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Do You Have a Look-alike? Find Your Doppelgänger

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 13:00

Have you ever scrolled through those celebrity look-alike articles and wondered, “Who out there looks just like me?” Or maybe you’ve done a double-take when you did see someone who looked just like you—and you wondered, how could that be possible?

We often call these “look-alikes” doppelgängers, a German term that means “double-walker.” In old German folklore, living creatures were believed to have a spirit double—something distinct from ghosts, but still supernatural—that were sometimes seen as spiritual opposites or “evil twins” to the living individual. However, today “doppelgänger” is a generic term we use for the (most likely) harmless look-alikes we stumble across in everyday life.

Find Your Doppelgänger Do You Have a Doppelgänger?

How likely is it that you actually have a doppelgänger? According to one study, the likelihood of two people sharing the exact facial features is less than 1 in 1 trillion. Put another way, there is only a one in 135 chance that a single pair of doppelgängers exists on our planet of more than 7 billion people.

However, these odds apply only if we are being exact about the measurements of a person’s facial features. The thing is, our brains don’t work like algorithmic facial recognition software; we don’t look at someone’s facial features in isolation from one another. Instead, our minds recognize people’s faces as a “sum of parts”—that is, we take in the whole face at once and don’t get caught up in millimeter measurements of someone’s ears or nose.

With that in mind, we can look at two people with the same hair and eye color, similar face shape and smile, and consider them doppelgängers because they look mostly alike. You’re far more likely to find this kind a pseudo-doppelgänger in your life than you are an exact replica.

An Easy Way to Find Your Doppelgänger

You probably have someone out there who looks eerily similar to you, and that person is probably closer than you think! In fact, because of your shared genetics, you are more likely to look like distant cousins and ancestors than a total stranger. The question then is, who do you look most like?

There’s a way to find out quickly! If you’ve ever wondered if you look more like Mom or Great-grandpa,  FamilySearch’s Compare-a-Face can tell you. Using facial recognition software, you can upload a photo of yourself and compare it to family members, including great-great grandparents and distant relatives. This activity can help you find your doppelgänger in just a couple clicks!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to FamilySearch’s Discovery page, and click Compare-a-Face. You’ll be prompted to sign in to your FamilySearch account. If you don’t have an account, you can make one here.
  2. Upload or take a photo of yourself that you want to use to compare faces.
  3. If you don’t have photos of your family uploaded, the next page will prompt you to either upload a file or take a photo to compare your face to. Or, if you have photos already uploaded to your Family Tree, you will be taken to a page that shows a list of relatives and a percentage of how similar you look to them. Click through these images to see who your family doppelgängers are!

If you haven’t uploaded your family’s photos to Memories or your family tree, FamilySearch will not have photos to compare your face to. If you just made an account or you need to upload more information, start by adding the first four generations to your tree. Sometimes, once you have linked up to a deceased relative, your tree will automatically have information that other people have added about your family, including images. You can also quickly and easily upload photos of your ancestors.

Upload Family Photos to Your Memories

Finding Your Ancestor’s Hometown Using Immigration Records

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 10:27

You’ve been working hard on your family tree. You’ve traced your family line back through your grandparents, maybe even your great-grandparents. In fact, you’ve made it all the way back to the family’s first immigrants!   

Pretty cool, but you want to go back further than that if you can. You want to discover your ancestral homeland—that city, town, or even nachbarschaft where your immigrant ancestor was born.   

Some people call this discovery “crossing the pond”—backtracking with an ancestor to the other side of an ocean—a genealogical feat that, quite frankly, isn’t easy to do.

So, is it possible? Absolutely! With a little hard work, a little bit of luck, some well-known best practices, and some historical records—including immigration records—you can find that elusive hometown.

4 Things to Think about as You “Cross the Pond” 1. Historical Records

Understand the different kinds of historical records that might mention your ancestor’s hometown, including immigration records. Many of these records can be found for free on

Any of these documents could contain information about your ancestor’s place of birth. With that said, don’t overlook items in the living room bookcase—the family Bible, for example, a family photo album, journals, Grandma’s recipe book, and so on. These can be the richest, most insightful sources of all.

