If you are a genealogy researcher, you no doubt have experienced difficulty reading and transcribing old documents or an ancestor’s letters. The cause might be bad handwriting or simple documents that have faded with age.
[I think I inherited my bad handwriting from my ancestors! At least that’s what I’ going with.]
Being able to transcribe and read those original documents or precious family heirloom letters is crucial to us as genealogy researchers. Incorrectly transcribing a record can lead to incorrect conclusions or missed information/clues about our ancestors.
I was recently asked by Vivid-Pix to test a new feature in their RESTORE software. WOW, this is what every genealogist needs! It’s my new favorite feature on my favorite photo-editing software. (Read my Vivid-Pix tutorial here.)
Even if you are not a Vivid-Pix user, read through the examples below anyway. The principles behind good document transcription are the same and you may find something similar on the photo editing software you currently use.
To get started, let me introduce you to my great grandmother Esther Lee Richardson.
Esther was a prolific letter AND she kept EVERYTHING! By that I mean she kept all of her correspondence between herself, her many cousins, her friends and her beaus. Yes, beaus is plural! She was quite popular. 🙂 Here letters provide amazing insight into her life in the early 1900’s, but many are becoming faded and difficult to read.
Below is a postcard, Esther wrote to her beau Boss Henry Talbott in January 1915. The couple eventually married in November 1915.
As you can see it’s not so easy to read plus, I’m afraid time will continue to take its toll on the light pencil.
So, I used Vivid-Pix to create a more readable version and then…..used the new Zoom/Transcribe button to read and transcribe the postcard. In this screen the size can be adjusted on the left. What I love about this feature is that when I zoomed on the photo, I did not lose any of the clarity of the text.
Best of all…..with this I could now clearly read the Danville address where Esther was living in 1915!
Also, a nice feature is the ability to add comments or notes on the document as well.
Once you are done here, click the green “Save” button. You will be back at the main Vivid-Pix screen where you can then click the big green “Save/Next” button to save your edited copy.
Let’s look at this page out of the Surry County, NC estate record for William White. When I research original records on-site, I typically take digital images of those records. That’s exactly what I did with White’s estate record. I will be the first to admit my photography skills are not the best.
I uploaded the digital image (taken on my cell phone) into Vivid-Pix Restore. While I normally use the “Faded Document” option for fixing this digital image, the “Digital or Cell Phone Camera” option looked better to me. After all , the image was taken on my cell phone. I then clicked on the Zoom/Transcribe feature to actually read the document.
I then enlarged the image 100% and it was so much easier to read! My poor photography skills and the faded writing were no longer a problem.
This whole process works well for photographs of tombstones as well!
Watch and Learn More Vivid-Pix Tips!
- Being able to accurately transcribe a document is crucial for your genealogy research.
- Just because a document or letter is faded and/or difficult to read does not mean you do not have options for accurately transcribing it.
- Tools exist to help you improve images of documents for easier reading. Explore your favorite or give Vivid-Pix a try. (Free Trial here.)
Other Posts of Interest:
- Restoring Old Family Photos – A Vivid-Pix Tutorial
- Best Practices for Storing Heirloom Photographs
- Top 10 Resources for Dating Old Photographs