#190: Steps by Step

inset 0190.1   Our system of kinship has 2 fundamental categories: relatives by blood and relatives by marriage. Can the relationships between 2 people be both? Yes indeed, as we saw last week with Mookie Wilson…his brother had a child, Preston…then Mookie married Preston’s mother, making Mookie both Preston’s uncle and step-father…and BTW, Preston considered Mookie the only father he’s ever known. So yes, there can be overlap. But that overlap can be tricky.

190.2  Within what I call the nuclear step-family…parents, children, siblings…one cannot be both blood and step. For parents: your step-mother is married to your biological father, but is not your biological mother…so by definition she can’t be both your biological mother and step-mother…because she isn’t your biological mother*. For children: your step-son is the biological child of your spouse, but not of you…so again, they can’t be both a biological child and a step-child to you.

*  …except that real life is messy. So for example your biological parents could have split up soon after you were born. Dad marries your step-mother, who raises you until you are a teenager…you have no contact with your real mother. Then your step-mother dies, and your Dad marries your real mother, who now functions as a step-mother…your “new” mother…even tho she is blood…get it?

190.3  But what happens when we extend step-relatives beyond the nuclear step-family? Could someone, for example, be both your biological uncle and your step-uncle? Well, since last week we had a case where a person’s biological grandparent and step-grandparent were the same person, owing to the fact that step-siblings had married…you’d think it could work for uncles…and you’d be right.

chart 669

190.4  One such possibility is Chart 669A…here Y had daughter B, X had sons A and CA married B and had you…then X married Y. Now C is your biological uncle, being your father’s brother. But C is also your mother’s step-brother, so in that sense your step-uncle. Please ignore the fact that your father is also your mother’s step-brother…it’ll be easier on your sanity, I think.

190.5  In Chart 669B, your father A marries your Aunt B, making her your step-mother…C is your biological uncle, being your mother’s brother…but he’s also now your step-uncle, being your step-mother’s brother…but here again, looked at that way, your mother X is also now your step-aunt…are you sure you want to extend steps beyond the nuclear family? Just askin’…

chart 670

190.6  Last week we looked at 2 different ways you could have a step-uncle…left side of Chart 670, Uncle C is a step-uncle because he’s your step-mother’s brother. I call this a self-step relationship since it comes about because you yourself are in a step-relationship. On the right side, Uncle C is your biological mother’s step-brother, so again your step-uncle. Con-step come from consanguine…meaning it is not you, but one of your relatives, that is in a step-relationship. It has been suggested to me that there might be yet another way…

chart 671

190.7  In Chart 671, your 1st cousin C is the son of your mother’s sister B. Suppose B divorces C’s father D and remarries…her new husband E is now cousin C’s step-father…does that also make E your step-uncle? Before you say yes, what was D? As the husband of your biological aunt you probably called him “uncle”…looked at that way, wouldn’t E now be just your  “uncle”…the same as D was? Or perhaps you’d say “uncle by marriage.” But this would be based on E‘s  relationship to your aunt, without regard to his relationship to you cousin. See the tangles that develop when you start expanding steps beyond the nuclear step-family? You’re free to of course…knock yourself out.

chart 672190.8  But this is a good time to recall some basics. In Chart 672, we’re assuming you marry a woman named B who has a son C by a previous marriage. Consider B’s father A…is he your father-in-law or your step-father? And what is C…your son-in-law or your step-son? Native speakers of English can parse in-laws versus steps fairly automatically…still, we do have 2 parallel systems of terminology…or 3 really, when you consider your biological aunt’s husband, whom most people again would address as “uncle”…but ultimately acknowledge as an “uncle by marriage”…certainly neither a step nor an in-law.

190.9  So where does this leave E in Chart 671? Would he be your “step-uncle by marriage”? This is what we here at Related How Again? call a connection, not a relationship. And not to gild the lily, but notice that in Chart 669A, A‘s father-in-law Y is also A‘s step-father…it can happen in the best of families, sez me.

190.10  And just to put steps into some historical context, check out this quote from The Mountain of Names: A History of the Human Family written by Alex Shoumatoff in 1985.


What’s important to realize here is that such a “marriage chain…of six marriages among seven people” would have been the result of deaths, not divorces. Today, one can have a biological mother and a step-mother both alive at the same time…this was almost never the case with our ancestors. It is notable that there were “families with an extremely dense and complex mix of natural and step-parents and full and half siblings”…and “[of the resulting children] some of them did not have any parents in common.”

190.11  And of course among the full and half-siblings would be step-siblings as well…but as is correctly pointed out, some of the children would ultimately not related to some of the others in any simple way, short of something like “my step-brother’s half-brother”…again, more of a connection than a relationship, as our kinship system would currently reckon it. Altho like anything else, that can change…today there is some impetus to refer to your half-sibling’s half-sibling…of no blood relation to you but on the “other side”…as your “quarter-sibling.” If the culture wants and needs it, the language will provide it. Next week…what the heck, we might as well tackle step-cousins…and coming soon: The Hatfields and McCoys Revisited.

wicked ballsy

chartt 673

Paralleling the 2 kinds of step-relatives, I distinguished in Related How Again #144 between the 2 kinds of sibling-in-laws….starting at 144.8. “Spousal” means you get it thru your spouse…you can’t have one without having a spouse, since A is your spouse’s sibling. “Fraternal” means you get it thru your sibling…you can’t have one without having a sibling, since B is your sibling’s spouse. If you are an unmarried only child, you can have neither type, nez pah?

That these really are 2 different things can be seen by the fact that A‘s parents in Chart 673 are your in-laws…but B‘s parents are not your in-laws…they are your sister’s. Spousal and fraternal siblings-in-law are actually the 2 ends of one single relationship…for example, to your spousal BIL A you are his fraternal BIL. Can 2 people be both to each other? Of course…it happens every time 2 siblings from one family marry 2 siblings from another family. Diagram it out if you don’t believe me…but I’d believe me…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#189: Kevin’s Kwestion

Here is an interesting kinship question for you.
My older brother’s ex-wife’s (Pam’s) parents’ names were Fred and Wanda.
After Fred’s mother and Wanda’s father passed away,
Fred’s father married Wanda’s mother and had a daughter named Elaine.
Fred and Wanda married and had two daughters named Pam and Teresa.
(1)  Elaine is Pam’s double half-aunt,
(2)  Pam’s parents are step-brother and step-sister,
(3)  Elaine is both Fred and Wanda’s half-sister,
(4)  and both of Pam’s living grandparents are also her step-grandparents.
(5)  Since Pam and Teresa are sisters, does that make them step first cousins as well?
(6)  Whenever Elaine used to introduce Fred and Wanda, she would say,
         “This is my brother Fred…he is married to my sister Wanda.”
(7)  Do I have all of these blood and step family connections correct?
(8)  What would be the blood and step relations between Teresa’s children and Elaine’s children?

189.1  The above is from a guy named Kevin, and an interesting tangle it is! I have numbered Kevin’s assertions and questions, and we will examine each in turn. But before I do that, let’s look at step-relations a little closer, perhaps in a way that never occurred to you. And I don’t actually know if any of this will be relevant to Kevin’s Kwestion, but it’s interesting nonetheless, sez me.

189.2  And we’ll proceed with a type of diagram that’s different from what I ordinarily use for steps. Chart 662A is typical…it could have come about in 2 ways: A and B had E, while C and D had G…then B and C had F. Or, B and C had F…then split up and had E and G respectively. The reason the chronology is important is that your non-biological step-parent is the current spouse of your biological parent, not a former spouse. In Chart 662A, we could show this by putting little 1’s and 2’s next to the double lines, indicating the chronological order of the marriages.

chart 662

189.3  But to analyze step-relationships themselves, I am going to use a different style of symbolism, Chart 662B. Here, a child is connected to its parents…to one parent by a direct line…to two parents by a line connected to the parents’ marriage double-line. And of course, it is now assumed that B and C are currently married.

189.4  So Chart 663A shows a step-relationship…B is E‘s biological mother…C is married to B but is not E‘s biological father…we then say C is E‘s step-father…and E is C‘s step-son. This is what we might call a nuclear step-relationship…because it involves the only the nuclear family…parents and child. And while B is certainly involved in this relationship, B still not a step-anything, is she? She is E‘s mother and C‘s wife…but not a step in any way.

chart 663

189.5  Chart 663B gives us a “Brady Bunch” scenario…this is still a nuclear step-relationship,  simply doubled…and introduces the idea of step-siblings. Now both B and C are step-parents, where in Chart 663A  only C was a step-parent…and E and G are properly called step-siblings. And altho it may seem ridiculously obvious, it’s still important to note that a person cannot have a step-sibling without having a step-parent.

