Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Things Handed Down: Traits and Characteristics

The topic for this edition of the carnival of genealogy is on family traits. I've written briefly about genetic traits before, but I have not posted very much on this topic. Nor have I posted very much on personality traits of my family members, other than mentioning my grandfather's interest in history. Instead of focusing on both characteristics and genetic traits, I thought I would just focus on genetic traits passed down that I have noticed from photographs of family members and ancestors.

Until I started doing genealogy research, I had not seen very many pictures of my ancestors. I had seen pictures of my great-grandparents and my grandfather in uniform, but outside of that, I really hadn't seen very many old pictures. I was curious as a little girl, but I don't think I was as interested in old family photographs until I began to do genealogy research.

One of the first photographs that I began to notice similar traits between different generations was when I saw my maternal grandparents' wedding pictures. Both my father and I immediately recognized facial features that were similar in both my mother and grandma. (At least it is easier for me to be able to recognize the facial features when looking at the picture.) Since that time, I have seen other old family pictures, and have recognized facial features in family members that came from ancestors.

A few years ago I was able to view some old pictures from my maternal side of my family. My grandma showed me a picture of her maternal grandparents, and I recognized facial features that both my grandma and her grandma shared. Another picture that my grandma showed me was of her parents when they were young. Both of my brother and I looked at the picture and came to the conclusion that I looked very much like my great-grandmother. (Well, I don't look exactly like her, but the resemblance is quite close. Of course, this was not the first time in my life that I heard from a family member that I inherited a certain trait from an ancestor. When I was little, my mom told me that I supposedly had the same hair color as this great-grandmother. Supposedly, the hair color of female ancestors on my mother side of the family skips generations and shows up in every other generation of descendants. For example, if I had a daughter, her hair color would likely be the same or very similar to the hair color of my maternal grandma.) Of course, I did not just inherit all of traits from my mother's side. From my father's side, I inherited my dad's smile with the dimple, and when I looked at a picture of my paternal grandma as a young woman, I realized that both my dad and I inherited our smile from her.

Another instance where I recognized facial features was when one of my distant cousins e-mailed me a few images of old family pictures that she had. One of the pictures appeared to be a Civil War Era photograph of a young woman, of whom my cousin did not know the name of. I noticed that this woman had a long face, and from looking at pictures of other family members that my cousin e-mailed me and that I had (from my great-great-grandfather to my father and uncles), I determined that this woman was probably the wife of my Civil War veteran ancestor. I believe that is who the woman is as several of my paternal relatives and ancestors after the Civil War, have long faces. Could I be wrong? Probably, but this is my best guess as the picture of my paternal great-great-grandmother (e-mailed to me by my cousin) does not resemble the Civil War Era woman.

Of course, I wish I had more old family pictures of ancestors. Most of the old family pictures are of ancestors who lived in the late-1800s and early-1900s, and only increase in number with my great-grandparents. I think that is the case because many of my ancestors were poor and couldn't afford to have their picture taken. Maybe they were able to afford a couple of pictures, but I suspect that those pictures were luxuries and for special occasions. As I stated before, one of my ancestors was a Civil War veteran, and I wish I had a picture of him in his uniform. Maybe another one of his descendants has his picture. I don't know. One thing that I like about viewing old pictures is that the pictures give me an idea what my ancestors looked like and what they wore. I guess viewing these old pictures help satisfy my curiosity over what my ancestors look like.


Janice said...


I enjoyed your article! I'd like to have seen some of those wonderful photographs you mention.


Professor Dru said...


Photos are indeed a great way to compare physical characteristics. One of the things I noticed about my maternal line is that all of the women, including myself, are full-figured. I have photos as far back as my maternal great-great grandmother who was born during the Civil War.