Twins separated at birth reunite 39 years later and find they had lived almost identical lives

August 4, 2017 10:44 am Last Updated: August 4, 2017 10:44 am

Jim and Jim were twins who were born on August 19, 1939, in Ohio’s Piqua Memorial Hospital. Their mother was an unwed 15-year-old, who immediately put them up for adoption. The twins were separated just four weeks later when one was adopted by Sarah and Ernest Springer, who lived in Piqua. The second twin was adopted two weeks later by Jess and Lucille Lewis.

They lived completely separate but strangely parallel lives.

Piqua Memorial Hospital (Photo credit: Allen County Museum and Historical Society)

Having been separated almost immediately after birth and adopted to two different families, their first names were pure coincidence. But their unique circumstances would find them meeting once again much later in life, and contributing to the behavioral sciences in an invaluable and unexpected way.

Jim Springer and Jim Lewis, after having lived independently from one another, reunited after 39 years apart. What they learned remains a fascinating and remarkable insight into what had been nothing more than an idea or hunch in parts of the scientific world.

They grew up completely separately in different homes. Jim Springer’s adopted mother was told that his twin had died, and but Jim Lewis’s mother knew he had a twin and had told him so, but Jim Lewis didn’t feel the need or urge to meet his brother. That is, until 1979.

He had a change of heart.

James Springer (left) and James Lewis (right). (Photo credit: Allen County Museum and Historical Society)

The 39-year-old Lewis changed his mind and decided to try to find his brother. He searched through records at a local courthouse, where he found Springer’s name. That led to a phone conversation between the two, a very nervous one at that, according to Lima News. Despite not knowing what exactly to say to each other over the phone, they did eventually agree to meet.

On February 9, 1979, two grown men who had only previously spent time together in their mother’s womb, sat down to talk. Today, they both identify it as the most important day of their lives, according to FirstToKnow.com.

The twins reunited in 1979 for the first time since birth.

Sandy Jacobs (former wife) leans on her husband, James E. Lewis, as he shakes hands with his twin brother, James Springer. (Photo credit: Allen County Museum and Historical Society)

What they learned about each other easily transcended coincidence and entered the world of miraculous. Here are a just a few of the well-documented similarities they experienced in their lives, unknown to each other:

  • Both were adopted by families living in Ohio and grew up within 45 miles of each other.
  • Both had childhood dogs they named “Toy.”
  • Both were married twice — first to women named Linda, and then to women named Betty.
  • Both had children — including sons named James Allen.
  • Both had police training and worked part-time with law enforcement agencies.
  • Both lived in the only house on their block.
  • Both had similar IQ scores.
  • Both were chain-smokers, enjoyed beer, had woodworking shops in their garages, drove Chevrolets, and served as sheriffs in separate Ohio counties.
  • Both chewed their fingernails to the nub.

They were the perfect research candidates.

Jim Lewis with Tom Bouchard Jr., University of Minnesota Psychologist, reviewing test results in 1979. (Photo credit: Allen County Museum and Historical Society)

Their story made them ideal candidates for a study done by Dr. Thomas Bouchard from the University of Minnesota on behavioral research. Having met and discovered their amazing similarities, the twins agreed to participate in Bouchard’s endeavors.

The results of  Dr. Bouchard’s study on “the Jim’s” revealed results that were even more intriguing. Scores on a personality test were so similar that if you didn’t know better you might conclude that it was the same person who took the test twice. A test that measured brain-waves showed they were also almost identical, and it was also discovered that their medical histories were nearly exactly the same.

James E. Lewis (far left), Lucille Cheney, mother of Lewis (center) and James A. Springer (far right) pose for a photo in 1979 after 39 years of separation. An open house was given to introduce the families. (Photo credit: Allen County Museum and Historical Society)

The “Jim and Jim” study is known today as being one of the first landmark studies of its kind and would go on to serve as a foundation for theories on the influence of genetics and environment — what we now label as nature vs. nurture.

A program featuring the twins was aired by the BBC in 1999.