189.6  This is important is because it answers the seemingly knotty question of whether half-siblings are also step-siblings. Looking back at Chart 662, E and F are half-siblings…they have the same mother B and different fathers A and C. In the case where B and C are currently married, Chart 662B, people often wonder if F and E are also step-siblings…reasoning that C is the biological mother of F, and C is not E‘s biological mother yet is married to E‘s biological father.

189.7  And we can now see clearly why the answer is no: to have a step-sibling, F must have a step-parent, and he does not! B and C are the only parents involved, and they are both the biological parents of F. Wow, that was easy…

189.8  One thing more: what I have called the nuclear step-family…parents, children, and siblings…might be looked upon by some people as being a true step-relationship. I will refrain from calling it that, but will opine that it is what people typically think of when talking about step-relations. And the trouble is, when you try to extend the concept of steps beyond these basics, you run into ambiguities. Take the example of the step-aunt/step-nephew relationship. It can occur in 2 distinct ways, as in Chart 664.

chart 664

189.9  In Chart 664A, C is your step-aunt why? Because she is the sister of your step-mother B. But in Chart 664B, C is your step-aunt for a different reason: because she is the step-sister of your biological mother B. Did you see that coming? In Chart 664A, I will call C your self-step-aunt…meaning your relationship to her results from you yourself being in a nuclear step-family. For Chart 664B, C is your con-step-aunt…meaning your relationship to her results from one of your relatives, somebody consanguine to you, but not you, being in a nuclear step-relationship…in this case, it’s your mother B who’s in step.

189.10  And now we see the difficulty with considering what is a “true” step…in Chart 664A, as we have seen, is your self-step-aunt, because it is you who are in a nuclear step-relationship. But to C, you are not her self-step-nephew, because she is not in a nuclear step-relationship…rather, it’s her sister B who is…therefore you are C‘s con-step-nephew. Opposite ends of the relationship between you and C are different kinds of steps…self- and con-. And with Chart 664B…here C is your con-step-aunt, since it is not you that is in the step-relationship, but your mother B. But to C, you are her self-step-nephew, since she is in a step-relationship, with your mother B.

189.11  If we were to say that only self-steps are “true” steps, then in Chart 664A, you would be related to C, but C wouldn’t be related to you…and vice versa in Chart 664B…you would not be related to C, but she would be related to you. And whatever else you might want in a kinship system, it’s fundamentally necessary that all relationships be reciprocal, or two-way…if I am your relative, you are my relative. The terms for each of us might be the same, as sibling/sibling or 1st cousin/1st cousin….or they might be different, as father/son or aunt/nephew…but we are each related to the other. So for any kind of step-relation to exist, both self-step and con-step-relations must exist. And without my invented terminology, there is ambiguity.

189.12   And perhaps this is why steps typically aren’t extended beyond parents and children…not even to grands…is your step-grandfather your step-father’s father…or your father’s step-father? There’s no way to know what you mean…or there was no way…now with self-‘s and con-‘s there is. At any rate, Kevin’s Kwestion has been patiently waiting, so let’s gnaw away at it, shall we?

189.13  Kev’s ex-sister-in-law Pam’s family started out like this…

chart 665

…then ended up like this, with Fred’s father and Wanda’s mother dead…yup, dead…not passed or deceased or anything else….old school spoken here, thank you.

chart 666

 189.14  (1)  Elaine is Pam’s double half-aunt. Correct…Elaine is the half-sister of Pam’s father Fred…and also the half-sister of Pam’s mother Wanda. I might be tempted to reserve the “double” terminology for cousins, and say Elaine is Pam’s half-aunt in 2 different ways…but it’s still true that Elaine is twice as closely related to Pam than if it were only one way.
189.15  (2)  Pam’s parents are step-brother and step-sister. Absolutely true…just like the Brady Bunch. And it’s funny that the how of it makes a difference to some people. Like if on the show, Greg eventually married Marcia, there’d be a hew and cry to be sure. But if Greg and Marcia met and married each other first…then their parents married…not so bad, right? And remember, on a later season episode, Mike’s dad did marry Carol’s mom…played by the same actors in old-folk makeup.

189.16  (3)  Elaine is both Fred and Wanda’s half-sister.  There’s no denying it…Fred and Elaine have the same mother but different fathers…Wanda and Elaine have the same father but different mothers.

189.17  (4)  and both of Pam’s living grandparents are also her step-grandparents. By the letter of the law this is correct…B is the step-father of Pam’s mother Wanda…C is the step-mother of Pam’s father Fred. Do people generally extend step-relation beyond what I have called the nuclear step-family…parents, children, siblings? Some do, some don’t. But consider this: multiple relationships between blood relatives are important because they mean the relatives are more closely related than they would be otherwise…for example, double 1st cousins are related by 1/4, as close as half-siblings…that’s a biological fact. The question is, of what value is a multiple relationship that is not a blood relationship?

189.18  And even beyond genetic considerations, double 1st cousins live lives that are different from “single” 1st cousins. For single 1st cousins, family reunions are either on their father’s side or their mother’s side, and therefore involve 2 different sets of cousins on the guest lists. For double 1st cousins, there are some cousins who show up at both gatherings, and rightly so. Now if somebody is both your biological grandparent and your step-grandparent, what is the consequence? Genetically of course, there is none. Socially, if the families are close, a step-grandparent might act as an actual grandparent, especially if there were no others alive or in the picture. But a biological grandparent would act no differently if they were also a step-grandparent…so in a very real sense, such a double relationship is meaningless…they’re “already” a grandparent, nez pah?

189.19  (5)  Since Pam and Teresa are sisters, does that make them step first cousins as well?  Technically speaking, yes…in fact they are double 1st cousins. If you must extend steps beyond the nuclear step-family, relationships can be reckoned by assuming the “step-” part isn’t there…determining the results…then re-attaching the “step-“. In this case, Fred and Wanda go from being step-siblings to siblings…and the children of siblings are double 1st cousins, along with also being siblings…this genetic overload is what constitutes the dangers of such close interbreeding. And I should point out that this example of being a double 1st cousin to your sibling has nothing to do with Elaine, the double half-aunt…after all, if an aunt, or even half-aunt, has 2 nieces, they are 1st cousins to each other only if they are not siblings…in which case, they are, well, siblings, not cousins, capeesh?

189.20  So Pam and Teresa in this sense would be double step-1st cousins…but of course there would be no genetic component to this beyond plain siblings…so as with the grandparents, it’s a distinction without a difference. I’d be tempted to put it in the category of the man who claims to be his own cousin…you can finagle the paths on your family tree that way if you’re of a mind to, but what’s the point?

189.21  (6)  Whenever Elaine used to introduce Fred and Wanda, she would say, “This is my brother Fred…he is married to my sister Wanda.”  Here is one of the hazards of the very common practice of calling a half-sibling simply a sibling. In this case, there is no blood relationship between Fred and Wanda, so why shouldn’t they be married? Yet, they are “brother and sister”…seems kind of provocative to not spell it out, but that’s Elaine’s choice.

189.22  (7)  Do I have all of these blood and step family connections correct? Pretty much yes…just watch out for doubles.

chart 667189.23  (8)  What would be the blood and step relations between Teresa’s children and Elaine’s children?  Without fear of contradiction, I would say: double half-1st cousins once removed…Earl is the ascending, Tom is the descending. Are they also steps? No, because Elaine, having no step-parents, also has no step-siblings. Where you can very easily go wrong is in forgetting that the relationship between Elaine and Fred… and Elaine and Wanda…is halfs…while the relationship between Fred and Wanda is step. And thank you Kevin for a fun time indeed!

wicked ballsy

chart 668

On more thought…when 2 people get married, we assume they are unrelated unless otherwise informed. Similarly, your step-parent would not generally be related to you…but in rare cases could be. And such is the case above, with former Major League ballplayers Mookie and Preston Wilson. It is said that Mookie is Preston’s step-father and uncle…and Preston is Mookie’s step-son and nephew. This is entirely correct, since Preston’s father was Mookie’s brother. The family is open about this to a point…that point being whether or not Preston’s parents were ever married. I can’t seem to find out, and while I’m certainly curious, I yield to the family’s privacy, if that’s what’s going on.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#188: Removing Day

188.1  Today we address something that has bugged me for some time…it’s this simple question: All those people who think that your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin…what do they think removed cousins are? Because what they’re calling a 2nd cousin is actually a 1st cousin once removed…or to be completely proper, a 1st cousin once removed descending.

188.2  And I believe for a lot of them, the answer is what I’ve always assumed it was: they haven’t the foggiest notion of what removed cousins are. If they did, they’d know what 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. cousins are as well, and obviously they don’t. In my experience, people making the “2nd cousin” mistake do so simply because they don’t understand our kinship system. I have never talked to anyone making that mistake who had even the remotest idea what a removed cousin was. Occasionally, one will realize that calling their 1st cousin’s child their 2nd cousin automatically makes their parent’s 1st cousin also their 2nd cousin…but most haven’t thought that much about family trees beyond the absolute basics.

