Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday's Tip/Hard To Read Baptismal Records


      Looking through the early parish records of Castledermot is challenging to say the least.  Many of the pages are so faded there is no earthly way they could be deciphered, though I wonder if the FBI could use some method to read them?

     I was looking for my Travers ancestors and not finding very much.  I tried the Ancestry index along with the one at Find My Past with only a few hits.  Using the indexes I did locate a baptism in 1793 for ____ Travers of Lucas and Maria Travers.  

     I'm not sure how they came up with Lucas, the name does appear to begin with an L, but I certainly can't make out the rest. I also wondered, was the child's last name really Travers or was that the mother's maiden name?  Above, you can see the name Maria Travers is clear, as are the sponsor's  names SS Pat. Malone & Ann Corrigan, but the others are quite indistinct.

     To attempt to find the answer, I skipped ahead a few pages and backwards a few pages until I came to a fully legible entry and used this to determine in what manner the baptisms were being recorded.  Some parishes did not include the mother's surnames at all in early records while others did, which is what I needed to know.  After reading the clear entry I saw that in this particular parish, the priest entered the child's first and last name, followed by first name of the father and next, the first and maiden name of the mother.  That meant the child's last name was NOT Travers, that was Maria's maiden name.  Looking at the entry I can see the child's surname really doesn't look like Travers either--I can't make it out but sometimes it's easier to tell what an entry doesn't say than what it does.  In this case the surname appears to end with a Y.  I see a definite down-stroke.

     It's important that you use another entry as close as possible to the one you're having trouble reading, as sometimes baptisms were entered in different ways by different priests in the same parish over the years.  For instance, I've also seen records that use the child's first name followed by the father's first and last name followed by the mother's name with or without her maiden name.

     Another method that sometimes works is to upload the image to a photo editing site.  I've been using Befunky, but there are other free sites.  Try the "sharpen" setting or playing with the contrast.  You can also adjust the blues and other colors to improve the readability.


  1. You're right Ellie, the Ancestry transcriptions were carried out in a big rush and the quality suffered as a result. I've noticed many cases of the father being transcribed using the mother's maiden name in error.

  2. I have too Dara, and in an ideal world they would have used Irish transcriptions who were familiar with the names.