Using PicMonkey to Decipher Gravestones

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Having trouble reading your ancestors’ old and worn gravestones?

Today I am sharing with you how to use PicMonkey to edit photographs of your ancestors’ gravestones.  Often the older stones are old and faded and difficult to read. Using photo editing website is a great way to make the gravestone’s lettering more readable. PicMonkey is a fabulous online photo editing software.  Did I mention it is free!  You can upgrade to a paid royal membership. I currently use the free version, but may upgrade in the future. The gravestone of James T Maddox* will be used in the example.

How to Use Picmonkey to Decipher Gravestones
  1. Go to PicMonkey.
  2. Click on“Edit”.  Follow the prompts and choose the photograph you wish to edit.
Editing a gravestone Photo in Picmonkey
PM Maddox stone crop
PM Maddox stone autoenhance
PM Maddox stone Exposure
PM Maddox stone sharpness
Using Picmonkey to read old gravestones

3. Crop your photograph to your preference. 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. 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. 5. Still need a little more adjustment to your photograph?  Adjust the Sharpness and Clarity of the photograph. 5. Here is the final product. So….still not great, but  much better. The middle initial became more clear, as did the birth year.  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. The death year did become clear.




[Mar] 15 1844


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.

Were you successful with editng photographs? (I’m sure you were!)  Send me your success story and I will share it here at Are You My Cousin?

*James T. Maddox of Chatham County, North Carolina was my Great Great grandfather. If you are a Maddox cousin, contact me at LissonGenealogy[at]yahoo[dot]com.

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6 thoughts on “Using 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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