Where am I likely to find physical descriptions for my grandparents?
For the women, I don’t know. However, for the men, my grandfathers, it would be on the back of their World War II Draft Registration Card. The back of those cards are on the page after the front, as you view the record online. The World War I Draft Registration Cards were scanned so that you see both the front and back of the card on the same image on Ancestry. Not so, with the World War II Draft cards.
Commonly referred to as the “Old Man’s Registration.” This draft registration was for those men alive in 1942, who were born between 1877 and 1888.
Description“This database is an indexed collection of the draft cards from the Fourth Registration, the only registration currently available to the public (the other registrations are not available due to privacy laws). The Fourth Registration, often referred to as the "old man's registration", was conducted on 27 April 1942. The records include name of registrant, age, birth date, birthplace, residence, employer information, and physical description.”
My paternal grandfather, Harry Whipple Gould was born in 1886 and my maternal grandfather, Joseph Albert Milne was born in 1883. So, both of them fall in the birth years covered by this registration.
I immediately looked at my Legacy database where I record all information for my family. Much of that information is added to the Events/Facts area of the file. I checked the entry for my paternal grandfather, Harry W. Gould, and found that I did not have the WW II Draft Registration entered. Had I located it and just failed to enter it? I looked at my maternal grandfather, Joseph A. Milne and the draft record and image are recorded as they should be.
I looked in my digital files and did find an image for the WW II Draft Card for Harry W. Gould, BUT, only the first page.
Off I went to Ancestry to find and download the second page, which contains the physical description.
Here is the card, both front and back. You can see that Harry has listed himself as 5' 7" and 160 pounds.
TIP: I use the program Paint in order to combine the two images into one. This is a free program on your PC (I can’t speak to Mac’s) and is very easy to use. I use it daily.
There it is, the physical description of my grandfather, Harry W. Gould. In reviewing family photos with everyone standing together, this description seems about right.
Here’s a photo of Harry W. Gould with his mother and brothers. His brother Roy is listed as 5’ 6” tall on his WW II Draft card. He and Harry look to be close to the same height.
My next question was – Do I have a WW II Draft Registration Card for Ford Gould, the brother on the far left? If not, why not?
It turns out that I had not downloaded and recorded the WW II Draft Card information for Ford Gould. He is listed as 5’ 1”. As he is several inches shorter than his brothers in this photo, is another piece of evidence that the height is about right. We can never be sure that these registration cards are 100% correct. The individual could easily have misrepresented any number of items.
However, we take the information and compare it to what else we have and can come to a conclusion as to the validity.
This information allows me to estimate the height of the ladies in the family too. If I can see that they are all standing at the same level I can estimate within a reasonable margin of error, their approximate height.
In this case for my great grandmother, Mae Thorp Gould, I can see that she is a bit taller than Ford. Take into consideration her hair and that the ground may not be completely level, I would estimate her height between 5’ 1” and 5’ 3”. She appears taller than Ford, but shorter than Harry & Roy.
Now I’m going to go back to my family photos and begin compiling the approximate heights of my ancestors. I won’t be able to do this for everyone, but I bet I can find photos that allow me to guess a few of them.
Were your ancestors short or tall? What other characteristics did they have that may or may not have passed down to you and your siblings?
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