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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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