#201: Stuffstockings

201.1  I’ve been a collector of verb-nouns after stumbling years ago upon this quote from James Thurber: “Why should a shattermyth have to be a crumplehope and a dampenglee?”  Why indeed. We don’t have that many of this type of word in English, but we have some: scarecrow, tattletale, slingshot, rotgut, wardrobe, killjoy, sawbones, pickpocket, spoilsport, spitfire, breakfast, skinflint, and worrywart…instead of crow scarer, tale tattler, shot slinger, gut rotter, robe warder, joy killer, bone sawer, pocket picker, sport spoiler, fire spitter, fast breaker, flint skinner and wart worrier….and that’s worry in the older sense of bothering or irritating…this is the dog that worried the cat, remember?

201.2  French has a lot more of these verb-nouns…2 of the more titillating being cache-sexe and pisse-vinaigre…look them up! Otherwise we’d have blowsnow, washdish, sitbaby, killpain, brokestock, beatbrow, stopgob, tendgoal, hopclod, setpace, countbean, holdplace, stormbarn, liftshop, warmbench, breakwind, browseweb, and yes, stuffstocking.

chart 723

201.3  Sooooo…let’s see what Santa has crammed down in there…first is a chart I found in my Futures File. Wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be for at first…then it occurred to me…except I had gone too far…don’t need double half-first cousins…love you guys, but not in this case, sorry!

chart 724

201.4  That’s better…this is a chart to counter the oft made claim that a “first cousin” is somebody with whom you share one grandparent. As you can see, you do indeed share grandparent G with your first cousin…but you also share one grandparent with your brother, your half-brother, and your half-first cousin….coefficients of relationship ranging from ½ to 1/16. The better definition of first cousin is 2 people who have siblings for parents. Now obviously, this does not mean the siblings married each other…but even if they did, their offspring would still be first cousins, along with being siblings…which we don’t see that much…which is a mercy, anyway.

201.5  Next, perhaps you miss my answers to questions posed at this website wiseGeek Cousins. I give everyone an answer there…and an answer here, with diagram, which I think makes it a world clearer. Can’t link to this site over there so they probably never see “their” chart, but a few very inquisitive and enterprising ones just might…and these are good examples of the kind of real-life questions people have about kinship and relations.

201.6  There just that the steady stream of questions has dried up…there was one recently, and the one before that win in April of this year…in which Harriet asks…

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201.7  First thing is to correct where she says: “So new hubby has a marriage relation to old hubby.”  Actually, Old and New are blood relatives, specifically second cousins once removed, as per Chart 725A. I suppose Harriet can then call Old her second-cousin-once-removed-in-law, but I wouldn’t, and I would beg her not to as well, altho she’s perfectly free to.

chart 725

201.8  Otherwise, she had it narrowed down pretty well, just couldn’t pull the trigger. The fact that an ancestor is a great grand to Old and a grand to New tells us we’re dealing with some relationship that’s once removed, since there’s a difference of one generation. Question is, did she get the number of the cousin right…and Chart 725B confirms that she did. Thus we can say that her old children and new children are third cousins once removed…at the very least.

201.9  Because half-siblings have one parent they share, and one they don’t. Normally those 2 unshared parents are not related to each other, but sometimes they are, as in this case. The old and new children are thus half-siblings (1/4) and 3rd cousins once removed (1/256)…total degree of relationship 25.4%, compared to 25% for half-siblings only. Not a big difference, but a difference nonetheless…genealogists call them “enhanced half-siblings.

201.10  I said that Old and New are 2C 1R…to round out the happy new blend, new children and old husband are 3C…and old children and new husband are 2C 2R…all of it owing to the fact that New is second cousin to Old’s father.

