Junkins Family Association Donations Helped Solve the Mystery of the Fading Purple Ink

From JFA newsletter no. 13, March 1992

At the Junkins Family Association Board of Directors meeting on June 27, 1998 in El Dorado, Kansas, the board voted to contribute $500 toward the conservation of new documents acquired by the Old York Historical Society (OYHS) in York, Maine. The documents included the earliest-known records of the Second Parish Church directly across the road from the Junkins Garrison and the Alexander burial ground.

Two hundred dollars of this Junkins Family preservation gift, combined with a New Century Grant from the Maine State Archives project to preserve historical papers, were given to the Nathaniel Marshall Journal digitization project of Old York Historical Society.

Nathaniel Marshall, York's town clerk in the mid-1800s. was hired to copy the earliest probate records of York into a single journal. Marshall carefully recorded information from 17th, 18th and 19th century documents. He added his own notes on the families concerned in the documented property transfers and estate settlements, citing a number of sources, including other documents and the recollections of then-living descendants. He did this diligently but many of his many of his entries were in purple ink. This created large problems. Nathaniel's purple ink faded so rapidly that it was impossible to read. Knowing that the faded script contained not only vital genealogical information such as births, deaths and marriages, but additional information about families moving to other communities, Virginia Spiller, OYHS librarian, made gargantuan efforts to decipher the deteriorating texts without success.

She used copy machines and enlargements of the copies, cameras and micro-film cameras to create enlarged printed copies and large magnifying glasses, but to no avail.

Then, Virginia approached PhotoArk's Macy Lawrence, who was visiting Old York to discuss and plan the digitization of the society's 3,000 plus collection of historical photographs. Virginia trusted Macy to take the extremely fragile record book to Vermont where he scanned selected pages written in the faded purple ink. He was then able to manipulate digitized copies of the text and enhance them until they became quite readable.

"It was a miracle"

"It was a miracle," says Virginia. "I can now read those parts of the town record written in purple ink that Macy restored." PhotoArk was able to clarify only a small portion of the purple text. Virginia is now working on raising the additional funds needed to extend the text clarification to all portions of the town records done in the fading ink.

The genealogical information Marshall gathered is available nowhere else but in his book. That information was in danger of being lost because of the book's deterioration and the fading of the purple ink in which he wrote his notes. "The book is very old and very fragile, so now that we know how to clarify the text, it's become a race between the rate of deterioration and the rate of fund-raising to salvage the information," says Virginia. She is optimistic and delighted that she finally found the right man and the right company to restore the text and is sure others will see the value of financing a full restoration before the book falls apart completely.

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