188.3   For the past several weeks, I’ve been exploring the crazy ideas people have about kinship at the Yahoo! Answers website. A question is posed, and all manner of correct and incorrect answers come forth. So I tried a site search for questions concerning 2nd cousins. As expected, some got it right, others wrong. Of those who were wrong, the vast majority didn’t bring removed cousins into it. But luckily for me, a few did…and so I have two answers to my original question…and there may be others, but it’s a start.

188.4  The first answer is that it has something to do with marriages. Now that makes a certain amount of cockeyed sense…their incorrect use of terminology has already accounted for actual removed cousins…so “removed” must apply to something else…and what else could there be? Examples…

inset 1

188.5  (A) is not “super sure”…good!…but guesses that a removed cousin is a step-child of your biological uncle or aunt. Wrong, but not an unreasonable guess. (B) believes a removed cousin is your biological cousin’s spouse…a cousin-in-law. Again wrong, but again at least they’re trying. And in both these instances, it’s a marriage that creates the removed cousin…as a step- or as an in-law. (C) seems to be saying the same thing as (B), but misses the mark…they probably don’t mean it’s your married cousin who’s your removed cousin, but  rather the person your cousin is married to…hard to tell when they can’t clearly communicate their thoughts. And speaking of which, (D)‘s answer is almost mystical…suffice it to say if Dear Abby had given answers like that, she wouldn’t have lasted a week….she would have been “one out” in a hurry, boy.

chart 658

188.6  So we know that at least some people who think your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin also think a removed cousin is either your step-cousin or your cousin’s spouse. But there’s another erroneous interpretation for removed cousins…I have no hard data, but I get the feeling this one is more common. It begins when somebody says that a 2nd cousin and a 1st cousin once removed are the same thing. And when this idea is expanded upon, what comes out is that they believe an Xth cousin Y times removed is the same as an (X+Y)th cousin…you just add everything up. Chart 658 illustrates this notion out to 4th cousin.

188.7  Let me stress that Chart 658 is wrong in two ways: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins are wrong…and the idea that you add the numbers to get an equivalent terminology is also dead wrong. But the thinking is, as a blogger once remarked, Why say 3rd cousin once removed when you can just say 4th cousin?  In other words, 3 + 1 = 4…Keep It Simple, Stupid. And this makes sense…the relative identified as a 4th cousin can be described in 3 other ways…3C 1R…2C 2R…and 1C 3R…but why would you bother? What’s the point? It takes a perfectly simple concept…4th cousin…and complicates it for no good reason. But…since people do talk about removed cousins all the time…the correct inference here is that this “useless” interpretation must be wrong, just because it is useless, it serves no purpose. OK, lots of people can’t think that logically, but there you go…

188.8  However….the “add it up” theory of what “cousin removed” means is an interesting one, wrong as it may be…and I’d like to look at it a bit further, which, since this is my blog, I may do with blissful impunity. The thing is, “adding it up” has an undeniable internal logic to it…unlike many other goofed up kinship notions, it hangs together…it does not contradict itself.

chart  659

188.9  Look at Chart 659 and take 4th cousin as an example. It definitely is 3 steps away from a 1st cousin…hence 1st cousin 3 times removed…in green. It’s also 2 steps away from a 2nd cousin (brown), so 2nd cousin twice removed…and 1 step away from a 3rd cousin (orange), giving you, by this logic, 3rd cousin once removed. But again,  why would you ever want to express it that way? And the answer is, you wouldn’t. But let’s press on.

chart 660

188.10  The point of a system of kinship terminology is to uniquely identify everybody you’re related to, each and every twig on your family tree. So let’s expand Chart 658 outward. If for you, your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin, your 1st cousin’s grandchild is your 3rd cousin, etc…then it must be the same for your father…and in Chart 660, we do just that…your father’s cousins noted in green. The question now is, what are your father’s cousins to you? People who make this 2nd cousin mistake do so because they don’t understand kinship, and trying to expand it this way is way beyond anything they can or even want to attempt.

188.11  But let’s take a crack at it, for the sake of argument. Look at 3 people…your father, your father’s 1st cousin, and you. What do you have? A pair of 1st cousins and the child of one of them. Now look at you, your 1st cousin, and your 1st cousin’s child. What do you have? The same exact thing! A pair of cousins and the child of one of them. Situations are the same, so relationships must be the same. In your case, you and the child of your 1st cousin are 2nd cousins…so in your father’s case, your father’s 1st cousin and the child of your father’s 1st cousin’s 1st cousin must also be 2nd cousins…making your and your father’s 1st cousin 2nd cousins. This is a perfect example of the patterns that repeat over and over…up, down, and across a family tree.

188.12  So your father’s 1st cousin is your 2nd cousin. Now simply apply the same cousin terminology used on the left side of Chart 660  to the side: your 2nd cousin’s child is your 3rd cousin…in this case, your 2nd cousin is your father’s 1st cousin…and your 3rd cousin is your father’s 2nd cousin…and this continues all the way down the generations. Notice that this 3rd cousin (actually your 2nd cousin using correct terminology) is of your generation…so here your generation consists of a 1st cousin, then a 3rd cousin, and if we extended it to the right…what?…a 5th cousin?….1, 3, 5, all odd numbers?

chart 262

188.13  Yes, this is exactly what happens…the infamous Odds/Evens system of kinship terminology I covered in Related How Again? #75 . This is where your odd numbered cousins are in your generation…your even numbered cousins are in your father’s generation and your son’s generation…odd numbered for your grandfather’s and grandson’s generation…and alternating up and down, as in Chart  263.

chart 263

And checking recycled Charts 262, where each number of cousin has its own color, we notice something interesting: You have 2nd cousins in 2 different places on your family tree…3rd cousins in 3 places…4th cousins in 4 places…and it will keep going like that, as you see in Chart 661.

chartt 661

188.14  And an unwieldy mess it is…let’s take 7th cousins as an example, and say Teddy Roosevelt and my grandfather were 7th cousins. This could mean…

1.  Gramps was the 4th great grandson of TR’s 1st cousin…or…
2.  Gramps was the 2nd great grandson of TR’s 3rd cousin…or…
3.  Gramps was the grandson of TR’s 5th cousin…or…
4.  Gramps was TR’s 7th cousin (i.e. the same generation)…or…
5.  Gramps was TR’s grandfather’s 5th cousin…or…
6.  Gramps was TR’s great great grandfather’s 3rd cousin…or…
7.  Gramps was TR’s 4th great grandfather’s 1st cousin…

188.15  So much for “7th cousin” pinpointing a unique spot on your family tree, nez pah? So you might say, well don’t call them 7th cousins…just use one of the 7 specific descriptions above. Trouble is, that won’t work either…take description #3…Gramps was the 2nd great grandson of TR’s 3rd cousin. Here, “3rd cousin” can refer to one of 3 different things, so description #3 refers to 3 different things…d’oh!

188.16  Bottom line: the Odds/Evens system is completely useless as a coherent system of kinship terminology. Does the nudnik who thinks their 1st cousin’s child is their 2nd cousin actually know that by doing so they’re advocating such a system? Of course not…this a perfect example of an unintended consequence. But then, that’s what happens when you literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

chart 127

188.17  One thing I ought to mention…Chart 127 shows the correct terminology for numbered cousins (your generation) and removed cousins (other generations.) And you will notice that for each removed cousin type, there is one among your ancestors, blue area…and one among your descendants, pink area. That is why you must add “ascending” for the blue and “descending” for the pink…but that’s it, system is now complete. It can’t and won’t be any more cumbersome than that. How in the world would you distinguish 7 different 7th cousins? 7th cousin 1st degree, 7th cousin 2nd degree, 7th cousin 3rd degree, and like that? And which is which? Our system is very solid and very practical…could it be better? Absolutely, because…

188.18  …a responder at Yahoo! Answers with a Hispanic last name said this regarding removed cousins: It [your 1st cousin's child] would be like your mother’s cousin. To you it would be your cousin once removed. In my culture and family, however, my mother’s cousin would be my aunt/uncle. Specifically, they mean “2nd uncle” and “2nd aunt”…in Spanish, a 1st cousin once removed ascending is a 2nd uncle/aunt…a 1st cousin once removed descending is a 2nd nephew/niece…keeping the terminology consistent for generations above and below you. Not that the Spanish language is perfect…they have a muddled way of dealing with grands and greats, to the extent that nobody can agree just how to do it. Still, removing removeds is a laudable achievement, sez me.

wicked ballsy


The question is, how exactly is Uncle Duke related to Zonker Harris? His full name is Raoul Duke…his son Earl and his cousin David are also both Dukes. He is described by some on the net as an “uncle by courtesy”…that is, an old family friend of Zonker’s parents, an “honorary” uncle. But this strip implies otherwise.