201.11  The more recent question is less tangled but no less worthy of attention. What it boils down to is how you define “related.”

chart 726

201.12  I am assuming that the questioner and best friend are females. The word “related” I take to be short for “related by blood”…to be related to Joe, you and Joe must have a common ancestor…at least one, could be more. The other main type of relationship is “by marriage”…somebody in your family marries somebody in Joe’s family. There are 2 special categories…steps and in-law…and I limit these to your immediate family, that is parents/children/siblings. Anything beyond that, I would just say “related by marriage” and spell it out specifically if somebody is interested.

201.13  So here, the answer is: you are your friend’s sister-in-law’s niece…looked at the other way, your friend is your aunt’s sister-in-law. This is certainly a “connection”…personally I wouldn’t call it a “relation,” but you can if you wish…it’s a free country.

201.14  Moving right along…the British Royal Family. Before getting into genealogy, I never thought about them much…now, can’t get enough. At the present time, the line of succession to the British Throne is straightforward enough…Uncle Wiki’s list, with a little tidying up, works for me…

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201.15  As you can see, when Elizabeth II dies, Prince Charles (1)  becomes King…when he goes, it’s his son Prince William (2), and when he kicks off, his son Prince George (3), Charles’ grandson. Anybody who is born in the future is listed under their parent, and the rank is adjusted accordingly. And if somebody dies, as the Queen’s younger sister Princess Margaret did in 2002, nobody below them loses their place…the numbers are simply moved up one.

201.16  Now there was recently a very important change…the abolition of primogeniture…which meant sons were jumped ahead of their sisters in line. This starts with Prince William and is not retroactive. If it were retroactive, then Elizabeth and Philip’s second child, Princess Anne, would jump ahead of her younger brothers Princes Andrew and Edward…she’d go from 11th to 5th, taking her children and grandchildren with her. But it isn’t so she won’t.

201.17  As things stand, Anne is considered the “fourth” child…and the chances of her or any of her offspring ascending to the throne are remote. Such was not the case when Victoria became Queen on June 20, 1837.

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201.18  For my own reference, I took Uncle Wiki’s list of George III’s first 4 children and fleshed it out, above…let me recast it in the form of the current list.

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201.19  Notice that when Victoria was born in 1819, her grandfather George III was still King…and it was hardly thought credible that the offspring of the 4th son would ascend to the throne, since Victoria’s father and his 3 older brothers were still alive. But die they would, 2 after becoming King, 2 before. In fact, not only was Victoria the heir when 3rd son William IV died in 1837, she had been the heir since 1830 when first son George IV died. The only question was, would William IV live past Victoria’s 18th birthday…if not, she would have needed a Regent. But he did…by a mere 27 days.

201.20  Recall the difference between heir apparent and heir presumptive. An heir apparent is first in line, and cannot be displaced…the only way they will not become monarch is if they die before the current monarch does. An heir presumptive is first in line, but can be bumped if someone closer is born. In 1930, 11-year-old Victoria was the heir presumptive…King William IV and Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (yes, the Australian city is named after her) had no living children…any subsequent child would have become the heir apparent and moved Victoria down the list. But at that point the Queen was 38 years old, and given her difficulty in bearing children in the past, an heir apparent was considered unlikely. Endlessly fascinating, sez me…and whose blog is it again?

wicked ballsy


Above are the most common names of the fingers, along with some alternates…the ancient Romans called the 4th finger digitus medicinalis…they got that from the Greeks…nobody today knows what it meant. Then you have the kiddie rhymes…


On the left is the way I learned it…but there’s another way, on the right…starting on the other side, with the pinky. And before you jump to the conclusion that lame one got renamed lean one out of sensitivity to the crippled…I seriously doubt it. I trace it back at least a century and it’s more likely just a shift in pronunciation…after all, we still have lamebrain, right? And calling the index finger the licking finger also goes back to antiquity…thus the inspiration for the title of today’s blog…and full circle.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#200: Re the Royals

200.1   Dear Stolf: I was reading where Prince Charles and Camilla Shand Parker-Bowles  are related to each other…to what degree being a matter of some controversy, owing to the inconvenient issue of wives versus mistresses. But thinking back, weren’t Charles and Diana related as well?  ….from Omar Q. Regalgawker, Munching-on-the-Thaimes

200.2  Dear Omar: In a word, yes. Now to put this in context, demographers and mathematicians have calculated…roughly…that everyone alive today is related to everyone else by at most 50th cousins…and the vast majority of course are a lot closer. Among Europeans the outside limit is about 35th cousins…for Britons, 25th cousins…for the British aristocracy, around 15th cousins.

