I am your father's uncle's cousin's nephew's...
October 30, 2004 10:08 AM   Subscribe

GenealogyTilYourEyesGlazeOverFilter: Trying to figure out (and this page just confuses me more) the whole "second cousin" and the whole "cousin x removed" thing. (more family relationships inside)

Okay, so I've had two older relatives die this year, and have seen a lot of people I haven't seen in a loooooong time recently, and was trying to figure out how we're all related.

The way I understand the way it goes is this:

The children of my mother and the children of my mother's brother are first cousins.

Now, if I and my first cousin have kids, those kids are second cousins to each other but my cousin's kid and I would be first cousins once removed to each other. Should my kid and my cousin's kids go on to have kids, their kids would be third cousins to each other but would be first cousins twice removed from both me and my first cousin.

When applied to all the various relations I met at two funerals recently, this seemed to all hang together, but my mom SWEARS I've got it all wrong, but can't explain it to me in a way that makes sense. I thought the chart on the link I provided in the question would help me, but ... no. Help?
posted by WolfDaddy to Human Relations (12 answers total)
No, you've got it right, as far as I can tell. I've always been a little shaky about the cousin thing (when dozens of cousins showed up for Thanksgiving, I just hid out back with my uncle rather than trying to get all the relationships straight), but your link is very clear and for the moment I think I have it all straight, and if I do, so do you. What does your mother say? Moms aren't always right, despite what they tell you.
posted by languagehat at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2004

Response by poster: My mom says that my grandfather's cousin is her second cousin, and that my grandfather's cousin's daughters are her third cousins ... and that they aren't related to me at all.

I contend that my grandfather's cousin is my mom's first cousin once removed, and that my grandfather's cousin's children are my mom's second cousins (and my second cousins once removed).

Are we dizzy yet? Tell you what; let's just twirl around and around in circles, Lynda Carter style, instead. We'll feel just the same with less brainpower expended. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:51 PM on October 30, 2004

Formally, you're right, WD--you have to be in the same generation from a common ancestor to be "just" first, second, third, etc.

Any relationships that are "off-balance"--where the cousin in question is a different number of generations from that common point--are described as "removed", counting from greatest number of equal generations.

(A very complicated way of saying, "Yes".)
posted by LairBob at 2:28 PM on October 30, 2004

And along the "confusing family" line--we've had a long-standing agreement (never yet fulfilled) in my extended family that for the next family reunion, we were just going to make up shirts with the family tree on them, and everyone could just put one on and circle themselves. (Somehow, we never get around to actually _doing_ that, though.)

Then I married into a family where my mother-in-law is one of _ten_ siblings--not only do they all have kids and grandkids, but some of the kids of the older siblings are as old or older than the younger sibs. I love 'em all, but _man_, is it confusing.
posted by LairBob at 2:32 PM on October 30, 2004


It's not just me and my humungous Irish family, then. My mum and my aunty Eily were 2 of about 9 (I forget), who then married 2 brothers (my dad and my uncle Tom, who were 2 of I think seven). Both of those couples (mum/dad + Eily/Tom) went on to have 9 or more kids, and now we all have kids (and no doubt soon will have kids...).

I'm totally lost, but the whole 'removed' thing doesn't bother me - we're all cousins. I just know that I have to get it all down on paper before the only one who really knows shuffles off his mortal coil.

Now I'm feeling guilty...
posted by dash_slot- at 2:52 PM on October 30, 2004

Response by poster: Don't feel guilty, dashy sweetie ... make a family tree for future generations! :-)

This question never would have been asked had my grandfather not "accidentally" thrown away a tree made by a cousin he couldn't stand that traced our family back to the Mayflower (and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence is my many-times removed ancestor, too, but I'll never be able to prove it now). [/family grumble]
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:11 PM on October 30, 2004

Yeah, well, WD, that's one of the wonders of mixing genealogy with with arithmetic...when you go back more than 10 or 15 generations, you're talking about an astronomical number of people: if you look back 20 generations (about 400 years using the rule of thumb of 20 years per generation), you've got more than a million people in that generation alone. (More than 2 million ancestors total, at that point.)

When you start going back 500 years (25 generations) or more, you're talking about numbers of ancestors that start exceeding the world's population at any given time. (You reach a trillion ancestors, in any given single generation, by 30 generations back. More than 2 trillion total.) That means you almost can't _help_ but be related to any given famous person from that far ago.

I don't mean to cynical--I think family history is important, and I would hate for you to lose yours. I'm just pointing out that it's a very common threshold to cross, genealogically, when you realize that _everyone_ is related to some famous historical figure.
posted by LairBob at 5:47 PM on October 30, 2004

"with with"...OK, it's Saturday night, alright? At least I'm probably going to close this "sub" tag...
posted by LairBob at 5:49 PM on October 30, 2004

Response by poster: Are you my daddy, LairBob? :-P

I understand what you're saying, but when you actually SEE these connections (this tree was on a HUGE sheet of parchment/paper/something old-looking) it was way way way cool to follow. To think my grandfather destroyed it just makes me see red.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:30 PM on October 30, 2004

Now, now, Wolfie...there are already two crazy little men running around calling me "Daddy", and that's more than enough...

But if your concern was really the document itself, then I can totally understand your frustration. The information itself, if it was legit, is eventually reconstructable, but if there was a really nicely drawn-out rendition of the tree, it is definitely sad if it gone thrown out for spite.
posted by LairBob at 9:20 PM on October 30, 2004

Response by poster: Those were some GREAT links on that page, RavinDave. Thanks a bunch!
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:55 AM on October 31, 2004

« Older Why did my bunny costume scare my cat so much?   |   Digital DJ -- how to move from CD to DVD, and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.