Orange County Register


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It’s quite a long article but very well done, particularly from the science point of view.

Twins expert says behavior mostly affected by genes

Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel at first meeting

1 Twin sisters, Ann Hunt, left, of Aldershot, England, and Liz Hamel, of Albany, Ore., 78, reunite in Fullerton for the first time since 1936. Their meeting was arranged by Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton.

At Fullerton Marriot

2 A television crew from the BBC, left, records the reunion at the Fullerton Marriott of twin sisters Ann Hunt and Liz Hamel, both 78. Pictured, from left, are Samantha Stacey, her mother Ann Hunt, Liz Hamel, and her son, Quinton Hamel. Hunt and Hamel are considered the world’s longest-separated twins.

Twins and Nancy

3 Renowned expert on twins Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton, center, laughs with twin sisters, Liz Hamel, left, of Albany, Ore. and Ann Hunt, of Aldershot, England, during their reunion at the Fullerton Marriott.

Nancy's phone picture

4 Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton, uses her cell phone video camera to record the reunion of twin sisters, Ann Hunt, left, of Aldershot, England and Liz Hamel, of Albany, Oregon, both 78, at the Fullerton Marriott. This is their first meeting since hey were they were born in Aldershot, England in 1936. Dr. Segal arranged and financed the meeting through a Cal State University Fullerton grant.


5 Ann Hunt, left, gives her twin Liz Hamel, both 78, a kiss during their reunion at the Fullerton Marriott.

6 Professor Dr. Nancy Segal has a fraternal twin sister.

Published: May 27, 2014 Updated: 2:35 p.m.

Cal State Fullerton psychology professor Nancy Segal will be steeped in twins this summer, starting with her own twin.
With her students’ final grades turned in for the semester, she was off to see her fraternal twin sister Anne, an attorney in New York City, where they both were raised.
Segal is an expert on twins and founder of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State Fullerton.
Mid-June, she’ll be at Occidental College in Los Angeles to present her twins research at the “Adventures of the Mind” conference. Then it’s off to Brazil for the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference, where researchers share findings on evolutionary influences on behavior. Segal’s research on twins contributes to the evidence that genes, more than environment, affect behavior.
From there, she’ll be talking about her twins research at the American Psychological Association’s convention in Washington D.C. Segal was awarded the association’s William James Book Award in 2013 for her book “Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study.”
This all follows on the heels of a high-profile twin reunion in Fullerton in May that Segal organized for research purposes with the help of a $10,000 grant from Cal State Fullerton.
BBC was there to document their story. While cameras rolled, the 78-year-old fraternal twins Ann Hunt and Elizabeth “Liz” Hamel embraced for the first time. They were last together at their birth in Aldershot, England on Feb. 28, 1936.
Hamel flew in from her home in Albany, Oregon, accompanied by her son, Quinton Hamel. Hunt flew in from Aldershot, a small town near London, with her daughter Samantha “Sammy” Stacey.
Hamel always knew she had a twin, but she never expected to find her. Hunt, on the other hand, didn’t know she had a sister, let alone a twin, until a year ago. She didn’t even realize Aldershot, where she lives, was her birthplace.
For Segal, the fact that they were raised apart since birth was like striking research gold. “These are rare cases packed with human interest and scientific value,” Segal said. “This was a very unique opportunity.”
Twins help psychologists better understand the role that genes and environment play in human development, Segal said.
Fraternal twins are more different than alike, Segal said. Identical twins are more alike than different.
“What we’ve found is genes are really pervasive. They affect every aspect of our behavior,” Segal said. Genes affect what kind of foods we like, job satisfaction and personality.” That took a while to catch on because people really felt the environment was so important,” she said.
“Shared environment really doesn’t have an impact on development. If you’re like your relatives it’s usually due to your shared genes.”
Segal and her research team conducted tests on the twins for two eight-hour days in her lab during their four-day stay in Fullerton. The team tested the twins’ manual dexterity and general intelligence, among other things. The twins also told their stories individually and jointly in video interviews. Researchers will use the video to observe the twins’ gestures.

