will be. T his wife, Birth Date, 18 83.

Poor Transcription Results

I made two more attempts, adjusting my microphone volume (this was done with a Logitech headset and my Skype account on my computer) and speaking out numbers as one eight eight eight instead of eighteen eighty eight.  But the results still were not what I expected or usable:

This is a cemetery had stone transcription New Hall. We’re all cemetery, New, Paul new you work. July 14 to 1,000 state. Hey, it’s Joan name next. N. T. Elmer a 8882 dash 1940 8 18 Margaret am the group.


Hey stone. macKenzie and to see E and to be. E. E. Ohh, hi hey 188 to dash 19488.


As much as I hate writing down headstone details while performing a cemetery survey, relying on Google Voice transcription might not be the best route.  I can’t see using up my cell phone minutes in this manner unless I had many headstones to transcribe and I was willing to work with the audio voicemail once it arrived in my mailbox.

Hopefully over the next few months the unified messaging technology will improve at Google Voice.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

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