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How to Describe Your Ancestor’s Physique in Your Family Story

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Tall, dark, and handsome. Is there any other character description more cliche than that, even if it’s true? Your ancestor might have been marked on military draft cards or passports as Stout and Medium for this build and height. What can you do with these descriptions, combined with photos, to describe your ancestors to your relatives?

Take time to look at a photo, if you have it, and see if any of the following words fit your ancestor’s physique.

30 Words to help you describe your ancestor’s facial features:


  • Petite

  • Compact

  • Burly

  • Beefy

  • Brawny

  • Barrel-chested

  • Heavy-set

  • Obese

  • Pudgy

  • Pot-Bellied

  • Portly

  • Stout

  • Lush

  • Wiry

  • Sinewy

  • Hulking

  • Herculean

  • Narrow-waisted Full-figured

  • Ample

  • Rounded

  • Voluptuous

  • Curvy

  • Hourglass

  • Plump

  • Gangling

  • Lanky

  • Willowy

  • Lithe

  • Slender

  • Gaunt

  • Stocky

  • Strapping

  • Chiseled

  • Broad-shouldered

  • Bowlegged

Some of the descriptions you might use might make you blush a little. Do you wonder if you’re writing a family history or a romance novel? If your ancestors were attractive, don’t shy away from describing them as such. It’s part of their world. If your ancestor wasn’t going to grace the cover of a “Hottest Men In Cornwall” magazine (if they had one at the time), don’t shy away with being fair in your description but providing grace. If an ancestor was obese, say so. Why?

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My ancestor’s history of obese men who died before their 60th birthday is a critical part of my health lineage. If historians didn’t tell me my relatives were often overweight, I couldn’t address the genetic predispositions that lurk in my DNA. Follow this advice, err on the side of a dispassionate evaluation when describing the physique of your ancestors. Don’t lie, but don’t be overly critical either. Otherwise, karma. Your descendants will portray you in less than flattering terms.

What great words have you used to describe your ancestors? Be sure to add yours or share the description in the comments section. 

Further Reading – Describing Our Ancestors Series:

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