Where Old, Unreadable Documents go to be Understood

Where can you decipher that difficult-to-read document or letter found in your genealogy research? A transcriber on the Isle of Man can decipher almost anything.

According to an article by Sarah Laskow in the Atlas Obscura web site:

“On any given day, from her home on the Isle of Man, Linda Watson might be reading a handwritten letter from one Confederate soldier to another, or a list of convicts transported to Australia. Or perhaps she is reading a will, a brief from a long-forgotten legal case, an original Jane Austen manuscript. Whatever is in them, these documents made their way to her because they have one thing in common: They’re close to impossible to read.

“Watson’s company, Transcription Services, has a rare specialty—transcribing historical documents that stump average readers. Once, while talking to a client, she found the perfect way to sum up her skills. “We are good at reading the unreadable,” she said. That’s now the company’s slogan.”

Obviously, there are fees involved. Still, using Transcription Services might be the best way to decipher something you cannot read.

You can read the full article by Sarah Laskow in the Atlas Obscura web site at: http://bit.ly/2nMxmoN.


I have used PaperPort to make some unreadable documents readable. Cleaning the background sometimes is all it takes.
For a few documents a photo editing program may work.


Fascinating article. I have a stack of letters written between my great grandparents. They are “cross written”; meaning that after a page is written on, it’s turned 1/4 to its long side then written literally across the first..yikes. Compounding that is the fact that my great grandmother’s handwriting was awful to begin with! It’s been a challenge to me and my eyes.


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