Black and white digital images of original records present occasional challenges to the researcher. Not because the images are bad, but because sometimes there are clues in the colors that one cannot easily see. Sometimes those clues are significant and sometimes they are not. Often the color that’s been stripped from a document is a clue in and of itself. That’s the case with this 1881 birth return for Mimka J. Habben from Hancock County, Illinois.
It’s fairly apparent from the image that Mimka’s name was written by someone other than the person who filled out most of the certificate. The style of handwriting where his name is written is different and the color of the writing appears to be different from the rest of the document. It also appears to have been written with a different writing utensil.
The middle name of his father was crossed out and corrected to be spelled as “Mimka” instead of Minken. It is difficult to determine if the cross out was done as the document was written or at some later point in time. While some of the handwriting appears darker than the rest of the document, the style of writing appears to be the same and it is probable that the individual completing the document had to re-ink their writing utensil at some point while completing the document.
But the name was clearly written in at a different point in time. It is difficult to say exactly when this was done. It may have been when Mimka needed a copy of the record for Social Security purposes. Or maybe not.
At any rate, my transcription of the document should indicate that the name appears to have been written in at a different point in time. Failing to note this in my transcription would be neglecting to include that clue. It would also be suggestive that I think the document was entirely completed by one person at the same point in time.
The fact that the name was written in later should not be cause for concern. A review of several records before and after Mimka’s located some with just last names written in or with names also apparently written at a different point in time.
Of course the record should be transcribed exactly as it is written. Mimka’s mother is given as Anna Hinra Habben. I may wish to transcribe this as Anna Hinra[sic] Habben as her middle name was Hinrichs, but that’s clearly not what is written on the document.
The return only specifies his place of birth as Prairie Township–that’s what I should record when citing this document. Family tradition is that he was born at home on the family farm which is in Prairie Township. This return is consistent with that precise place of birth, but does not prove it as it is not that specific. If this return is cited for a place of birth, it should be cited for Prairie Township as that is what it says.