“Document” Enhancement


Image & document restoration is key to successfully reading many genealogical documents. The source documents we have available to us today are often simply scanned or photographic images of original handwritten documents.  Many of the originals are themselves are in poor or suspect condition even before they are digitally captured. Given that is the case, we can’t be ‘flummoxed’ because we  still have to find a way to read these documents in order to decipher clues about our family’s’ past.

I just finished attempting to read an image that was scanned and made available on Ancestry.com. Although I could see enough to recognize that the document held potential, I was unable to decipher the names of both parents on a certain baptismal registration (I seem to encounter this problem a lot with Drouin Collection documents).  So what is a person to do?

The obvious answer is we need to fix the image.  How do you do that?  Well, you find an image processing tool. I use Gimp– both because I’m poor and because I use Linux; hmmm maybe that’s really only one reason!  Once you have a tool you can use, I recommend that you ‘fool’ around with the images including sharpening, removing color layers, color manipulation, layer creation, transparency, merging… and after a few hours you should finally stumbled upon documents that you can decipher.

In my case I did… now all I need to do is persuade my French fluent and exceedingly generous, oh and good-looking, brother-in-law to take a look and see what he can make of it all.

The bottom line is, you need to read these documents no matter how fuzzy, blurry or scant the image might be.  If you are lucky you have the skills to approach this knowingly and skilfully.  But even if you don’t give it a try. Any success makes it a worthwhile effort in the end.

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