200.3  A quick check of the internet gives Charles and Diana as 11th cousins once removed…even a couple of astrology site agree. And before you start to chortle over that, I should say that however dubious their premise…that the stars and planets control our destiny…astrologers tend to be meticulous when it comes to genealogy…and when it comes to astronomy for that matter…after all, whatever Pluto is, it’s still out there, nez pah?

200.4  And before even investigating that claim, I should say that it sounds reasonable…1st cousins 11 times removed, for example, would not sound reasonable. The simple reason is that Charles and Diana were alive at the same time…meaning their genealogical generations co-existed…and how many generations of a family can you expect to have living representatives at any given point in time? In Chart 718, we are assuming that this family starts a new generation when a member reaches the age of 20…and all the the relatives shown were still alive in the year 2000. (BTW, Quntus’ parents purposely left the “i” out of Quintus to see if anybody noticed…nobody did.)


200.5  Here we have 6 generations coexisting…and notice that the 4 generations from Primus to Quadrus have living representatives coexisting for 40 years (1960-2000). Taking my mother’s family as a real-life example, with me as the youngest, 4 generations back to my great grandparents lasted only about 10 years, which I think is more typical. You’ll occasionally see pictures in the newspaper of 5 living generations, but that’s rare. And truth be told, 6 generations is hardly the theoretical limit, if you had a family that as a matter of tradition starts reproducing at age 15 instead of 20. But in Chart 718, the 4 generations of Primus to Quadrus makes Quadrus and Fred 1st cousins 3 times removed…thus 4 times removed is unusual, and anything beyond that is likely a mistake in genealogical reckoning.


200.6  At any rate, Chart 719 confirms that Elizabeth II and Diana Spencer were 11th cousins, making Charles and his wife 11th cousins once removed. And while Charles was the elder by chronological age, Diana belonged to the older generation, so she was the ascending, he was the descending. How close is that? I noticed one commenter’s opinion: “Even though it’s distant, it’s not right!!”…showing admirable restraint in limiting themselves to a mere 2 exclamation points.

200.7  But here’s the tale of the tape: they shared 1/16,777,216 of their genes…that’s a bit more than one out of 17 million. When you consider that human beings only have about 25,000 genes, it was highly likely that the number of genes they shared by descent was zero. Mathematically, Charles and Diana shared .00000596% of their genes by descent, and did not share the rest, that being 99.99999404%. They were as unrelated as you can be…genetically, there is no practical difference between 11th cousins and 50th cousins…altho genealogically there is a world of difference, which is why we do all this in the first place.

200.8  In Chart 719, I have indicated British monarchs with a purple-and-gold box…and I have gone to the trouble of showing all of them from James I to Elizabeth II. You will notice that there are 2 breaks in the continuity of parent-to-child. George I succeeded his 2nd cousin Anne not because there wasn’t anyone closer…there were around 50 individuals closer….but because those closer were Catholics, and by the Act of Settlement in 1701, you had to be Protestant…and George I was Anne’s closest Protestant relative. The other break occurred when Victoria succeeded her 1st cousin William IV…and that had to do merely with who was alive and who wasn’t…her father was a King’s 4th son, but not only was he dead, but so were his older 3 brothers, and those 3 had no heirs at that point.

200.9  But as a result of these breaks, the monarchy, in the years directly after James I, shifted from Diana’s side to Charles’ side. And this is significant, because when it comes to aristocratic families, you don’t get much more blue-blooded than the Spencer family. To wit: the consensus among genealogists is that however you quantify “British royal blood flowing thru one’s veins,” the Spencers have a lot more of it than the Windsors, regardless of who’s sitting on the throne.

