I found the hardest yet to read document in my carrier, see below.

Do you have any idea how to make the remaining information on that digital document (it is German from 1657) readable or is it lost forever?

It is a double page of a German church book from 1657 on which baptisms where recorded. I am looking for the entry where the name Emde, Emden, Emdte should be written (usually on the first line of the first entry, sometimes underlined by the priest back then).

Edit: As requested in the comments, here is the dropbox link to the HD file.

hard to read document

  • 1
    Hi Til. I've had some luck playing with the shadow filters in GIMP. This looks like it's perhaps from archion.de? The image you've given is likely a bit compressed vs the original; would you be able to give the specific source/city/book/image it's taken from?
    – BrianFreud
    Oct 27, 2021 at 3:14
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    I've played with this compressed version in the meantime. If this is the highest quality image you have, I don't see that much can be pulled out of it. I can make out the name "Elisabeth" in the top entry on the right, and the entry numbers 447 and 448, but otherwise, I can't pull anything from that side. For the left side, you could likely pull out the text for at least some of the top two entries. Focusing on the underlines there, I don't see that either matches the names you are looking for.
    – BrianFreud
    Oct 27, 2021 at 3:43
  • Thank you very much, Brian, for your quick reply. I've added a link to the original digital file. I hope the quality is good enough, because I can get a better image than that.
    – Til Hund
    Oct 28, 2021 at 8:39
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    Thanks. I'm not an expert, but I've done my best; I'm not seeing anything promising in the result. You might try graphicdesign.stackexchange.com to see if there's more that could be done to make it readable. This is the best I could get: drive.google.com/file/d/1b-eyZvHNpuSP2bokPItG05F5XyezlCLR/…
    – BrianFreud
    Oct 28, 2021 at 16:41
  • Thank you very much, BrianFreud. Wished I could mark you answer as answer, too. You did a great job just like Colin. Best wishes
    – Til Hund
    Nov 11, 2021 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


It often helps to use an image editing program such as Photoshop to process the image and inverting the colour also helps. I had a quick go at your image and it may help but knowing no German I am not sure.Edited image

  • Thank you, Colin, for your answer. Is there any possibility to enhance this further? For example by adding more "white" to the writings? I can almost see the text through all stains. Thank you in advance! You may look at the original digital file I added to the original post (via Dropbox). I do not know if there is any difference in quality between the one in the post or this one via Dropbox.
    – Til Hund
    Oct 28, 2021 at 8:41
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    I have had another go for you but unfortunately I only have my laptop at the moment. I have put the changed file online for you at drive.google.com/file/d/1C3htFoJA0Ia3BBjmAQB2t10giIri3FYq/… See if this is any better
    – Colin
    Oct 29, 2021 at 6:31
  • Thank you very much, Colin. Both of your attempts have helped me.
    – Til Hund
    Nov 11, 2021 at 13:38

If you don't have a program to tweak the image yourself, you can try a brute-force method of bringing out text from the few areas which have too much contrast: get a yellow transparent report cover and hold it over your computer screen.

In addition to the previous suggestions, with image software you could try enhancing your image by loading a copy of your image and tweaking the color balance (I use IrfanView on Windows). This may not be effective with such a challenging image, but it sometimes works for gravestone photos where switching the image to negative isn't enough.

Another thing you could try is to look for published transcriptions of the church book. If someone happened to transcribe the original by looking at the actual book instead of a photo, they may have been able to read text which was not picked up well by the camera when filming. This is another technique which perhaps is more help with gravestone photos, but you can't know a transcription doesn't exist if you don't look for one.

If you haven't already, double-check to make sure that church book duplicates of the register weren't made. They may not exist for your area, but in some geographical areas you can get duplicates even back to the 1600s. Check https://www.compgen.de/ for OFBs and other sources of local heritage books in case someone else has already looked at this register.

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