What do you do when you can’t read the writing?

I am working in records in different village records on Sao Miguel Island, Azores.  This means I must read the Portuguese language records.  Did I tell you that I don’t know any Portuguese beyond swear words?  Well, I have learned some since starting my family tree.  I can translate a baptismal record like nobody’s business.  Most of the time I can make out what’s being said.  Sometimes a record throws me for a loop though.

In this case, the Priest had really unusual handwriting.  I could figure out most of the record, but I couldn’t read the first name–the most important part!

This is what it looked like:

povoacao bapt valencia francisco medeiros josefa de mello crop

The first word on the first line is the baby’s name.  The second word “filha” tells me the baby is female.

At first I though the first letter was a V so I was leaning towards Valencia.  But, when I looked at it close up it looked like  J.  J names are limited in Portuguese.  It most certainly was not Jacinta or Josepha!

How did I resolve this?

First, I asked for help from others on Facebook.  I wanted to know what others saw even those not familiar with Portuguese.  One friend darkened the image for me.  This is what she came up with…
v name darker

Next, I compared the Priest’s writing to other examples in the records.  In this way, I was able to determine that the first letter was a P not a J or V.   This combined with what looked like the third letter was a T made me think the name was Patrocinia.  We argued a bit on the Portuguese Hawaiian Facebook group as some wanted her to be Antonia.  But, I compared the letter A in his signature to other places.  The letter A was very clear in other records.

One researcher noticed that the fourth letter was a Q.  I examined it and sure enough it was.  This changed everything.  I only know of one female name starting with P and sporting a Q and that’s Pulqueria.  If you follow the letters in their sl0ppy style, you can see that this is a possibility.

Last, I went to the experts…those who know the language first hand on the Azores Google Group.  The name has been confirmed as Pulqueira.

My advice when trying to decipher hard to read handwriting is  get different examples of the same person’s writing and compare letters.  A person will usually write in the same style on every record.  Then, ask others what they see.  Don’t try to make the words, especially names, fit what you want them to be.  You can fool yourself easily.

I believe this is my first Pulqueria.  I’m happy about that.  I already have my quota of Maria, Rosa, Isabella, and Jacinta’s!

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