Have you ever heard of foot shape genealogy? It is a concept out of the 19th century that still has some adherents today. It is based on the belief that the shape of your foot can tell you one of five ancient ethnic groups to which your ancestors belonged. Here is what you need to know about it.
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Researching your genealogy is much easier today than in the past. With online records and digitized copies of just about any document ever created, it is possible to trace a large part of your family tree without even leaving your house. However, using records and family lore is not the only method people have used in the past to trace their family trees. In the past, there was a theory that one could determine their ancestry via the shape of their feet. In fact, some people today still believe this method.
While the foot shape method is questionable in its accuracy, the way it is used to supposedly determine one’s ancestry is fascinating. If you have exhausted all genealogical resources and want some extra ideas on how to trace your ancestry, foot shape may not give you an accurate result, but it will definitely give you some entertainment. Here is what you need to know about it.
The exact term for this particular type of genealogy is “foot and toe ancestry.” The premise is that by examining the shape of your feet, you can hazard a pretty accurate guess as to where your most ancient ancestors originated. Foot and toe ancestry is based on five basic “foot shapes”: Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, Germanic, and Roman. Each foot type has a unique design to it, known as the outline of the foot, and the toe lengths are also particular to each foot type.
Among the foot types, the Celtic foot type is the most complex and unusual. With “Celtic feet,” the foot itself is quite large, but the big toe is short. The second toe… the one right next to the big toe… is exceptionally long, and the other toes are smaller, getting progressively smaller until they end in a tiny pinky toe. The Celtic foot is a bit of a combination of Greek and German foot types, particularly with the exceptionally long second toe, which is also a hallmark of the German foot type.
Do your feet and toes look Celtic? Try researching an unknown branch of your family tree if you don’t know of any Celtic background and see if you come up with any Celtic ancestors. Or, maybe you have a long big toe, one that is longer than all the other toes. If you do, that is an Egyptian foot.
While there is absolutely no scientific data to support the idea that the shape of our toes and feet can tell us anything about our ancestry, there has been research done on toe size and shape in different populations around the world. As an example, around the world, it is more common for the second toe to be the longest toe, as in the Greek foot of “foot genealogy” theory. Yet, it is ridiculous to think that Aboriginals in Australia had Greek ancestors if they have a second toe that is longer than the other toes (which most of them do).
It could be that it is better for balance when walking upright. Because the longer second toe is so common among most people (there are exceptions, but it is the most common toe sizing), it would seem there has to be some reason common to most humans.
And, why were the classifications of feet divided into Celtic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and German? As far as Egyptian, Greek, and Roman feet go, these are the idealized forms of body shapes in classical art. These were the types of art that were revered in the 19th century, when foot shape genealogy first came into vogue. And, the corresponding foot shapes do tend to match the foot shapes used in art depicting people of these civilizations. For example, in art from ancient Greece, most people depicted do have foot shapes like the Greek shape in foot genealogy. Interestingly, the Statue of Liberty is a Greek-style sculpture, and it also has the Greek foot shape seen in Greek art and in foot shape genealogy.
While the commonality of the classical Greek foot shape in ancient Greek art may indeed mean that the majority of ancient Greeks had this shape of foot, it could also simply mean that foot shape was considered the beauty standard for feet in ancient Greece and was used in art whether most people had the so-called “perfect shape” or not.
There are also the concepts of homogenous groups of people in the foot shape genealogy theory, and these concepts are essentially modern inventions. Beginning in the 19thcentury, ideas of “the German people” and “the Egyptian people” came into vogue, with westerners looking at these nations as being made up of one type of ethnically homogenous people. However, it is an erroneous assumption. Germany was a variety of different countries, such as Saxony, Prussia, and Bavaria until it was united into one nation like Germany, and the ancient Romans knew the German people to be made up of a diverse mix of cultures all living together or near each other. In fact, the term “German” is an ancient Roman invention, because they looked at the people living in the modern area of Germany as barbarians. So, they lumped them together as “Germans,” thus dismissing the diverse cultures as one uncivilized group.
It was much the same with ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egypt did have culturally homogenous Egyptians, but it also had a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures from all over the ancient world living there. As the most technologically advanced and modern of the ancient cities of the Middle East, it attracted immigrants from hundreds and even thousands of miles around.
Ultimately, using foot shape genealogy probably has nothing to do with your actual ancestry. However, it is a fun pastime to use with the younger generation as a tool to get them interested in genealogy.
Last revised 12/9/21