Poor Register Design

by James J. Czuchra

A common design for baptismal registers was to spread records across two pages with the father's name on the left hand page and the mother's name on the right hand page. The problem is that often the father's surname and the mother's given name are unreadable as they are pinched in the crack of the binding where the two pages come together. The same problem sometimes occurs with names in marriage registers.

It seems that the pages were originally loose leaf sheets without a large enough margin to accommodate binding. Then later when the sheets were bound, the names do not show. If the entries were made directly into a bound volume, I would have expected that the priest would have been more judicious in spacing the writing so it would not have fallen into the crack of the binding. Nor is there evidence that the writing quality changed as they got closer to the crack as I experience when I write in a bound journal. This unfortunate design flaw has meant that a lot of names are lost when indexing those records. The problem is usually made worse as filming can sometimes create shadows in the binding further preventing access to the names. Sometimes the names can be inferred from partial names or from the records of siblings. Indices based on registers with this design flaw are not as reliable.

Some of these registers also have the problems of including more than twelve entries per page. The result is that cramming more names on a page means the writing must be smaller and therefore harder to read.