For the record, Zonker’s full name is Edgar Zonker Harris…revealed in the 1983 musical “Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy.” I don’t believe Zonker’s parents have first names. Zonker has an unseen (so they say) sister named Louise…Zonker’s nephew Zipper Harris is her son. But could Zonker’s mother’s maiden name be Duke? Without reading every strip since 1970, I’m not prepared to bet on anything…let’s leave it at that.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#187: 20 Q’s…and Thanx For Asking!

187.1   Posts from Yahoo! Answers are in black italics…my comments in red. The abbreviation OP means Original Poster.

187.2  Question…Okay, so I want to find out the exact title of a relative and I. My mom’s maternal grandpa and my relative’s mom’s father were half brothers because they had the same mom but two different dads. So, would that make my relative and I half 1st cousins once removed since my great-grandparent and his grandparent were half-brothers? No, half-2nd cousins once removed…but you were close!  I just want to know our exact title please, thanks! 

187.3  Okay, so here’s a point to ponder: because the word “maternal” derives from “mother,” people sometimes think that the phrases “my maternal” and “my mother’s” mean the same thing…but in a genealogical context, they mean different things. Consider: my maternal grandfather refers to the grandfather you have on your mother’s side…this is another way of saying my mother’s father. On other hand, my mother’s grandfather is obviously not your mother’s father, so it isn’t your maternal grandfather, capeesh? Having said that, the OP clearly does know the difference…the half-brothers are at the end said to consist of his great grandfather and the other relative’s grandfather…which is completely consistent with what he said at the beginning. Checking Chart 655 we see the answer is half-2nd cousins once removed. 

chart 655

187.4  “Best Answer…Asker’s Choice”…Call him RiQ – Relative in Question – and work it out one generation at a time: 

Generation 1: Your great grandpa & RiQ’s grandfather = 1/2 brothers
Generation 2: Your grandparent & RiQ’s parent = 1/2 1st cousins
Generation 3: Your parent & RiQ = 1/2 2nd cousins
Generation 4: You & RiQ’s child = 1/2 3rd cousins 

I threw in RiQ’s (future) child as a bonus. You and RiQ are half second cousins once removed through your parent.  That’s right, except that you can’t be any sort of cousin unless it’s thru one of your parents…I’m just sayin’...

187.5  Answer #2…You are 1/2 first cousins. Wrongo! Not having the “once removed” on there means they evened out the generations when they shouldn’t have, perhaps owing to the possible confusion over the word “maternal” that I mentioned in 187.3. But even doing that, they should have come up with half-2nd cousin, so who knows?

187.6  Answer #3…Half 2nd cousins 1 time removed………. as it your great great grandparent and his great grandparent which is the common blood ancestor  This answer is rock solid…and what’s more, there is only one common blood ancestor, resulting in descendants that are a type of half-cousins…for full cousins you must descend from full siblings, and that requires 2 common ancestors, not just one.

187.7  Answer #4…1st cousins removed. exactly  It’s a shame we don’t have such a word as “unexactly.” Not only is 1st cousins not even close, but you can’t just be “removed”…has to be a number of times, to indicate which generation this cousin is a part of, nez pah?


187.8 Question…Auntie or cousin? What is my mom’s cousin to me if my dad’s brother married her? Is she my second cousin or aunt?

187.9 Answer #1…She is both. Actually she’s neither. Is she your aunt? Your uncle married her, but that in itself only makes her your aunt by marriage, not by blood. Is she your 2nd cousin? If she’s your mother’s 1st cousin, she’s your 1st cousin once removed…she would be your children’s 2nd cousin, not yours. She is your mother’s cousin by blood (they have a common ancestor, which would also be your ancestor). She is actually your 1st cousin once removed. Like I just said…so why did YOU say “both,” meaning 2nd cousin when you knew she wasn’t? Geez louise…

She BECAME your “aunt” through marriage to your uncle. The difference here.. she would stop being an aunt, if they divorce. But the blood relationship would never be changed by divorce.. since it relies on a relationship through a common ancestor. True enough…in this case your 1st cousin once removed is you aunt by marriage. Your dad’s brother is also a blood relationship (through their parents, who are your grandparents). This is really not such a massive issue. It comes down to the fact that your dad and his brother both married women who are related to each other. Happens all the time No, actually is doesn’t…unless by “all the time” you mean “occasionally” then I can accept that. The upshot of course is the offspring will be your 1st cousins on your fathers’ side, and your 2nd cousin on your mothers’ side….”irregular double cousins” if you must know.

187.10  Answer #2…You go by direct lineage that was there before marriage. It’s more accurate for the family tree, and with the way marriages end in divorce, the ‘aunt’ part is moot, the person will always be your second cousin. Make that 1st cousin once removed and you’re right in a muddled sort of way…in other words, a marriage by itself doesn’t give you additional blood relatives…altho the offspring of such a union does. 

187.11 Answer #3…If she is your mother’s first cousin then she is your first cousin once removed but she is also your aunt by marriage. That’s it in a nutshell…no need to continue…unless you insist… 

To figure cousin relationship
Children of siblings are first cousins to each other as they share grandparents.
Children of first cousins are second cousins to each other as they share great grandparents. Children of second cousins are third cousins as they share great great grandparents.
and so on. 

The removes come in when you are in a different generation coming down from a common ancestor. You are a first cousin once removed to your parents’ first cousins as their grandparents are your great grandparents. Thus one generation different. You are also a first cousin once removed to your first cousins’ children as your grandparents are their great grandparents. Again, one generation different. No argument from me…except to add that the IC 1R ascending is the one in the older generation, the 1C 1R descending is the one in the younger generation.

Here is a relationship chart.   http://www.islandregister.com/cousin.htm… 

This chart is fine…I find drawing trees settles the issue much faster in my mind, but  if such a charts useful to you, knock yourself out. I do like that the chart uses “grand niece/nephew” instead of “great niece/nephew”…a real professional touch.

187.12 Answer #4…The first cousin of your parents is your first cousin once removed. Good so far… If your fathers brother married your mothers first cousin she would be your first cousin once removed and a cousin by marriage. Not cousin by marriage but aunt by marriage…because her being your mother’s 1st cousin has nothing to do with who she marries, which I think you knew, you just got careless, we’ll say.  If they divorced she would still be your first cousin once removed. And that’s a mercy anyway…

187.13  Answer #5…Both. No, neither. Many people have multiple relationships. No they don’t. On the contrary, it’s rare enough that many people haven’t heard of it and so don’t think it can happen.  My brothers and I, for instance, are brothers, plus 4th cousins, 5th cousins and 6th cousins once removed. Some of my 1st cousins are also my 4th, 5th and 6th 1R also. Well, technically you mean double 4th, 5th, etc. but we get it…

You usually use just one title, unless you are bragging at the genealogy clubhouse. In the first place, relationships are never called “titles.” In the second place, people treat multiple relationships in any number of ways…depends on how accurate a picture they wish to paint. For example…if half-brothers had mothers who were siblings, they’d also be 1st cousins…it’s up to the individual whether to mention both relationships…they would certainly be more closely related than half-siblings regardless of what they chose to call themselves. And in the third place, if it’s true it isn’t bragging.

Call the Lady in Question LiQ:
Generation 1: Your mom & LiQ = 1st cousins
Generation 2: You & LiQ’s children = 2nd cousins 

That’s one relation; you and LiQ are first cousins once removed through your mom. The person who said “second cousins” is wrong; LiQ’s children, not her, will be your second cousins. Absolutely. The second relation is that she married your uncle, so she is your aunt by marriage. Her children will be your first cousins through their father, your uncle. So, they will be your 1st and 2nd cousins both. Absolutely again. I’d call her “Aunt”, especially if she is more than 10 years older than you, but “Aunt” or “Cousin” is really up to you. How old she is has nothing to do with it…if she were younger than you, she’d still be your aunt by marriage. What if you called her your “cousin” before she married your uncle? You might change to “aunt,” or stick with “cousin,” your choice. The cool thing about Spanish kinship terminology is that your mother’s 1st cousin is automatically a kind of aunt…what they call a “2nd aunt” or tia segunda.

187.14  Answer #6…If this lady is your mums first cousin then she is your 1st cousin once removed and if then your dads brother ( your Uncle) married her, she is also your Aunt  If you mean aunt by marriage then I’m with you.
187.15  Answer #7…she’s ur cousin as well as ur aunt  Yeah, sorta, kinda, approximately, like we’ve said. She’s something by blood and something else by marriage, that’s for sure.

