Saturday, December 03, 2011

What Did My Ancestors Look Like?

For some people, we will never know how our ancestors looked - they just never stepped in front of a Camera Obscura or had a painting done.   For those who did, we can get a good idea of features, but it is tough to know exactly what their eye, hair color was.   

Pictures from the 19th century were black and white, so if you had dark eyes, they would appear dark, so brown and black eyes look the same.  If you had light eyes, like blue or hazel, they would appear very light in the photos.    For hair, the same is true: black, red, brown, looks like shades of black with blonde hair pretty easy to tell.

But, if you have NO pictures or paintings or would like to know exactly what your ancestors hair or eye color was, you might have another source.   If they served in a war, many details about their physical appearance were recorded.

For example, records from the American civil war contains physical details about the person enlisting, including eye, hair, skin color, height.   WWI draft cards showed weight, eye, hair color and build. 

These finer details are important as they are what make up you and me, if they are direct descendants - those genes are in you and that may be why you have the color of eyes or hair.   It also tells another dimension about our family.   

Here is an example:
Charles Foy c1891

My GG grandfather, Charles Foy, served in the Illinois 34th Union Army.   I have only a few pictures of him, but they are important for telling his story.  He lived from 1844-1918.

As you can see from the picture to the left, he had light colored hair and eyes.   I would guess he had brown or light black hair and possibly blue eyes, just from this black and white.

His registration record shows his hair color was light, his eyes were blue, height 5'10" and his complexion was "sandy".   He was single, 19 years old, and entered as a private in 1864.

Of course, getting these records is not as easy as one might think as not everything is listed on the internet, yet.

In the course of finding your roots, it is always great to have those connections with a picture or image.   Finding them, can be the challenge.   I will have another post about that in the near future.

1 comment:

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