How would you describe someone to another person who has never met them? Sure you can define their character and positive traits. It would be better to describe their facial features so the second person can locate the first person in a crowd.
When it comes to describing our ancestors, we need to use words that will help our family pick out their ancestor in photos or in a list of names that might mean little without mental images based on physical descriptions.
When describing facial features, start with the easiest to describe first – eye color. Whenever possible, don’t settle for dull words like blue and brown. Be more specific.Eye ColorCoal Ebony Obsidian Aquamarine Baby Blue Cornflower Crystal Gun-Metal Chestnut Dirt/MudTopaz Charcoal Graphite Silver Bottle Green Emerald Jade Hazel Violet Ultramarine
Once you’ve described the eye color, provide details about the eye shape. This can be challenging but give it a go.Eye ShapeAlmond-shaped Squinty Bulging Heavy-lidded Hooded Deep-set Close-set HollowWide-set Evenly-spaced Prominent Downturned Monolid Upturned Sleepy Sultry
Once you have the eyes covered, zoom out and focus on the face shape. In make-up, there are seven basic face shapes, but in writing, we can be more creative with our choices. Granted, some words are a bit inflammatory, so be careful which ones you use. In the meantime, let’s have a little fun exploring the possibilities!Face ShapeSquare Oval Round Triangular Heart-shaped Thin Wide Chiseled Blocky Box-shaped Broad Diamond-shapedExpansive Flat Irregular Long Marshmallow-shaped Moon-round Narrow Oblong Pumpkinesque Pyramid-shaped Rectangular
Okay, pumpkinesque and marshmallow-shaped are probably not the best choices for our ancestors. I included them for laughs, to check if you were reading, and to trigger other descriptive words you could use.
I like words such as moon-round or flat. I especially when like these words when combined with another adjective such as broad, moon-round or narrow, flat face.
Next move on to Skin color and texture. It’s not enough to say white or black. That does nothing to account for the spectrum of skin colors, but also take into account the texture of the skin.Skin/ ComplexionRuddy Sallow Tanned Rosy Umber Fawn Beige Warm Cool Pale Fair Caramel Ebony Translucent Peaches-and-cream Craggy Weathered Acned Clean-shaven Marred Smooth Baby-soft Leathery Mottled Dry Fresh-faced Paper-thin Dimpled Hatchet-faced Wrinkled Freckled
Many photographs can provide a hint as to the skin color and complexion of an individual. Isn’t umber, baby-soft a better way to describe dark, soft skin? I think so.
One final feature of facial descriptions is the hair, especially on men in past generations. Choosing the right words about the hairy side of a face can nail down a written portrayal of a man.Facial HairClean-shaven Bearded Goatee Scruffy Handle-bar mustache Five o’clock shadowStubble Bushy Whiskered Neatly-trimmed Pencil-mustache Soul Patch Bristly
Give it a go. Describe the mug of the man or woman you call ancestor. When you do, put a link in the comments to your blog post, Facebook postings or Instagram photo with your description.
Once again, the essential thing to remember when describing your ancestor is to do your best to help paint a picture for your readers. If someone disagrees with your word choice, tell them to go write their own story!
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:
Over 80 Words to Describe Your Ancestor’s Facial Features (You Are Here)