187.16  Answer #8…She would become the closest relationship to you, an Aunt. Well, an aunt is by definition your parent’s sibling, and that’s certainly closer to you than your parent’s 1st cousin. But a relative by marriage is neither close or distant, since they’d not related to you at all.


187.17  Question…My daughters relation to my nephew?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that there are no stupid questions…frankly, I wouldn’t be so sure. This one comes precariously close…I mean, a child might ask something like this, but not someone old enough to have a daughter themselves. Who is her nephew? Her sibling’s son…that son and her daughter are 1st cousins, one of the first things a child learns about kinship as they move beyond the nuclear or immediate family of mother/father, son/daughter, brother/sister. So you might suspect that this nephew really isn’t OP’s nephew after all…assuming OP is a woman, perhaps it’s her husband’s nephew, or the son of her half-sibling or step-sibling. Still, my policy is to take what people say at face value…it’s only common curtesy.  So the answer is: 1st cousins.

187.18  Answer #1…Your nephew is your siblings child or your husbands siblings child meaning your chaildren and their children are 1st cousins, as they share the same grandparent/s… Which is to say, either your parents or your husband’s parents would be their grandparents if for some reason they do not share the same grandparent/s then they are not related at all  I don’t know if you had some reason in mind when you said “for some reason”…but for the sake of argument, let’s see what reason there could be. Since we are for now supposing OP’s daughter and nephew have no grandparents in common, this nephew can’t be OP’s nephew or her husband’s nephew. Chart 656 shows 2 more possibilities.

chart 656

Chart 656A supposes the nephew is the son of OP’s half-sibling…but then daughter and nephew would share B as a grandparent, so that doesn’t work…in this case the nephew would be a half-nephew, OP his half-aunt, and her daughter his half-1st cousin. Chart 656B tries step-siblings..A and B had OP, C and D had the sibling, then B and C were married, giving OP a step-mother and a step-sibling. Now the nephew would be no relation to OP’s daughter, and share no grandparents with her. Still, if the step-siblings were close, they might call each other’s children their niece or nephew.

187.19  Answer #2…First cousin, if they share a pair of grandparents. Otherwise, step cousin.  Sure enough, step-‘s is precisely what this answerer deduced…but there is an important caveat, explained below.

chart 657
187.20  Answer #3…First cousins. They should share a set of the same grandparents. And the caveat is this: determining relationships based on shared grandparents doesn’t work. Sharing 2 grandparents doesn’t guarantee you’re 1st cousins…you could be half-siblings or even double half-1st cousins…as per Chart 657. The shared grandparents in each case are highlighted in yellow…and if the double half-1st cousins is an eye-opener, it was intended as such. My point is: stop doing it! 

187.21  And that wraps up the 20 Questions Project for now… lots of fun, may revisit it…altho next week, Yahoo! Answers does move me closer to answering something I’ve wondered about for a long time…till then, dear friends…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#186: 20 Q’s…the Black and the Red

186.1  …being the real-life adventures of average folks wresting with kinship questions at Yahoo! Answers…posts are in black italics…my comments in red. The abbreviation OP stands for Original Post or Original Poster…

186.2  Question: If her great uncle is my grandfather, what does that make us? Before anything else, let’s look at the terms “great” and “grand”…when applied to uncles and aunts, it’s one of the rare areas of kinship terminology where there is more than one way to do it. Most everything else has a distinct meaning…for example, 2nd cousins are one thing…the children of 1st cousins…and not anything else…which is not to say people don’t use the term incorrectly, but they’re wrong. With great/grand, there really is no absolutely correct way to use them.

186.3  Still, in a genealogical context, there is a preferred usage, and it is “grand uncle” for the brother of your grandfather. The important point is that each of these gentlemen is thus referred to by one “grand. In like fashion, the brother of your great grandfather is your great grand uncle…again, each is called the same thing, “great grand.” This is done to keep them straight…watch what happens with using “great uncle” for the brother of your grandfather. The brother of your great grandfather is then your great great uncle…one has one “great,” the other has 2 “greats”…but then your great great grandfather also has 2 “greats” even tho he is one generation earlier than that great great uncle. So the idea is that all the siblings of one generation will  have same number of greats…that’s all there is to it. At the same time, there are court cases where “grand uncle” and “great uncle” are deemed to be the same thing legally.

186.4  As to the question at hand…at some point, if you’re really interested in kinship and genealogy, you’ll discover you can do questions as simple as this in your head. If somebody is her grand uncle, he is the brother of one of her grandparents…in this case we’ll say the brother of her grandfather….and the brother of her grandfather is your grandfather. You and her are 2nd cousins. Taking it step by step…your father has a brother and that brother has a child…the child is your 1st cousin. Your grandfather has a brother and that brother has a grandchild…the grandchild is your 2nd cousin. Done and done. Keep at it, dear friends…it will all come in time!

chart 652

186.5  Answer #1…Assuming he is a great uncle by blood, I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again: if he isn’t an uncle by blood, he isn’t an uncle period…the man married to your father’s sister is an uncle by marriage only, an honorary uncle if you will, but not your uncle. You call him uncle out of courtesy…but consider this: if he divorces your aunt, do you still call him uncle? And since I brought it up, here’s my answer: if they have children, your 1st cousins, then divorce or no, he is still the father of your cousins, so I would still call him uncle…in my family I have several ex-aunts by marriage and I never stopped considering them as aunts. 

Generation 1: Your grandfather and her grandparent = siblings
Generation 2: Your parent and her parent = 1st cousins
Generation 3: You & She = 2nd cousins 

When (if) you both find that special someone and have children, they will be generation 4, and 3rd cousins to each other.  What can I say…correctamundo. You are OK to date and even marry, Relations between 2nd cousins are legal everywhere in the world and in all 50 states…even between 1st cousins, legal practically everywhere in the world and in about half the states, did you know that?  but go really slow and be super polite, or there will some distinct silences at family gatherings. Do you recognize this gag from last week? Yup, same poster…I want to say he’s got a million of them, altho it appears he does not…still, appearances can be deceiving, nez pah?

186.6  Answer #2…Cousin (a little far related ). Clumsily stated but true…in common parlance, a 2nd cousin (or beyond) is typically called a “distant cousin.” And while a 2nd cousin doesn’t sound that distant compared to say a 10th cousin, you share only about 3% of your genes with your 2nd cousin, the other 97% you don’t. 
186.7 Answer #3…well if the great uncle and granddad is in the same generation your dads will be in the same generation and so will you and as your related you will be cousins. See, there’s no “if” about it…grand unc and grand pop can’t be anything but the same generation…and since 2nd cousins are a type of cousin, it’s not wrong to say you’re cousins. p.s. i drew this on a piece of paper  No kidding? I usually draw my diagrams on the bathroom wall, but it takes all kinds, sez me…

186.8  Answer #4…just about nothing  Genealogically, no, not just about nothing…genetically, as we’ve seen, yes, just about nothing. 

186.9  Answer #5…Family  Which just goes to show you can be absolutely correct and still not helpful.

186.10  Answer #6…So your common blood ancestors are your Great Grandparents, which means you are 2nd cousins Yes…and notice here they say great grandparents plural…if the common ancestor were only one grandparent, and not 2 grandparents, you’d be half-2nd cousins. Astute.

186.11  Answer #7…or great cousins because i ave a great uncle and his granddaughter is my second cousin  A few blogs back, I cautioned about starting a sentence with “There is no such thing as — “…so I won’t say that now. I will say this: Genealogists do not use the terms “great cousin” or “grand cousin”…people in general do, but not very often…I Googled them and got about 13,000 and 9,000 hits respectively…minuscule by internet standards…and perusing the first 50 or so each time, only a couple hits referred to specific kinship…mostly they were saying that they had wonderful cousins. Consequently, there is no generally agreed on meaning for these terms…a future blog will investigate just what the few people who do use them mean by them. Here, I think you mean any cousin beyond 1st cousin…what is generally called a distant cousin. But your conclusion is right on. Good! Great! Grand!


186.12  Question…How Am I Related To This Person? She’s my grandmother’s cousin. Does that make her my great cousin, just my grandmother’s cousin, or something else? Thanks!  Speaking of which…! Here the use of the phrase “great cousin” goes beyond numbered cousins…that is, your cousins, or cousins of your generation…to cover removed cousins as well. The answer is nothing more than the definition of twice removed…belonging to your grandparents’ generation…so this person is your 1st cousin twice removed

chart 653


186.13  But here’s the point, and it’s a crucial one: there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply saying “my grandmother’s 1st cousin”…in fact, it is the single best way to say it!  Everybody will know precisely what you mean…there is not the slightest shred of ambiguity or confusion. Truth be told, “removed” is genealogical jargon…you use it in general conversation at the risk of not being understood. It’s shorthand, really…instead of saying Lucretia Borgia was my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother’s 3rd cousin….or even my 18G grandmother’s 3rd cousin…they’ll say my 3rd cousin 20 times removed. The 3 underlined expressions mean the same thing, no foolin’. And you’re welcome!