2. Learn about the Location

Learning the name of your ancestor’s place of birth in an elusive immigration record is only one part of the challenge. After that, find where that town or city is actually located so you can begin searching local records for more information.  

Depending on the location, this step can be harder than it sounds. What if there are multiple towns with the same name? What if the name you think is the town is actually the county—or vice versa?

This is where family history skills and detective skills overlap. Try to get your hands on a good gazetteer. Go to the FamilySearch wiki, and enter the name of the country, followed by the word “gazetteer.”

You can also try looking at a surname distribution map of a particular country to see where your ancestor’s last name is most often found.  

Remember that no detail about your ancestor’s life is unimportant. Have you discovered anything about his or her occupation? Does it point you toward a certain region on the map?

3. Search Local Records

Once you are ready to search databases of local historical records, be sure to triangulate your search. Or, in other words, try to use three data points.

A search involving your ancestor’s name (one data point) and his or birth date (two data points) will likely turn up hundreds, if not thousands of results. Include the name of a family member—spouse, child, or parent (a third data point), and suddenly the search results often become manageable.

Search Records on—for Free! 4. What to Do When the Search Gets Long

The fourth piece of advice is simple: Don’t give up. At times you may feel like you’re searching for a needle in a haystack—no, for a needle in a field of haystacks!  

This kind of searching can take time. In the meantime, be open to discoveries that you weren’t at all expecting—the name of the ship that carried your ancestor, an occupation you didn’t know about, the names of spouses or children that were previously unknown to you.

All of these are important elements of the story—your ancestor’s story, as well as your own. 

For more ideas about tracing your family line back to your ancestral homeland, visit FamilySearch Blog > Genealogy Records. You can also visit the Learning Center on to find video tutorials like this one.

Many thanks to Ellie Vance, Joseph B. Everett, and Debbie Gurtler for their presentations at the 2019 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. The subject of this article was inspired by their presentations, and some of their tips proved invaluable in informing this post.

The BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy is held annually and offers many classes on how to discover more about your ancestors. Keep an eye on the BYU conference page for announcements about next year’s schedule and when registration opens.

D-Day Invasion: What Happened and Why It’s Important

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 15:44

The D-Day invasion, or Normandy landings, were the landing operations of the Allied forces as part of Operation Overlord in World War II. The landings began on June 6, 1944, and they marked the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe from Nazi control.

The invasion involved a series of military beach landings along the coast of Normandy and has since been known as the largest seaborne invasion in history. The battle also involved a massive airborne invasion.

Preparing for D-Day

The D-Day invasion took years of planning, and, in months leading up to it, the Allies began a military deception strategy known as Operation Bodyguard. This operation was intended to mislead German forces as to the exact day and location of the suspected invasion.

Those planning the invasion determined specific weather conditions based on moon phases, time of day, and ocean tides that would be most ideal for a successful invasion. When the appointed time of the invasion came, the weather was far from these conditions, and the invasion was pushed back a day.

What Happened on D-Day?

On the morning of D-Day, paratroopers and glider troops were sent behind enemy lines by the thousands to secure bridges and exit roads. Then, at 6:30 in the morning, the beach landings began. By the end of the day, over 150,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed and captured Normandy’s beaches—but at a high price. By some estimates, over 4,000 of the Allied forces lost their lives. Thousands more were recorded as wounded or missing.

The Importance of D-Day

The D-Day invasion is significant in history for the role it played in World War II. It marked the turn of the tide for the control maintained by Nazi Germany; less than a year after the invasion, the Allies formally accepted Nazi Germany’s surrender.

It was a day that cost many lives on all sides of the conflict, changing not only the future of countries, but of families as well. Because of that, there is much to be learned from those who experienced its victories and its horrors firsthand. Do you have D-Day veterans in your family? Record a memory or upload a photo to help preserve their legacy.

How to Pronounce Welsh Words

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:21

Have you ever thought you didn’t have it in you to learn a foreign language? Well, with today’s access to the internet, you can learn just about anything, including the language of your forefathers! If you have Welsh ancestry, even learning Welsh pronunciation and a bit about the Welsh language can be of great help to you as you begin to search for your ancestors.

