old gravestone in cemetery

How To Use PicMonkey to Decipher Gravestones

How to use the photo editing website Picmonkey.com to enhance gravestone pictures and make your ancestors’ gravestones more readable.

Are you having trouble reading your ancestors’ old and worn gravestones?

Often the older stones are old and faded and difficult to read. Using a photo editing website is a great way to make the gravestone’s lettering more readable. PicMonkey is a fabulous online photo editing software. PicMonkey is a paid subscription photo editing site, but they do offer a free trial so you can try it out.

I’ve definitely struggled with reading the old tombstones of my ancestors. Sometimes, the engraving is just too worn away.

The gravestone of my great-great grandfather James T Maddox is one example I have come across.

How to Use Picmonkey to Decipher Gravestones
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Step by Step Guide to Using PicMonkey

  1. Go to PicMonkey.
  2. Click on“Edit”.  Follow the prompts and upload the photograph you wish to edit.
Editing a gravestone Photo in Picmonkey

3. Crop your photograph to your preference.

PM Maddox stone crop

4. Now is the time to enhance your photograph and make the gravestone more readable. Start by clicking the Auto Adjust button on the top left. Sometimes this is all you need to do to achieve the desired results.

PM Maddox stone autoenhance

PM Maddox stone Exposure

5. If your photograph still needs a little more adjusting, adjust the exposure.  Here you can use the Auto Enhance feature or indvidually adjust the brightness, highlights, shadows, and/or contrasts.

6. Still need a little more adjustment to your photograph?  Adjust the Sharpness and Clarity of the photograph.

PM Maddox stone sharpness

7. Here is the final product.

Using Picmonkey to read old gravestones

So….still not great, but  so much better.

The middle initial “T” became more clear, as did the birth year of 1844. 

The birth month looks like “Mar”, but is not known with certainty from the photograph alone.  

The death month also can not be determined with certainty from the photograph, however from other research, it was revealed to be January. The death year of 1892 did become clear.

Here is the transcription of the tombstone:

IN MEMORY OF

JAMES T MADDOX

BORN

[Mar] 15 1844

DIED

J– 20 189[2]

Do you have any photographs of gravestones you just cannot decipher?  Try using the PicMonkey  to make the photograph more readable.

Another photo editing software you may want to try is Vivid-Pix Restore. Learn how to use Vivid-Pix to improve your old family photographs including those of gravestones in How To Restore Old Family Photos With Vivid-Pix Restore (Tutorial).

While you are taking those photographs of your ancestors gravestones, make sure you don’t miss ALL the other clues in the family cemetery.

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7 thoughts on “How To Use PicMonkey to Decipher Gravestones”

  1. I’ve been doing something very similar to this for some time, using an old but very useful edition (version 5) of Paint Shop Pro. Increasing contrast or boosting shadows often brings out detail in the gravestone inscriptions that can make transcription much easier. Most if not all of the gravestone photos on my Waters Upton One Place Study website have been adjusted in this way to improve legibility.

  2. Patricia Tardugno

    Try the trick of pouring water over the stone, like in the Nicholas Cage movie about the stole Declaration of Independance, they needed to see what was carved into a stone in the desert while following clues that created a trail. See if that really works, & how well.

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