Wanted – A Picture of the Ancestor

Police lineup or mugshot setTo draw a vivid picture of the ancestors is the task and endeavor of any good family research. For the period of contemporary history we may take this metaphor literally as in virtually all families there are photos of parents, grandparents etc. Sometimes even older pictures exist which allow a glimpse at the ancestors from the late 19th century. Concerning physical appearance, however, that’s about it – unless we are dealing with illustrious personalities who had been wealthy enough to have their portraits taken by a painter. Quite recently, as part of a successful family research at PRO HERALDICA, we were able to trace back the looks of an ancestor from the year 1819 (!). That is because of a coincidence: not only our genealogists were hunting for that man but also the authorities in Upper Swabia almost 200 years ago.


Wiblingen. [Wanted.] By forcible breach of custody the hereafter described arrestees have been on the run since last night. As now their capture means a lot; all authorities are beseeched to search for them, and in case of their capture to have them brought hither well-kept.

This call for cooperation is followed by the signalment of the fugitive ancestor:

[…] 5‘9‘‘ in height, 25 years old, single, from Hörenhauen, slim in physique, has an oval face, good face color, reddish hair, proportioned nose, brown eyes, and particularly recognizable by the stiff thumb of his right hand. Upon his jailbreak he merely wore a red-and-blue-striped scarf, long gray pants, socks, and a shirt, his further clothing he left behind in the cell.
March 1, 1819 Royal Upper Office.

Thanks to the signalment and by adding a bit of phantasy, we can connect the dots to a picture – a picture painted with words. Unfortunately, neither the (un)lawful indictment nor any hints whether the young man was captured have been passed down. Nevertheless, the fact that he broke out of detention adds another dimension to the picture and enhances it with the component of an indomitable character – quite a vivid picture.

Source: Schwäbischer Merkur, 12 March 1819.

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