186.14  Answer #1…

Generation 1: Your Grandmother & her cousin = 1st cousins
Generation 2: Your parent and C’s children = 2nd cousins
Generation 3: You & C’s grandchildren = 3rd cousins 

You are two generations apart from “C”. That makes you 1st cousins twice removed. “Removed” means “generations apart” in cousins. Again with those lists…it’s that same jokester, the one who sometimes gives bonus answers, as he calls them. But he’s right, no two ways about it. 

186.15  Answer #2…1st cousins 2 times removed  I concur.

186.16  Answer #3…if she’s your grandmother’s first cousin then she is your first cousin twice removed. her children are your 2nd cousins once removed (they are your parent’s 2nd cousins) & her grandchildren are your third cousins. Wow…3 answers, 3 utterly accurate answers…I’m feeling light-headed…


186.17  Question…If my 3rd great grandfather is a first cousin 6 times removed from a cousin, what is my relationship to that cousin?  Permit me to call the cousin referred to by “6 times removed from a cousin” Bob…and the 3G grandfather I’ll call Gramps. If Bob has a 1st cousin 6 times removed, it would be the 1st cousin of Bob’s 4G grandfather…that’s 4 greats. Where does the 4 come from? To convert between times removed and the ancestor whose cousin is removed, you add up all the “greats” and count the “grand” and “father/mother” as 1 each, like this…

great (1) great (1) grand (1) father (1)… 1+1+1+1=4… 4 times removed
great (1) grand (1) father (1)…1+1+1=3… 3 times removed
grand (1) father (1)… 1+1=2… 2 times removed
father (1)… 1 time removed

Here, we work backwards…to get 6 times removed, you need 1 father, 1 grand, and 4 greats…1+1+4=6. So that means that your 3G grandfather has a 1st cousin, and that 1st cousin is Bob’s 4G grandfather…notice it’s 3G versus 4G…so it’s no surprise that you and Bob are something once removed. What that something is can be found by shinnying down the Cousin Ladder in Chart 654A. And we get…6th cousin once removed.

chart 654

But there’s a wrinkle…when 2 people are cousins removed, one is in an older generation, one is in a younger generation…and unless you append ascending or descending respectively, there’s no way for us to know which is which. I have assumed Bob is alive today and OP wants to know how they are related…understandable. So Bob is the 1C 6R descending, Gramps is the 1C 6R ascending. What if it were the other way around? We take Chart 654A…switch the positions of Bob (“cousin”) and Gramps (“3 greats”) to get Chart 654B…and we get 1st cousin 11 times removed. Taking a generation to be 25 years, Bob is now around 325 years old if he’s a day…whew.


186.18  Answer #1…There are genealogical relationship charts on line that can be downloaded and printed. That’s true…but with 6th cousins on the one hand and 11 times removed on the other, charts might not extend far enough to work in this case. I cannot imagine that your would know a first cousin 6x removed relationship of your 3rd G Grandfather, but not know your relationship with this person.  What a cockeyed thing to say! In my 63 years of living, I’ve found people who have no imagination whatsoever to be extremely rare…but we have one here, woo hoo!

186.19  Answer #2…

3rd GGF = 1C6R
2nd GGF = 1C5R
1st GGF = 1C4R
GP = 1C3R
Parent = 1C2R
You = 1C 1R 

It’s our old friend the list-maker…usually he’s pretty good, but with this first one, not so much. As a rule, I don’t simply say somebody’s wrong and leave it at that…I try to see where they went wrong and how they can be set right. This first list has the OP’s line of ancestors on the left, and what they should be to the cousin I’ve called Bob on the right…and the removeds are fine, but the numbered cousins should increase by one for each step…ending up with 6th cousin…6C…for you.

Maybe. there are a lot of ways to go with this one. No, actually there are only 2 ways to go with this, as I explained with the ascending and descending stuff.  Here’s another: 

3rd GGF = 1C6R
2nd GGF = 1C7R
1st GGF = 1C8R
GP = 1C9R
Parent = 1C10R
You = 1C11R 

And he gets this one right…which makes his first screwy list all the more mysterious, nez pah?

186.20  Answer #3…Friends at the very least.

186.21  Answer #4…That is insanely difficult to calculate,  Please don’t speak for everyone…insanely difficult for you, I can believe…but not insanely difficult for me, just the opposite…which is to say, if I found I couldn’t do it, I’d conclude that I’d lost my mind. and it wouldn’t be that important, genetically speaking you probably would only be trace genetically related  Well, give the devil his due…..on this point you are 100% correct…in fact, calling it a trace would be overly generous…6C 1R are 99.994% unrelated…as are 1C 11R…which means if you have 25,000 genes, you share 2…actually 1½, so it looks like you caught me in a generous mood after all.

186.22  Answer #5…No  Meaningless answer, you old rascal you. I’m trying to remember the last time I was instructed to “answer yes or no, even if it doesn’t make any sense”…but I’m coming up blank, sorry.

186.23  We’ll wrap up our 20 Q’s series next week…I wonder, will it really end up as 20?…I meant it originally only as a figure of speech…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#185: 20 Q’s…Tangles Untangled, While U Wait

185.1   And do people ever get tangled with genealogy and kinship! Trust me, even I make an occasional mistake if I’m not careful, so I understand. Here are some more queries and attempted answers from Yahoo! Posts are in black italics…my comments in red. BTW, if you’ve never seen it before, the abbreviation OP stands for Original Post or Original Poster…

185.2  Question: What is the title of how I am related to my mom’s 2nd cousin’s niece? what would you call my relation to my mom’s second cousin’s niece (on his wife’s side if it matters) would that be my 3rd cousin?  I hate to get picky…but people in general, not to mention genealogists, don’t call it a “title”…better so say “relationship” or “name of the relationship.” 

185.3  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…You are not related at all  Completely and utterly correct…doesn’t explain anything, but if you want to get a quick answer and then move on, this is it. Before I give my answer, we should look at the next answer, which illustrates the importance of reading a question carefully

185.4  Answer #2…You are probably not related. We can’t tell from the way you worded your question. On the contrary, the OP gave us everything we need to know…the key is when they said “on his wife’s side if it matters.” Well, it matters very much…and here the OP has told us 2 important things: first, the mother’s 2nd cousin is a man (“his”)…and second, the niece is not his biological niece but his wife’s…he may be called “uncle,” but that’s because he is married to the niece’s biological aunt, nez pah?

Your mom’s 2nd cousin’s child is your 3rd cousin. The niece would be your 3rd cousin, if she is a child of your mom’s 2nd cousin’s brother or sister, This is exactly how it works, no denying it. but if that was true you would have phrased your question differently, I suspect.  And what do you know? OP did phrase the question differently than how you read it…you just didn’t catch it, I’m afraid. 

You are good to go if you want to date her. That is behind about half of he cousin relationships we get here.  Historically, one of the main uses of kinship was just that…reckoning whom you can and can’t marry. Just take it slow. If you try to set a county speed record for getting a bra off on a first date, there will be some distinct silences at family gatherings. A game attempt at humor, but it fails for one simple reason: family gatherings tend to be limited to family…and your family doesn’t include this niece. Say for example your mother staged a family gathering…she might invite her siblings, 1st cousins, even 2nd cousins…and they all might bring their spouses…but would those spouses bring their siblings?…and those siblings, their children? It’s possible…if you lived out in the hinterlands and things get lonely…but it doesn’t sound like a typical family gathering to me.

chart 648

185.5  My Answer: OP, you did not mention if your mother’s 2nd cousin has any children…in Chart 648 I put one in as a point of reference…and that child would indeed be your 3rd cousin. “Wife’s niece” would be this 3rd cousin’s 1st cousin, but not on your side of the family, hence no relation to you. But you did have the generations sorted out right, as far as that goes…in Chart 649, if the niece had been the 2nd cousin’s biological niece, thru his sibling, this niece would then be your 3rd cousin…but you said it was by marriage, so she’s not your 3rd cousin, or anything to you. 

chart 649
185.6 Answer #3…Your mom is related to her 2nd cousin, not even to his wife…much less the wife’s niece. YOU have NO relationship at all to this niece.. unless you have an ancestor in common (meaning, the same ancestor, somewhere back). Your mom’s 2nd cousin IS related to you.. he is your 2nd cousin once removed. It stops right there. Awkwardly put at the beginning…”not even to his wife” should read “but not to his wife”…other than that, when you’re right you’re right, and you’re right. 