The data will need to be sorted and digested. “It’s a process that will take us some time,” she said. The team’s findings will be presented as a case study and is expected to be published in the scientific journal “Personality and Individual Differences.”
The Twin Studies Center’s mission at Cal State Fullerton is twofold: To advance public understanding and education of twinship and to support Segal’s twin research and the research of her colleagues and students. Two of her researchers who graduated in May will be moving on to Ph.D. programs. Franchesca Cortez is headed to USC and Jaime Velazquez is going to University of Michigan. Velazquez was honored as one of two outstanding psychology undergraduate students of the year.
The center, which includes Segal’s office and a library, is funded through grants and donations. Segal is contacted regularly by mothers and others who have questions about twins. “People are hungry for information.”
Now for the twins.
Hamel and Hunt’s mother Alice Lamb was 33 and working as a domestic servant when she gave birth to the twins. “She found out she was pregnant and the birth father fled,” Hamel said. Lamb decided she could only care for one child, so she gave away the child she thought would be more adoptable: Hunt. Hamel had curvature of the spine, and in the 1930s a physical defect would’ve made it more difficult for her to be adopted.
Hunt lived in an orphanage in London for six months before Gladys and Hector Wilson adopted her. The couple separated when Hunt was 6.
Hunt adored her adopted mother and, like her sister, she grew up an only child. Hunt found out she was adopted when she was 13 or 14.
Throughout her life, she avoided looking for her biological mother out of devotion to her adopted mother. “You’re my chosen child,” Hunt said her mother used to tell her. Hunt recalled her mother’s words: “She let me have you and take care of you and love you.”
Lamb married a widower with a son when she was 49. She died of a heart attack at 77.
Lamb raised Hamel until her daughter enlisted in the Women’s Royal Enlisted Navy. She was stationed in Malta, where she met her future husband, a “yank,” on a blind date. They raised two sons.
Hamel moved to the United States when she was 28 and still has an English accent.
Hunt, on the other hand, never knew her biological mother. Until a year ago, she never knew where she was born and she never knew she had a twin sister. “It was such a big shock,” Hunt said.
After her adoptive mother died, Hunt felt like she could look for her biological mother. She was delighted to discover she had a twin.
“Mum was just so excited. She rang up everybody,” Samantha Stacey said. Hunt’s daughter is the one who tracked down Hamel. She began by trying to find Ann’s biological mother. She discovered that her mother was a twin because there was a notation of a multiple birth on the birth certificate.
Stacey sent Hamel a letter a year ago, asking if she was related to Alice Lamb.

Hamel took the letter to her son Quinton, who lives next door. Within 10 minutes, the twins were talking on the phone.
One thing they discovered is that they are both widows after having been married to men named Jim.
“So mom’s digesting all of this, and I tried to get her to go to England,” Quinton said. Hamel’s husband had recently died and she didn’t want to travel.
But she grew interested in learning more about twins after talking to Hunt by phone. She wound up checking out one of Segal’s books at a library.
Quinton was looking through the book and saw that Segal had written about the twins who had been separated 75 years. He told his mother, “You have that beat.”
Quinton contacted Segal by email to explain that his mother and her twin sister would now be the longest-separated twins.
Segal emailed him within 30 seconds. She arranged the reunion, knowing that studying the twins would allow her to advance her research.

Nancy Segal is a Cal State Fullerton psychology professor and director and founder of the school’s Twin Studies Center. Segal, who has a fraternal twin sister, has been studying twins for decades.

Books: She is the author of several books, including “Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior” and “Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study,” which won the American Psychological Association’s 2013 William James Book Award.

Why study twins? Twins reared together and apart can answer questions about the role that genes and environment play in our lives.

Teaching awards: 2004-2005 Distinguished Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences and 2004-2005 Outstanding Professor of the Year at Cal State Fullerton.

Education: Ph.D. and master’s degrees at University of Chicago; bachelor’s Boston University

Guest appearances: Martha Stewart Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, the Oprah Winfrey Show and Discovery Health, among others.



How very Downton…


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‘It was Aldershot 1935 and a young lady working in service as a cook far from home finds herself in trouble. The man, of the name Peters, fled. Alice couldn’t keep her pregnancy from her employers for long and ended up on the doorstep of a home for unmarried mothers, St Agnes Lodge, Cavendish Mews, off Grosvenor Road, Aldershot.