Search for your Welsh Ancestors The National Languages of Wales

Wales is a bilingual country. Though most records are written in English, Welsh is an equally important language in the country. In fact, Wales recently launched a strategy to have 1 million Welsh speakers by the year 2050. Children up to the age of 16 are being taught the language alongside English in the schools, street signs are found in both English and Welsh, and there is even a radio station in the Welsh language!

Ifor ap Glyn, a writer and broadcaster, said, “We have a saying in Welsh, ‘Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon’ [which means] ‘A nation without a language is a nation without a heart’—and the Welsh language is still very much at the heart of our national culture.”

The History of the Welsh Language

The Welsh language has been around for at least 1,500 years, though some sources claim the language is 4,000 years old. It includes influences from Latin, Irish, Norse, Norman French, and of course, English, but its roots are Celtic.

Welsh (natively called Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) is a Brittonic language and has been spoken in Wales, some parts of England, and Y Wladfa (a Welsh colony in Chubut Province, Argentina) for centuries. The name Welsh is believed to have originated from the Anglo-Saxons word for “foreign speech.”

Welsh uses a Latin letter alphabet and contains 29 letters: a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, j, l, ll, m, n, o, p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, y.

Even though the alphabet looks much like English, the sounds and inflections are different.

As you study your Welsh heritage, you may wonder what your ancestors sounded like. You can watch all sorts of videos online at YouTube or even enjoy some TV programs via a Welsh broadcasting station called S4C.

Welsh Pronunciation

This graphic on Welsh pronunciation will help you learn how to pronounce Welsh words and may even teach you how to say your ancestors’ names! A printable version is included below.

Need a little extra help in your Welsh pronunciation technique? You can go to Google Translate and type in the word you wish to be translated. Then click or tap the audio button to hear the word spoken.

Now that you have a new understanding of the language of your ancestors, try looking through these Welsh records to see what clues and hints you can find for your family tree!

Download a Welsh Pronunciation Guide Welsh Pronunciation GuideDownload

Traditional Welsh Food

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 18:00

Many claim that the best way to experience a culture is through local cuisine. The same can be said of your heritage. The best way to experience a piece of your ancestors’ lives is through the food they ate.

Use to find family recipes that your relatives have shared, or start recording the family recipes you have saved.

Record Your Family’s Recipes Welsh Food Traditions

In many cultures, the cuisine reflects the tastes and trends of the higher classes. However, the wealthy and educated in Wales who had the ability to record recipes often followed English cooking styles. Consequently, they did not represent true Welsh cooking. 

Instead, traditional Welsh food largely represents working class in Wales. Welsh cuisine focuses on what the working class could produce or afford, and recipes were passed down orally in the families of the working class. As a result, you can learn a lot about your heritage through food if you have Welsh ancestors.

Wales is well known for its lamb and beef. The Welsh people relied heavily on their livestock to provide for their families, and winter cuisine often featured meats and dairy from the livestock. 

While meats and cheese were traditionally a highlight of Welsh foods, vegetables and herbs were less readily available. The most widely used vegetables and herbs were cabbages, leeks, thyme, savory, and mint. Over time, more variety was introduced as it became more accessible.

Variations in Traditional Welsh Food

Because Welsh food was historically limited by the availability of ingredients, there are variations in traditional dishes based on what could be grown in different regions. Higher elevations relied more on oats, while lower elevations used wheat and barley. Coastal residents often used seaweed to supplement their meals.

Interestingly, the Gower Peninsula features a flavor profile different from the rest of Wales. The peninsula was difficult to access by land and developed unique cuisines as a result of its isolation. 

Welsh Recipes

Welsh food represents the lives of the common people of Wales. Try the recipes below to get a taste of what life was like for your Welsh ancestors.

Welsh Rarebit Recipe

Also known as Welsh Rabbit, this traditional dish features a spicy cheese sauce over toast. You read that right—no rabbit is found in this dish!

Welsh Cake Recipe

Similar to a sweet biscuit or thick pancake, Welsh cakes rose to popularity as a tea-time treat. They’re delicious fresh and warm or on the go.

Shepherd’s Pie

This hearty dish was originally intended to repurpose leftover meat. It’s a meat pie, often made with lamb and topped with a mashed potato crust.