I'm researching my grand-uncles James Daniel Wright and Frank Leslie Wright (brothers of my grand-father) who went over to Canada as British Home Children with their younger sister in 1912. Unfortunately, their younger sister died a year or so after arrival. Another sister Susan [Jane] Wright is also understood to have emigrated as my Aunt went to visit her during Expo 1967. And yet another sister Mary Agnes Wright returned to Canada on at least one occasion with her sister Susan, and arrived on another occasion on her own from Indonesia. (And wasn't that a surprise).

Both brothers are reported to have spent 'some/a lot of' time in the USA.

The image is a record of an arrival from Canada to Idaho in 1922 and may relate to James Daniel Wright (and mention his sister Susan).

How can I process the image to extract more of the information?

enter image description here

The image is from Ancestry.com:

Source Citation The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Eastport, Idaho, 1924-1956; National Archives Microfilm Publication: A3460; Roll: 35; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Record Group Number: 85

Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

  • 3
    Wow, that's a poor image -- which provider and database is it from? Sometimes FamilySearch has similar databases to Ancestry and the images, taken from originals or with better/more recent technology, are better quality. Or Fold3 or NARA or ... BTW, I have a template for the usual border-crossing card that I use for transcriptions; that might help: it's the field names that are mostly washed out on your image.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 15:46
  • 1
    @bgwiehle Have added source information. The corresponding image at FamilySearch is a little better, so your comment might form the basis of an answer. The template would help, I think.
    – user104
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 16:25

4 Answers 4


When a record search comes up empty or an image is poor-quality, it can be helpful to check other database providers to see if they have the same collection.

Different indexing and different search fields and algorithms may help locate a difficult record. And images quality can vary -- different filming, from originals, just with new technology or different modifications during processing. For example, your image is black and white, while the equivalent FamilySearch image is gray-scale (this distinction is found in a number of shared Ancestry and FamilySearch collections).

Using a template can be useful in deciphering missing information, especially in your case where it's the field names that are mostly washed out. I use a template for my transcription of the border-crossing cards, which I modify as necessary. Note that the format does change over time, and some of the available fields don't appear on earlier cards. (QQ marks where there may be data).

Port of QQ. Date QQ Manifest No. QQ
Family name QQ Given name QQ Accompanied by QQ
C.I.V. No. QQ Place and date of Issue QQ Windsor, Canada. Section and subdivision: PREF 6-A-1. Quota country: QQ
Place of birth: QQ QQ. Age Qyrs Q Mos. Sex Q. M[arried] Occupation QQ Read/Write Y,Y
Language QQ Race QQ Nationality QQ Last permanent residence QQ
Departure contact: QQ.
Ever in US YES QQ to QQ. Where QQ. Passage paid by SELF.
Destination contact: QQ
Ever arrested... No No, Purpose - Reside permanently.
Height Q Ft Q in. Complexion QQ. Hair QQ. Eyes QQ. Distinguishing marks QQ
Seaport and date of landing and name of steamship: QQ QQ QQ
Arrived by QQ
Entered unlawfully QQ at QQ

  • I've now used this template several times with poor quality images and it's very helpful.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 15:55

In answer to your initial question edit the image in a good image editing programme, I use Photoshop. You need to adjust the contrast, make the blacks blacker, whites whiter and also play around with the exposure usually dropping it down slightly. The final trick is to then invert the image colours. This is the result that I have come up with, could be even better with a bit more time but hopefully it shows you what can be done.

Edited and inverted


Since the original image is at the US National Archives, your best course of action might be to ask if the original cards survive, and if so, if NARA can send you a fresh copy of the original card. Failing that, they might be able to make you a better copy of the card from their master copy microfilm. You could email them at [email protected]

During a recent presentation, I saw a card image from this collection:

Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1952. NARA microfilm publication T458, 31 rolls.

The image on Ancestry is in black-and-white, but the card shown in the presentation is in color.

Even if the originals have been destroyed and only microfilm exists, NARA will probably be able to make you a better copy than you can download from Ancestry.

In the meantime, you can try using a program like IrfanView to experiment with. Changing the color channels to make the card have a non-white background may increase the readability -- try to get black lettering with a yellow background and see if that helps.

I'd also look at other images in the same collection to get a better idea of what the different field labels say. That might help you interpret the data in the fields. If you have a letter which is only a partial, compare it with the letter shapes on the same card and surrounding cards to see if you can puzzle out what letters it might be.


I've cleaned the image up as best I can but I'd definitely try and find a better scan of the original record. If you find a better coy that still needs cleaning up a bit comment this answer and I'll clean it up. (Not strictly an answer to your question but might be helpful)

enter image description here

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