Photos 2014-05 134
Friday 28th February 1936 Alice gave birth to twins in the Aldershot Cottage Hospital.

Alice was planning to give them up for adoption. What else could a single woman do in those days? How could she work to support herself and two babies?
The youngest looked like a ‘china doll’ and was adopted but the other had curvature of the spine.

A worried family had not heard from Alice for a long time and sent her brother George to Aldershot to look for her. He found her at the home for unmarried mothers and she was taken in by her family. Alice eventually was able to find suitable work and child care. Alice brought up Elizabeth with her knowing she had a twin sister who was given up for adoption. Patricia was adopted by an Aldershot family and her name was changed to Ann. Ann did not know she was adopted until she was 15. She did not know she had a twin until she was 77.’

Chester Chronicle



World’s longest-ever separated twins reunited for first time
May 30, 2014 By Carmella de Lucia

Twins whose mother lived in Chester are reunited after 77 years apart.

Twins born to a Chester woman almost 80 years ago have been reunited for the first time.

Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel, 78, who have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s longest estranged twins, were separated in Aldershot, Hampshire in 1936 because their mother Alice Lamb could not afford to keep them both.

Ann, who still lives in Aldershot, was given up for adoption and had no idea she had a twin sister until last year.

She met twin sister Elizabeth Hamel, who lives in Oregon, USA, for the first time last month, after 77 years and 289 days apart.

The discovery came about when Ann’s daughter Samantha Stacey began a long and painstaking process of researching her mum’s family tree.

When she researched more about the twins’ birth mother, she learned that Alice had married and moved to Chester at the age of 48.

Further digging eventually revealed Alice had a daughter – meaning Ann had a sister she had never even known about.

Not only that, when Samantha obtained birth records, she found that her mother’s sister had been born just 20 minutes before.

“I love family history and spent a long time researching my mum’s family tree,” said Samantha.

“One Christmas when my husband asked me what I wanted I said Alice’s death certificate!

“With that, as well as her marriage certificate we were able to find out that Alice had married George Burton at the Parish Church of St Bridget with St Martin in Chester in August 1951, and they lived on Commonhall Street.

“We visited Chester so we could see where she had lived, and it’s a lovely old house with an interesting history now used as offices,” she added.

Elizabeth, who had remained with her mother, and was aware she had a sister somewhere, lived in Chester for a time and joined the WRNS in 1961 before marrying and moving to the USA. Alice died in Chester in 1980 aged 77.

Last month, Ann and Samantha flew out to Los Angeles for an emotional reunion with Elizabeth, and whilst there, underwent testing at the Twin Studies Center at California State University with professor Nancy Segal, who researches twins who were raised apart to better understand the role of genes and environment in human development.

Ann said: “I sort of wanted to pinch myself. I have got someone as well as me, part of me – a twin. It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own anymore.”

Kval News item shown in the US



Click on link to see TV clip

ALBANY, Ore. – Her entire life, Ann Hunt believed she was the only child.

But growing up in England, she’d pretend to be a twin.

Her friends warned her “that will come back to you one day,” she said.

“But isn’t it lovely coming back to a thing like this!”

One of her daughter’s delved into the family’s geneology and discovered, after 78 years, Hunt learned her birth mother had given her up for adoption to focus on the twin sister who needed medical attention.

Hunt had a twin, Elizabeth Hamel; and she lived half a world away from Aldershot, England, in a place called Albany, Oregon.

Hunt’s daughter wrote a letter to Hamel about the discovery.

“I do get mail from England,” Hamel said, “but I was surprised when I saw Aldershot because we were born in Aldershot.”

Hamel said she had known about her twin’s existence her whole life but could never find the adoption records.

That letter changed it all. Hunt flew from England and met her twin for the first time May 1.

“To see someone you were actually in the womb with … ” Hamel said.

“We have the same toes!” Hunt said. “I actually feel complete.”

Cottage Hospital 1897, Aldershot



This is the hospital were Ann and Liz were born. The building remained until the 1970s. The railings are still there. The site now has a church which just so happens to be where I am a member and regularly worship. For so long while I was searching for Alice I was longing for a connection with her, to know more about her, to go somewhere she had been. When I found out she had been, had given birth to my mother in the place I had been baptised and now worshiped was one of those tingle moments!