185.8  Answer #4…Unrelated. In-laws never enter into the equation for anyone who isn’t married into the family.  Most people don’t refer to everyone who marries into their family as an “in-law”…but instead say “by marriage.” Traditionally in-laws are the closest…mother/father-in-law, son/daughter-in-law, siblings-in-law…speaking of which…For instance, your brother’s brother-in-law means nothing to you (well unless this means the guy your brother married, rather than the woman he married’s brother. Except you got tangled up and said that wrong…if your brother married another man, that man wouldn’t be your brother’s brother-in-law…he’d be your brother’s spouse, partner, husband, wife, whatever…if that, since opinions vary on same-sex unions, and in the interest of us all living together and getting along, we’ll leave it at that. If he were anybody’s brother-in-law, he would be yours, not your brother’s, follow that?


185.9  Question…If my Great Grandmothers sister married her Grandfather what does that make us? So me and my girlfriend have been dating for a few weeks and I just found out were the same ethnicity and have the same cousin. So I done some digging and found out that my great grandmothers sister married my girlfriends grandfather. I underlined the word “her” for good reason…it sure sounds like “her” refers to your great grandmother’s sister, giving you CHart 650A, strictly illegal, I don’t care who you are. But reading further, it turns out “her” refers to your girlfriend, giving us something distinctly different, Chart 650B

chart 650


185.10  My Answer…What we have here in Chart 650B is nothing more than a straightforward “Cousin Ladder”…you and your girlfriend are 2nd cousins once removed…she is your parent’s 2nd cousin. Thru practice, this type of up and down reckoning will come as second nature…you just have to work at it. 

185.11  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…2nd cousins 1 time removed  Short, sweet, and to the point. Sweet!

185.12  Answer #2…
Generation 1: Your GGM & her sister = sisters
Generation 2: Your grandparent & her parent = 1st cousins
Generation 3: Your parent & your girlfriend = 2nd cousins
Generation 4: You & GF’s future child = 3rd cousins 

I threw your GF’s child in as a bonus. If you two do marry and have children, your children will be your 3rd cousins as well.  You might recall last week, one of the answerers threw in a “bonus…yup, altho I am leaving out screen names, this is the same individual…and generous to a fault. “Removed” means “Generations apart” in cousins. As you see, you and your GF are one generation apart. That makes you second cousins once removed.  Right answer…bravo.

185.13  Answer #3…So your great grandmother’s sister is her grandmother. Because if she isn’t, you’re not related by blood at all. I mention this because you oddly mention that she married her grandfather, rather than just saying is her grandmother. Otherwise, you’re second cousins once removed.  Another right answer…and it brings up an interesting point…what I call a Conan Relation…one that seems redundant because there is a simpler, more natural way to express it…like saying “my sister’s uncle” instead of “my uncle.” And as with other Conan Relations, what we have here does suggest the possibility that the grandmother’s sister is not the girlfriend’s grandmother…just someone who married the girlfriend’s grandfather after that grandfather had a child with somebody else, that child being the parent of the girlfriend. In that case, yes, OP and his girlfriend would be related by marriage only, not by blood. HOWEVER, the fact that he says “we have the same cousin”…even without saying what kind of cousin, numbered and/or removed…confirms that the 2 lovebirds are related, and that’s good enough for the likes of me.


185.14  Question…What is my 2nd cousin’s 1st cousin to me? Remember this rule: to you, your Xth cousin’s Yth cousin is whichever is larger, X or Y. So here, the your 2nd cousin’s 1st cousin is your 2nd cousin. In this context, your sibling is considered your “0th cousin.” If X and Y are equal, the answer could be you, your sibling, or anything up to and including your Xth cousin. 

chart 651

185.15  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…Probably nothing. “Cousin’s cousin” is fun to say but not a real relation. If you have a common ancestor, you are elated; otherwise you are not. OK, if you insist…the complete answer, as airtight as it is foolproof, needs “if you are related” tacked onto the end. Since in this case there is nothing to indicate they are not related, I take OP at his literal word. And “probably” is not accurate…knowing nothing else, it’s 50/50, related or not related…and 50% is not probably. Also, notice that a slip of the typing finger results in a humorous typo…sadly, having a common ancestor does not always lead to elation. 

185.16  Answer #2…What common blood ancestor do you share with your 2nd cousins, 1st cousin, I would suggest you don’t and that they are related from the other side of the family, in which case you are not related at all   This person is only coherent enough to come off as an obnoxious nudnik…pay no attention to them. 

185.17  Answer #3…It is according to whether you share a common ancestor. There are different sides to any one family. Your cousin’s cousins are not necessarily related to you at all. Well yes, as I’ve said…still, you’ve absentmindedly forgotten to give an actual answer, just in case, right? Tsk-tsk.

185.18  Answer #4…Just a friend  More tsk.

185.19  Answer #5…depends, may be your wife  An odd answer, yet not impossible…people still do marry their 2nd cousins, altho not as often as was done in previous generations.  

185.20  Answer #6…I saw an article the other day about this, let me check my history real fast and I will get back with the link  This  reminds me of Facebook postings like “I just took a shower”…and we should care why, this shower? This person never did get back with the promised link…not when I was there anyway…perhaps they have since and good for them if they did. 

185.21  Answer #7…your second cousin  That’s what I would say, which is why I did. 

185.22  Couple more weeks of 20 Q’s coming up…because I’m having a ball, and it’s whose blog again?


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#184: 20 Q’s…Help Is On the Way

184.1   It is fascinating…even priceless…the way Yahoo! Answers demonstrates how confused people today are with kinship and genealogy. Based on the grammar and spelling of the questions and answers, I would guess most of these contributors are younger. I think Baby Boomers have a better handle on it, but not all do…and we may be the last generation who actually cares…but again, maybe not. Posts are in black italics…my comments in red. In case I use it, and it’s new to you, the abbreviation OP means Original Post or Original Poster.

184.2  Question: I have a half sister named Kelsey, but we are closer than most full siblings. We have the same mom but different dads. Neither one of us speak to our fathers anymore (long story). Kelsey is married to a man named Brent, and they have a son named Dustin. I am married to Brent’s full sister, her name is Corrie. Now Corrie and I are expecting our first child, a girl we are naming Mae. What would the official term be for them? We are just curious because they will not technically be double cousins but they will not be regular cousins either. Does anyone know? 

184.3  My Answer: I know! I know! You’re right in saying that Mae and Dustin won’t be double 1st cousins because while they are 1st cousins thru Brent and Corrie, they are only half-1st cousins thru you and Kelsey. They are “double cousins” in the sense that they are related 2 ways. “Regular double cousins” would fit if the 2 ways are the same…but since the 2 ways are different, they are “irregular double cousins.” Do this: total up their degree of relationship and see how it compares with more common relations…for them, it’s 1/8 + 1/16 = 3/16….which is halfway between 1st cousins at 2/16 and half-siblings at 4/16. So you can say they’re closer than 1st cousins but not as close as half-siblings.

chart 645

184.4  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…Brent and Corrie are siblings…their children are first cousins, via that relationship. They are 1/2 1st cousins through you and Kelsey. So true…good for you. Most persons just leave off the 1/2 portion. They are cousins through both parents sides. Normally, one would go with the “closest” relationship which is full 1st cousins. Well, except if you leave off  the “1/2 portion” then their relationship on both sides is simply 1st cousin, and neither side is closer than the other, right? Now when folks are related in more than one way, they do find it convenient to use the closest relationship to describe themselves, at least in casual conversation. But I suspect when you say “normally,” you don’t actually know of any “abnormal” situations, where a more distant relationship is the one they prefer…”normally” is just a filler word, like “um” or “you know.”

chart 50 re

184.5  But as it turns out…ha!…I do know of such an abnormal case: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. They are in fact related to each other in many ways…2nd cousins once removed…3rd cousins…4th cousins…4th cousins once removed…5th cousins…probably more. Now 2C 1R is 1/64, which is closer than 3rd cousin at 1/128…but when it’s simplified to only one relationship, the one I see used most often is  3rd cousins. I believe the reason is this: they are 3rd cousins because they are both the great great grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Crown Prince Albert…thus this relationship is both Royal and British, because Victoria was British, altho Albert was German. Phillip is a 2nd cousin to Elizabeth’s father King George VI since the two men are the great grandchildren of King Christian IX of Denmark…Royal but not British, you see? It makes a difference, apparently…even so, Victoria’s mother, 3 of her 4 grandparents, and all 8 of her great grandparents were from Germany. Then again, maybe 3rd cousin simply “sounds” closer than 2C 1R…

184.6  Answer #2…your spouses are siblings. your children are half cousins. good luck.  And with answers like this, you’ll need some luck. Yes, your children are half-1st cousins, but not because your spouses are siblings, but because you and Kelsey are half-siblings. Your spouses being siblings makes the children full 1st cousins.

