Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who Looks Like Whom

Every family plays this game.  When a baby is born, the comparisons begin.  "He has his father's chin."  "She has her mother's eyes."  Everyone tries to recognize features and connect the child to the family.  As children get older, sometimes the original comparisons don't hold as true, but there's usually someone in the family they still resemble.  And sometimes what someone sees in you depends on which family members they knew best.

I have been told many times that when I was a baby I resembled my paternal grandmother.  As I got older, I didn't hear that so much; I looked a lot like my father, who looks just like his father.  In my 30's, when I put on weight, I could see a strong resemblance to my mother.  But when I met a cousin, he thought I looked like my grandmother, which I hadn't heard in years.  Then I found out that he was essentially raised by my grandmother -- so those were the features he was most familiar with and the ones he recognized in me.

My brother and my maternal uncle look so much alike they could be brothers, but nobody in the family believed me.  I realized most family members had only seen one or the other recently, so I took a photo when the two of them were in the same spot.  Once I showed everyone the photo, they could see what I was talking about.

A friend was telling me recently that her youngest sister and her oldest sister (19 years age difference between them) looked so much alike in one photo, they actually oriented their faces toward the camera the same way and had similar facial expressions.  These were half-sisters from the same mother, not full siblings.

Recognizing common features can help when you have unidentified family photos.  On a trip to visit my grandmother in Florida she gave me a photo because she didn't recognize the people in it.  It was a photo of a man, a woman, and a small child (the photograph I posted yesterday for Wordless Wednesday).  The photographer's information indicated the photo had been taken in Kamenets Podolskiy, Russia (now Kamyanets Podilskyy, Ukraine), where my maternal great-grandfather was said to have been born, so I thought it must have something to do with my family.  Later I was showing several family photographs to a cousin from my father's side of the family, and when we got to this photograph she said, "We've seen her before."  We went back through the photos and found the photo she was talking about.  That photo my grandmother had identified as her father's sister Sarah.  When we compared the two photos, the two women looked almost exactly alike.  Based on the woman's clothing in the photograh from Kamenets Podolskiy, I had estimated the date to be in the early 1890's.  After a few more photo comparisons, I came to the conclusion that the photo from Kamenets Podolskiy was of my great-great-grandparents and their first child; apparently Sarah looked uncannily like her mother.  This was quite a find, because my great-great-grandmother died in Kishinev in 1908; my great-great-grandfather and all eight children left Europe.  No one else in the family had a photo of my great-great-grandmother.  I had copies made and distributed it to all the cousins I knew.

So who do you look like?

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