The Radio Interview



Twins Reunited After 78 Years
Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel were separated as babies when Ann was given up for adoption and Elizabeth remained with her mother.

They were born in 1936 to an unmarried domestic live-in cook – Alice Lamb – in Aldershot in the UK.

Ann didn’t know she had a sister until 2013 after her daughter Samantha looked into Ann’s family history. It took them over a decade to trace Elizabeth, who lives in the US.

As soon as Elizabeth received a letter from Ann, she phoned her. Their meeting was arranged for 1 May, 2014 in Fullerton, near Los Angeles.

In this clip Ann and Elizabeth talk about finding each other and meeting for the first time.

BBC News Magazine 2 May 2014



Longest-separated twins find each other

Imagine delving into your family history and discovering you have a twin. That’s what happened to Ann Hunt, a 78-year-old, who had no idea she had a sibling at all until last year. Now she and twin Elizabeth Hamel have met for the first time since they were babies – setting a new world record.

“Lizzie, Lizzie, how lovely,” said Ann when she finally got to hug her sister.

“How lovely to see you in the flesh,” said Elizabeth.

Last April, Elizabeth, a 78-year-old from Albany, in the US state of Oregon, was shuffling through her mail when she saw a letter from Aldershot, UK – the town where she was born. “I saw Aldershot, ooh, I did a double-take on that,” says Elizabeth. “I opened it up and looked at it, and my eyes popped out my head.”

“I am writing to you as I am searching for a family connection,” the letter began. Elizabeth knew exactly who this was about, and minutes later she was on the phone to the UK.

On the other end of the line was Ann, her long-lost twin sister. “I was over the moon, I couldn’t speak,” Ann says. “I let Elizabeth speak mostly, I had to pinch myself because I realised, I’ve got a sibling, a sister. It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own any more. I’ve got no words to say. I’m so happy – I have Elizabeth.”

Unlike Ann, Elizabeth knew she had a sister.

“I’ve been praying for you for many years,” she told Ann in that first conversation. Over the years she had made some attempts to trace her but without success. It seemed an impossible task. “I thought – being adopted, she could be anywhere in the world,” Elizabeth says. “It was amazing to me that she was still in Aldershot.”

Ann and Elizabeth at the age of about 10Ann and Elizabeth as children. They were separated at birth, and Ann was given up for adoption

On 1 May 2014, a year after that first conversation and 78 years after they were separated, Ann and Elizabeth were reunited in Fullerton, near Los Angeles, on Thursday – the longest gap on record, Guinness World Records says.

They were invited to the city by Dr Nancy Segal, a psychologist who has been researching twins for more than two decades. Twins who have been brought up separately are of great interest to scientists examining inherited or genetic influences on behaviour. Segal will be looking for similarities and differences during a two-day study, and carrying out DNA analysis to establish whether they are identical or non-identical (fraternal) twins. “What was it in their life that caused the differences? If they’re fraternal, it could be character as well as circumstance,” Segal says.

“We want to get a comprehensive overview of their lives, their abilities, their interests, and put it all together as an important case study, because this is really the world’s longest separated pair of twins.”

“I’m 20 minutes older than my sister,” says Elizabeth confidently. It’s the kind of thing twins often say, but in this case every detail is new and exciting. Elizabeth has been looking forward to taking part in the study. For Ann, it’s been about one thing only: “Just getting over there to give Liz a big hug. I can’t get there quick enough, to tell you the truth. I’m over the moon. There’ll be tears and everything.”

The twins were born Elizabeth Ann Lamb and Patricia Susan Lamb on 28 February 1936, in Aldershot, UK. Their unmarried mother, Alice Alexandra Patience Lamb, was in service as a domestic cook. Their father’s name was Peters and he was in the army – Aldershot has had a military base since 1854 – but he never saw his daughters.

Ann Hunt grew up in Aldershot as the only child of Hector Wilson and his wife Gladys, who worked as the manageress of the Post Office canteen. The Post Office boys always looked out for Ann.

Ann as a baby Ann as a baby, after being adopted by Hector and Gladys Wilson. They named her Ann Patricia.

She was 14, when she found out she was adopted. Her aunt told her, so she went home and asked: “Were we adopted, mum?” An odd choice of words. “You and your ‘we’,” her mum replied. “No, you were a chosen child. God sent you. Your mother wasn’t able to keep you, so she allowed me to look after you and to adopt you as mine – someone to love.”

Ann doesn’t know why she used the word “we” – she doesn’t think her adoptive mother had any idea she was a twin. “She would have told me,” she says.

So could Ann have had a physical memory of her twin? Dr Segal doesn’t think so. “I think people over-romanticise that,” she says. “I don’t think once they are born they crave physical comfort. A mother who has lost one twin might say: ‘The twin is looking for comfort.’ Or people say they were unhappy and something was missing – but I think you can read too much into that.”

The year Gladys died, in 2001, Ann finally went to the register office to collect a copy of her own birth certificate. It gave her birth mother’s name, Alice Lamb. Her occupation was listed as, “a Cook (domestic)”. It noted her address, but not her age. There was no mention of any other children on the document either.

extract from birth certificate Alice Lamb’s profession is listed as Cook (domestic)

Ann’s youngest daughter, Samantha Stacey, enjoyed investigating family trees, so Ann asked her to find out more about her birth family. It was the start of a long and frustrating process. Initially, all the information was on microfiche – “eye-killing and migraine-inducing”, says Samantha. Also, not knowing Alice’s age made it quite hard to know when to start looking – they assumed she had been very young when she got pregnant, but in fact she didn’t have the twins until she was 33.

Samantha placed ads in the local paper, looked up electoral rolls, and searched online forums. Whenever the search came to a stop, something would start the process off again. After they found Alice’s birth certificate, Ann wistfully said: “It would be nice to have a picture.” And in 2010, when her husband asked her what she wanted for Christmas, Samantha replied: “Alice’s death certificate.”

Finally, in 2013, there was a breakthrough. They knew that Alice had got married, at the age of 49, to a George Burton, in Chester, and had a stepson, Albert. Although Albert had also died, they eventually tracked down his son, who said: “Oh yes, Alice has a daughter in the US.” That was how they found out about Elizabeth.

Ann remembers her daughter telling her: “We’ve found your sister but there’s a bonus… she’s your twin sister.” Ann believes it was meant to be. Both sisters have lost their husbands, so this is a real comfort.

twins Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel now Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel in their 70s

Samantha remembers being a bit apprehensive about telling her mother the news, because Ann was the only one to have been given up for adoption. But she needn’t have worried. “She was overjoyed – delighted,” says Samantha. “She instantly rang my sisters. She’s just very happy about it.”

After speaking on the phone, Elizabeth immediately wrote a long letter to her twin to explain why she was the only one to be given up for adoption. “I had curvature of the spine, which in those days was something which made a person unadoptable,” she says. “We were both going to be adopted but when mother found out about the curvature of the spine, she decided to keep me.”

In 1936, for an unmarried woman in service to keep her child and her job was not easy. There was great stigma around illegitimacy at the time, says social historian Juliet Gardiner, and a woman in Alice’s position would usually have been sacked or sent home to her family. “Live-in servants virtually never had children with them – it was another mouth to feed, and might distract the servant from her duties,” Gardiner says. There were exceptions. “Occasionally a widow would keep her child, but that child would usually be older and go to school.”

“In those days it was a very hush-hush affair,” says Elizabeth. “We were both illegitimate, which was very difficult. My mother was a servant living in a home. It was very frightening.”

As a consequence, Elizabeth did not live with her mother for quite a few years. At first, an aunt looked after her. Then Alice moved to Berkhamsted to work for Captain Hallam and his wife at Cross Oak, a large house with extensive grounds and full service – butler, cook, gardener and chauffeur – on the outskirts of town.

Elizabeth was then about three or four years old, and was looked after by a woman in Berkhamsted – her mother used to come into town to visit her on her half-day off. One week, she was unable to come on her usual day because of a big dinner party, and when she did arrive – unexpectedly – she was shocked to find her daughter dressed in rags.

large country house Cross Oak, the house where Alice Lamb was in service when Elizabeth came to live with her (photo courtesy of Berkhamsted Local History &Museum Society)

“She was so upset,” says Elizabeth. “She told me: ‘I’d made you beautiful dresses and smocked them by hand.'” She immediately took Elizabeth away from there, back to the Hallam’s house, where they lived in the servant’s quarters. This was during World War II, and Cross Oak was already host to a number of evacuees and even German POWs, who worked on the land. Elizabeth remembers running away from school quite often and having to be taken back by the chauffeur. “Maybe I liked to drive in the car? I don’t know.”

Later they moved to London with other employers. Alice earned £2 a week plus board, until, relatively late in life, she got married and moved to Chester. Elizabeth was then 15, and it was around this time that she remembers her mother telling her she had a twin. She even saw Ann’s adoption papers, although they were lost after her mother died in 1980. “I wish I’d asked more questions now, but all I knew was that I didn’t have a father,” says Elizabeth. Her cousins, meanwhile, told her very different stories. “One is that grandad, when he found out she was pregnant with twins, said: ‘Don’t darken my door,’ but the other is that he said: ‘Go fetch Alice, go and get those twins, get them back.'” But by the time the message reached Alice it was too late. Elizabeth doesn’t know which version to believe.

In the ground-breaking Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart, which began in 1979 and followed twins who had been separated at birth, illegitimate birth was the most common reason (44.5%) for twins to be separated. This aspect of their story therefore is not unusual, but it is quite rare for one twin to stay with the birth parent when the other is given up. In her book, Born Together – Reared Apart, Segal analyses the findings of the 20-year study, which looked at every aspect of separated twins’ lives – not just things one might expect to inherit, such as intelligence or physical attributes, but also attitudes, religiosity, life choices – even taste.

One set of separated twins, Bridget and Dorothy, were wearing exactly the same jewellery – seven rings, three bracelets and a watch – when they first met. Another pair, Jim Lewis and Jim Springer, twice married women with the same first name without ever having met.

Reared-apart British twins' long, slender hands and fingers, showing their shared taste for jewellery.Reared-apart British twins’ long, slender hands and fingers, showing their shared taste for jewellery. (Photo courtesy Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. Photograph taken in David Lykken’s laboratory.) From the book Born Together – Reared Apart by Nancy L. Segal

“Fascinating work on separated twins shows that here are twins growing up in totally different families, sometimes even totally different cultures, and yet they bring with them similar types of attitudes – in politics, religion, social behaviour,” says Segal, director of the Twin Studies Center at California State University. “Where do these things come from? It’s difficult to know exactly but it seems that their genes linked to intelligence, personality and temperament just lead them to have similar types of world views.”

Ann and Elizabeth both married men called Jim. Ann met her husband Jim Hunt at school, and married him at the age of 25 – he worked as a builder. Three years later, in 1964, Elizabeth married an American, Jim Hamel – although christened Warren, his mother preferred Jim, and that’s how he was always known.

wedding couples cut the cake The twins and their husbands – both called Jim – on their wedding day

The twins would appear to have quite a lot in common – both are widowed, both are grandmothers, and both pray. It seems they also like to act up in front of the camera. Samantha says it’s hard to find a good picture of Ann “because she’s always pulling funny faces.” And Elizabeth’s son Quinton says of his mother, posing in a cowgirl suit: “She liked to be funny with the camera – and still does.”

Ann poses with parrots on her arms, Elizabeth dressed up as a cowgirl A young Ann and Elizabeth captured in funny poses

Although they think they are not identical twins, they’ve been poring over photographs, looking for similarities. “When Liz got American citizenship, when she was walking across the stage, it was like looking at myself,” says Ann. They’ve spoken on Skype many times, and think they share some mannerisms – something else which can be inherited, according to Segal.

And do they take after their mother? “I look in the mirror and say ‘Hello mother’,” says Elizabeth. Ann thinks she has Alice’s nose, although people often thought she looked like her adoptive mother, too. “People used to say: ‘You’re like your mum,’ and I used to say ‘Oh that’s good,'” says Ann. “I think when you’re with people you grow like people. You get some of your birth mother’s looks and you get some of your chosen mother’s ways. When you’re a child you seem to copy someone you love.”

She has a point. Paradoxically, says Segal, we become more like our biological parents with age, because we have greater control over what we do.

Ann Hunt, the twins' mother Alice Lamb and Elizabeth Hamel with their grandchildren Three grandmothers – Ann, the twins’ mother Alice Lamb, and Elizabeth with some of their grandchildren

Clearly, there are also big differences in their lives. After leaving school Ann worked for a printer, until she got married, and remained in Aldershot all her life. Elizabeth left school to work in a sweet shop, but her dream was to join the Navy, and after going to night school she succeeded, joining the WRNS in Portsmouth. She then moved to Malta, where she met Jim on a blind date. “A girl came one night and said: ‘Does anyone want to go out with a couple of Yanks?’ I said: ‘I don’t like Americans – too loud.'” But Elizabeth was persuaded, and her impact on Jim was immediate. When he saw her, he said to his friend, “I’ll toss you for the blonde.” He won the toss and they were married for 48 years, until his death in 2012.

After the two days of interviews and tests, the twins will go back to Elizabeth’s home in Oregon where she is throwing a party for Ann, her daughter Samantha – and 80 of her closest friends. “I feel like I’ve known Liz all my life now,” Ann says.

Ann and Elizabeth spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen again on iPlayer or get the Outlook podcast.

Record Breaker!



I used to love watching the kids programme ‘Record Breakers’ when I was a child. The song said ‘You’re a record breaker!’ Who would have thought I would be instrumental in helping break one? I hope it never needs to be broken again as I hope there is no one out there disconnected from their twin for so long but if there is I hope they find each other.

It pleases me to think that Ross and Norris McWhirter, who were twins and founded the Guinness Book of Records, would be interested in this story.



Twin sisters Ann and Elizabeth meet for the first time. ©BBC/YouTube

It was fitting that Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel met for the first time in Los Angeles.

Their story reads like it came straight from a studio lot in Hollywood.

Born Elizabeth Ann Lamb and Patricia Ann Lamb, the twin sisters arrived to mother Alice on Feb. 28, 1936 in Aldershot, UK. Separated at just five months old, the sisters reunited last week at age 78. After 77 years and 289 days apart, they are the longest separated twins to have reunited.

Ann aged 1 with fluffy white hood.jpg

Ann at age 1

“I was over the moon, I couldn’t speak,” Ann said of talking to Elizabeth for the first time. “I had to pinch myself because I realized, I’ve got a sibling, a sister. It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own any more. I’ve got no words to say. I’m so happy — I have Elizabeth.”

After the daughters’ biological father – enlisted in the military – was not present for the birth or raising of the girls, single mother Alice reluctantly attempted to find better families for both daughters via adoption. She found Ann a home at five months with a local family, who raised her in Aldershot. She went on to marry and have three daughters of her own.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, stayed with Alice after the mother couldn’t find parents to adopt the scoliosis-stricken child. Raised in Hemel Hempstead, she eventually joined the Women’s Royal Navy Service, met her future U.S. Navy husband while they were both stationed in Malta, and moved with him to Oregon, where she raised two sons.

Elizabeth about10 years old.JPG

Elizabeth aged 10

Elizabeth always knew she had a twin sister. Ann never had any idea.

On April 22, 2013, Elizabeth received a letter from one of Ann’s daughters postmarked from Aldershot. She had been looking into her family lineage and came across Elizabeth’s information. Almost instantly, all parties realized that these two twin sisters – separated by an ocean, a continent, and a lifetime – had finally found each other.

“I’ve been praying for you for many years,” Elizabeth told Ann when they first spoke. “I thought, being adopted, she could be anywhere in the world,” she added. “It was amazing to me that she was still in Aldershot.”

Reunited -twins -collage

The previous record had stood at one day shy of 70 years, held by Philip and Barbara McAuley, also of the UK, who met on June 29, 1987.

Elizabeth and Ann’s amazing journey to each other was documented by the BBC. Cameras rolled as the twins met for the first time, and you can watch the conclusion to their incredible journey here. (Go to original link)

Their first words to each other as they prepared for a 78-year-old hug were identical.

“How lovely!” the sisters said, together at last.