184.7  Answer #3…When the kids are old enough to enjoy silliness they can honesty say they are one and a half cousins. I’m not against silliness, heaven knows, but honestly they cannot. The trouble is that the larger the “number” of the cousins, the more distant the relationship…2nd cousins are more distant than 1st, 3rd are more distant than 2nd, etc. So 1½ cousins would be more distant than 1st…but as we saw in 184.3, Mae and Dustin are closer than 1st, not more distant. D’oh! If “1½ cousins” has any meaning at all, it can only mean half-1st cousins…more distant than 1st, less distant than 2nd.

184.8  Answer #4…I have 10 years on Observer, since I’ve been a genealogical researcher for 50+ years, and I use “half cousin” ALL the time. I know a family whose children are half first cousins, 7 times removed, to president John Adams. We don’t use it a lot, but we use it. How special for you….or them…or somebody.

Your children will have two relationships; full first cousin and half first cousin, Many people have two, but not so close. My brothers and sisters are also my 4th, 5th and 7th once removed cousins, for example. Most genealogists can say the same thing about their siblings. (Probably not that exactly, but “also” followed by a number of cousinhoods.) Most normal people could too, if someone would research their family tree. Ok, here’s the deal…siblings are also cousins to each other if their parents are cousins to each other. Based on complex mathematical and demographic analysis, it’s been estimated that everybody alive today is at most a 50th cousin to everybody else. So technically, you’re right…for example, my parents could be 20th cousins to each other…unfortunately, discovering kinship that remote is all but impossible, unless you’re related to royalty. Official and familial record-keeping simply wasn’t that good.

We usually drop the “half” for anyone to whom we are related save brother and sister, and usually drop it for them if we get along; and we usually drop all but the closest relationship; when I introduce my brother I say he’s that, dropping the cousins part. If, however, I’m at the genealogy clubhouse, cursing the way they spelled “Pack” in Arkansas in 1850, and it is 2 for 1 night in the tap room, I will introduce my brother as that plus all three cousin titles.  And that’s fine according to your clubhouse rules, I’m assuming…

184.9  Answer #5…There is a half sibling relationship between you and Corrie. Your Spouses are siblings. Your children would would half cousins on your side (this is not a term that is used in Genealogy)  and first cousins on their fathers side. Source(s): Genealogical researcher 40+ years  This basic answer is correct, altho there’s no “fathers’ side” since both couples are of mixed gender family-wise, if you catch my drift…better to say “on the other side.” And half-cousin most definitely is a term used in genealogy…and the fact that a researcher of 40+ years uses it…shows the good of it.


184.10  Question…Ana has 2 aunts,Gertie&Samntha& 1 uncle,Jimbo.Jimbo has nephew on Anna’s side of family,Timothy. what is relation b/w timonthy’s child & ana?  

184.11  My Answer…When answering kinship questions, I assume that people are related by blood, not by marriage, and go from there. Here, Jimbo’s nephew TImothy could be Gertie’s son, Samantha’s son, the son of another of Jimbo’s siblings…or even Anna’s brother! But assuming brother is out, Timothy is Anna’s 1st cousin…thus Timothy’s child is Anna’s 1st cousin once removed.

chart 646

184.12  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…Well none of us can tell unless we knew how the aunts and uncles are related.  Speak for yourself, bucko! There are aunts and uncles that are siblings to your parents. Then there are aunts and uncles only because they married siblings to your parents. Except…that here  Timothy is described as Jimbo’s “nephew on Anna’s side of the family.” Thus even if Jimbo were Anna’s uncle by marriage, married to Anna’s blood aunt, Timothy is still Anna’s blood 1st cousin thru that aunt. If Jimbo were an uncle by marriage, and Timothy were his nephew by one of his siblings, TImothy wouldn’t be on Anna’s side of the family…but he is!  You missed that. The only family of your aunts and uncles by marriage that are related to you are the children,. grandchildren etc they produce by your aunts and uncles who are siblings to your parents. Their nieces and nephews by their siblings aren’t related to you at all unless some place back down the line you share a common ancestor. Again, true enough, but irrelevant in this case.

Too many young people think their cousins’ cousins are related and they aren’t unless some place back down the line they shared a common ancestry.  Your questions is very convoluted as you don’t explain how the aunts and uncles are related. Your cousins on your mother’s side of the family are not related to the cousins on your father’s side unless some place along the line they share a common ancestor. I was taught this when I was about 5 of 6 years old. It appears today no one explains relationships to kids. Don’t feel bad a lot of the questions we get from young people trying to determine relationships are convoluted.  All I can say is: Ask a convoluted question, get a convoluted answer…except to me the question was crystal clear.

184.13  Answer #2…Find the common blood ancestor of timonthy’s child & ana and you will then be able to work out if their is any relationship or if there is no common blood ancestor there is no relationship  Well, sure…but something tells me this is a skill the OP lacks..at least for now…


184.14  Question…How is my great grandfather’s half brother’s granddaughter related to me? I know she’s my cousin but what degree is she 1st? 2nd? 3rd? and then there’s all this once/twice/thrice removed stuff…it’s confusing.

184.15 My Answer…As per Chart 647, the granddaughter is your parent’s half-2nd cousin…your parent is one generation removed form you, so the granddaughter is your half-2nd cousin once removed. BTW, nobody says “thrice” anymore…not needed in this case anyway.

chartt 647
184.16  Answer #1, “Rated Highest” by others…Half brothers don’t matter when you’re calculating how close you are related.  Wrong! Fail! Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as a half cousin.  A quick google…and in this case quick means 0.27 seconds…says otherwise. Your grandfather and her father were cousins. Your father and her are second cousins. This makes you a second cousin, once removed. Put a “half-” in front of that and we’re good to go.

184.17  Answer #2  It’s early. I hope my abbreviations don’t confuse you. It gets less confusing if you draw a picture: 

Generation 1: GGF & HB = half brothers
Generation 2: Your grandparent & HB’s child = half 1st cousins
Generation 3: Your parent & HB’s GD = half second cousins
Generation 4: You & HB’s GD’s child = 3rd cousins 

I threw in GD’s child as a bonus, and to show you GD isn’t your 3rd cousin.  I won’t deny that your heart’s in the right place…but you risk further confusing a confused person…better to say what the correct relationship is, not what it isn’t. That being said, you have correctly identified each rung of the “Cousin Ladder.” Gold star for you.You and GD are in different generations; even if you are close to the same age, you are in different generations. That’s where removed comes in. Removed means “generations apart”. If you were to draw a line from you to GD, it would not be perfectly horizontal. It would tilt up a bit. Careful now! It might also tilt up a lot…or not at all if you put people who are the same general age at the same horizontal level, which you’re perfectly free to do. It doesn’t change their relationship…it’s just a different way to draw the diagram.

You two are half second cousins once removed through one of your parents. Most people would drop the “half”. In fact, unless you are bragging in the genealogy clubhouse, “distant cousin” would be enough, in casual conversation, or just “cousin”, as in “My cousin is a dynamite tennis player.”  Except that in a genealogical context, you wouldn’t be bragging, just being accurate. Saying “distant cousin” would suggest to a genealogist that you didn’t know.

Added later:  Some of us use “half” and some don’t. If, God forbid, you needed a bone marrow transplant, they’d test your first cousins before your half first cousins.  90% of the obituaries I read – and I’ve read thousands – don’t distinguish between half siblings and siblings. A careful genealogist uses “half” if he/she wants to be precise. It’s too clumsy for normal people.  What, normal people can’t be clumsy?

184.18  Answer #3…2nd cousin, once-removed. We don’t use the ‘half’ title here. Your GrGrFather has a (half) brother. Those old guys each have children who are 1st cousins. The next generation down (your parent and the woman you speak about) are 2nd cousins. We go down another generation to get to you, but we don’t go down a generation for the woman. There is a one generation difference. That is where the ‘once-removed’ applies. If this woman has kids, they will be your 3rd cousins. Same deal as before….add “half-“.

Same generation is siblings (Brothers & sisters).
One generation down (kids) are 1st cousins.
Two generations down are 2nd cousins.
Three generations down are 3rd cousins.
‘Removed’ means a generation difference. (once, twice). 

184.19  Answer #4…As long as she is blood related through your great grandfather’s half brother, ie you share at least one Great Great Grandparent, then she is a half 2nd cousin once removed to you…if on the other hand you do not share a common blood ancestor then you are not related at all  I’d be interested to know how you think your great grandfather’s half-grand niece and you could conceivably not be blood relatives. The only way that could happen is if your great grandfather and his half-brother weren’t related…but they are, since they’re half-brothers. 

184.20  Are you learning from the mistakes of others, dear friends? We will continue in half a fortnight…  


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved