Sometimes we just get stuck in our research because we can’t read the names in an old handwritten record book. Yes, this happens to everybody. If you are not careful, it is easy to get hung up on the point and feel like you are at the end of your research. I like to look at this common problem from one direction and then branch out from there. Sometimes your conclusion has to be: I know what it is not!
Many Old Pages Have Ink Blotches
We forget there were not ball point pens in the old days. There was an inkwell and a feathered quill pen to dip into the ink. Yes, this explains why there can often be ink blotches on the page. Either the ink smears, gets wet or as I often wonder; whether the inkwell simply tips over!
In this case, I look at the section of the page not smeared, which is usually most. I get a feel for the handwriting style and from there I can usually read part of a name, either the front or back part not blackened out. Once I have determined that it is not the name in question, I move on. If you need the name, such as godparent’s name or a witness to a deed, then you may need to go the extra step.
In this case, if using a microfilm copy, I take it to a scanner with the newest technology for lightening sections of the page in order to clean it up. Many databases with linked images do just that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Your hope is that the original handwriting will somehow bleed through the blotch.
In Part 2 of this blog, I will continue to explore ways of getting around often incomprehensible records.
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