Meet Ralph C. Lincoln, The 16th President’s Identical Third Cousin Several Times Removed

Published September 5, 2015
Updated November 6, 2020

Ralph Lincoln is the Great Emancipator's third cousin several times removed — and bears a shocking resemblance to him.

Ralph Lincoln

Ralph LincolnA comparison of President Abraham Lincoln and his 11th-generation descendant, Ralph Lincoln.

The likeness between 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln and his 11th-generation descendant Ralph C. Lincoln is striking.

Even though the Great Emancipator has no direct descendants, distant relatives like Ralph Lincoln are connected to him through other Lincoln family members. Ralph, for instance, is related to the late president’s great uncle.

Unlike other Lincoln descendants, however, Ralph Lincoln bears an eerie resemblance to the president. It’s a powerful reminder that history lives among us. Indeed, as author William Faulkner once quipped, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

So how does a modern man feel about looking like the reincarnation of one of America’s most revered figures?

How Ralph Lincoln Is Related To Abraham Lincoln

Ralph Lincoln And Abe Lincoln Portrait

Ralph LincolnRalph Lincoln poses with a portrait of his famous relative.

According to the site that Ralph C. Lincoln runs about his hallowed family ties, several members of the Lincoln family can be found in the “small, obscure” cemetery in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, near where Ralph himself was born.

In one of these graves rests Mordecai Lincoln, the brother of the late president’s grandfather, Captain Abraham Lincoln. Mordecai lived and worked in southwestern Pennsylvania, where his fifth great-grandson Ralph now lives and works himself. Mordecai’s side of the Lincoln clan stayed close to the Eastern part of the country, while it seems that Captain Abraham’s kin decided to head out West.

Abraham Lincoln Portrait

Library of CongressA portrait of the 16th president, circa 1861.

There is some inconsistent information about where, exactly, Captain Abraham was buried. Some sources list his grave as being in Pennsylvania and others list Kentucky, where Abraham Lincoln was born before moving to Illinois and studying law. The location of Captain Abraham’s grave is significant because his death stands out as a piece of precious Lincoln family lore.

According to legend, the Captain was killed by a Native American while working his field and his son, also named Mordecai, shot and killed his attacker in vengeance. The 16th president later wrote that this “is the legend more strongly than all others imprinted on my mind and memory.”

Life As Abraham Lincoln’s Modern Look-Alike

Ralph Lincoln, who is a native of rural Pennsylvania, shares what it is like being a relative of the 16th president.

Ralph Lincoln’s uncanny resemblance to the 16th president hasn’t gone unnoticed by his family or by strangers. According to Ralph Lincoln, when people have told him, “You look just like Abe,” he always responds, “Which one? There are several Abrahams in the family.”

Ralph’s family can see the resemblance, too. After convincing him to shave his mustache, Ralph Lincoln’s mother pointed to a picture of the president and said, “Go to the mirror and look at yourself. You look just like your cousin.” Ralph Lincoln lists himself as Abraham Lincoln’s third cousin on his website, but he is technically a third cousin several times removed.

Generally, Ralph’s side of the Lincoln clan is unfazed by their famous relative. “For us,” Ralph Lincoln said, “it’s basically ‘Ok. Next subject.'”

The family may shrug off their connection to Abraham Lincoln, but Ralph has used his resemblance to the 16th president in order to educate the public about his ancestor. On his site, Ralph Lincoln writes that he is a “proud member of organizations dedicated to bringing Abraham Lincoln to life, to educate, entertain, inspire, and honor his words and works.”

Ralph Lincoln Speaking

Ralph LincolnRalph Lincoln at a speaking engagement dressed as his famous ancestor.

One such organization is The Association of Lincoln Presenters, which seeks to bring “Abraham and Mary Lincoln to life” and to “preserve the legacy of Abraham and Mary Lincoln.” The association offers a choice of over 150 Lincoln lookalikes to give presentations and attend events.

Ralph Lincoln has appeared at multiple events as his famous relative, including at Ford Theater where, in 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

Ralph C. Lincoln In Costume As Lincoln

Ralph LincolnRalph Lincoln wearing the stovepipe hat President Lincoln famously wore.

Ralph Lincoln can tell his audience nearly anything about his “cousin,” but his own history is more muddled. As a result of a brain tumor in 1982, Ralph Lincoln lost many of his own memories. Today, he keeps a journal to make sure he has a record of things he’s done.

One thing that Ralph has said that he is certain about, however, is that he’s “honored” to be related to the 16th president. Through his presentations as Abraham Lincoln, he has made sure that the country knows his ancestor’s impressive story.

Other Descendants Of The Great Emancipator

Robert Todd Lincoln

Library of CongressOnly Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, had children.

Abraham Lincoln has no direct descendants alive today. Of his four sons he had with Mary Todd Lincoln, three died young. His only child who survived into adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln, had several children and grandchildren. However, the last of the president’s direct descendants, including his great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died in 1985.

Before his death, Lincoln Beckwith donated a variety of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia including documents, artwork, and furniture, to the state of Illinois. With his death, the direct line to Lincoln died too.

Today, there are multiple people who can draw some line between their family tree and Abraham Lincoln’s via a common ancestor. Notable distant relations of the president include actors like Tom Hanks, who is related to the president through Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and George Clooney, who is related to Abraham Lincoln’s grandmother Lucy Hanks.

And it’s certainly possible that even more distant descendants of Abraham Lincoln exist, as the president’s father and grandfather each had multiple siblings.

But until more descendants emerge to take on the mantle, Ralph Lincoln seems happy with his role as the living representative of the Lincoln family. Indeed, his lifetime membership to the Association of Lincoln Presenters ensures that he’ll be telling the story of Abraham Lincoln for a long time to come.


After this look at Ralph C. Lincoln, the 11th-generation descendant of the 16th president, check out this collection of insightful Abraham Lincoln quotes. Then, learn the surprising story of Abraham Lincoln’s career as a national wrestling champ.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.