Day 15 – Six Tips for Describing Your Ancestor


Too many of us look in our documents for a few details to help us write a description about our ancestors. Generally, it ends up looking something like this:

                                        John has brown hair and blue eyes and stood over six feet tall.

Here are 6 tips to help you bring a more vibrant ancestor to the page.


  1. Avoid listing facts. People can see the ancestor, and some of the details about him might even be interesting, but avoid writing flat description like the example above.  Find a way to convey the essence of an ancestor’s appearance without bogging the story down to nothing more than a rendition of facts.


  1. Highlight the interesting and memorable features about your ancestor. We don’t need an abundance of details, we just need a few unique details.  Everything else can be left up to the reader’s imagination to fill in.


  1. Give your description a focal point. Instead of trying to describe your ancestor from head to toe, consider focusing in on a particular thing or area of your ancestor for the description.


  1. Look for details that can hint at their nature. Consider details that reveal their personality or that their appearance might not reflect the truth about them? Focus on the details that would make the reader remember their character.


  1. Remember people are more than their physical appearance. Consider their smell. Do we smell them when they enter the room? What sound do they make when they cross the room or enter the room?  And touch, are their hands chapped or silky smooth?


  1. Consider your ancestor’s body language. Look for original mannerisms and gestures to help bring your ancestor to life. How they move can be very telling to their internal thoughts.

Writing about ancestors that your readers can relate to is important in driving your story. If your reader doesn’t connect then likely the story won’t either. With the tips above, you can start asking yourself the right questions about your ancestors helping you to bring a more vivid ancestor to the page.