I bet you have someone in your family tree that looked exactly like you. I’ve been shocked at how often ancestors who are generations apart can look like twins if you compare them side-by-side. Here’s an example from my family tree. 

On the left is my dad (holding me) when he was about 35. On the right is my dad’s grandfather, Walter, on his wedding day during the 1930s. These pictures were taken 70 years apart and the subjects are separated by two generations, but the resemblance is uncanny. 

And that’s not the only one. My grandmother resembled her great-grandmother identically during old age despite being three generations apart. I look a lot like my great-great-grandfather, Ralph Palmer.

It’s not breaking news that you might resemble your family members, but it’s neat to consider that sometimes the resemblance goes beyond individual features, like having the same eye color. Even if you don’t have surviving pictures of your ancestral doppelgänger, it’s fun considering you might have had an ancestor that looked just like you walking around during the 1800s or early 1900s. 

If you can look through photographs of your ancestors, try to make the connections between them and others in your family tree that share similar qualities. Put pictures side by side—using computer software like Microsoft PowerPoint can help with that—and compare them. You might find doppelgängers in your genealogy!

Just for fun, here are some some of my favorite historical celebrity doppelgängers, although these people are not ancestrally related. Props to Erin Kelly for compiling a slideshow of over 30 examples.

Right: Comedian Eddie Murphy. Left: Unidentified man, circa. 1900.
Right: Steve Carell. Left: Unidentified man, circa. 1910.

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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