What Did an Ancestor Look like without any Known Photos?



No idea of what a great grandfather or a cousin looked like, there can be some clues to look for to get a rough idea.

If the ancestor served in the military and you can locate any enlistment or discharge documents, there can be written descriptions of the soldier.

Any passport issued from the United States, the earlier ones had a description (color of hair, height, built, color of eyes). Later ones (from mid-1910s) actually had a photo of the person which you may not have known about. See if they ever had a passport or passport application on file. That including locating any issued by the ancestor’s native country, the had passports also.  

On the U.S. Federal War Draft Registration cards done 1917 and 1918 have a written description of the male. Of course this would only be for males in a certain age range (first ages 21 to 31 and later ages 18-46). What is really interesting even males of those ages in prisons, hospitals, Native Indians and the insane filled out the draft registration card. of course they were not called into service but what a great record of information. On FamilySearch.org you can find by states’ names of where a soldier lived when filled out on the draft registration card.  

Find the ship manifest or naturalization papers for an ancestor and they will have descriptions of individuals.

Some of these suggestions at least give us some clues as to what our ancestors may have looked like. Maybe that red hair that you have came from your grandfather, which was noted in his World War One draft registration card.

Photos: Red haired female; passport for Carl D. Mertz and wife in the 1910s; and John Silva’s WWI Draft Registration Card in 1917.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

Finding Orphaned Photos

Did You Think to Check Here for Photos?

Label Family Photos

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