200.10  Take Elizabeth II and Diana…as 11th cousins, they share James I and his wife Anne of Denmark as 10G grandparents. But each also has 8190 other 10G grandparents and their accompanying families and ancestors. Now they also share some of those other 16,380…and  many of those “slots” are filled by the same individuals, shared or not. But a large number on the Windsor side are Germans…and a large number on the Spencer side are not…but are instead Tudors, Stuarts, William the Conqueror, Mary Queen of Scots, etc. It didn’t get much press on this side of the Atlantic, but Diana and her kin would talk about her marrying into a family of Germans…or “Huns” if they were feeling catty…so none of this was lost on those involved. In fact, in private, Diana was known to occasionally “pull rank” on her in-laws, if reports are to be believed…hardly endearing behavior, but there you go.

chart 720

200.11  As for the connection between Charles and Camilla, there are 2…the official one, scrubbed and cleansed, is 9th cousins once removed, as per Chart 720Charles being Camilla’s mother’s 9th cousin, so he is the ascending and Camilla is the descending. I found on the net several mentions of 9th cousins not removed, but these omitted Catherine Tufton…making Catherine Cavendish the mother of Catherine Watson, when it should be grandmother. As a rule, I use a woman’s birth or maiden name on trees and pedigree charts…this is for more precise identification, since a woman can have several married names but only one birth name. And in Chart 720, Catherine Cavendish when married became Catherine Tufton…and her daughter was also Catherine Tufton, who then became Catherine Watson, whose daughter was also Catherine Watson…my way helps you keep better track.

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200.12  If however…and rest assured it’s a big if however…Camilla’s great grandmother did the wild thing with Edward VII, then Camilla is half-2nd cousin to Elizabeth II and half-2nd cousin once removed to Charles. Feeling lazy, I decided to go with a chart I found online without redoing it…notice the line between Edward and Alice Edmonstone is dotted, not solid…ahem…’nuff said.

chart 721

200.13  But wait! There’s more! The old English gentry are entangled in innumerable ways, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that Elizabeth II and Sarah Ferguson’s grandmother were 4th cousins, making Fergie’s erstwhile hubby Prince Andrew her 5th cousin once removed. And since this traces back to the Cavendish clan, Sarah and Camilla are 10th cousins, as per Chart 721 And here’s the kicker…the reason Charles and Diana were called 11th cousins once removed was because this was thru royal  lines…as we saw, back to James I. But they were related in other ways that were closer, just not as illustrious…the nearest I’ve found is 7th cousins once removed, thru another Cavendish line. Just sayin’…

  200.14  Dear Stolf: With your interest in the family matters of the Royals, whatchoo think of this?  …from Sir Benditt Kwayle-Overbite, QED, ESP, LMNOP


200.15  Dear Benny, if I may be sold bold as to call you that: Yeah, I did happen to see that at Mail Online, the cyber wing of the Daily Mail, UK’s redoubtable bottom-feeding tabloid. And the first thing that springs out at you is the word “plotted” which is, honestly, overreaching. Indeed, the young Queen did do several things to make situations at Buckingham Palace cleave more to her liking, as was her right…but they were hardly earth-shattering…family matters really…and what a family, sez me.

200.16  The most famous example being her breaking with tradition and declaring that Windsor would remain the Royal House…by past precedence, it should have been Mountbatten, her husband’s. Recall that the Royal House is essentially the house…or today, the surname…of the royal offspring…the Queen herself is forever a Windsor, married or not. Philip complained publicly that he was the only man in the realm not permitted to give his children his last name…true enough, but that’s their system. And the kids do today consider themselves Windsor-Mountbattens, in deference to him, whereas by law they are just plain Windsors.

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200.17  But that word “plotted” sure gives a 61-year-old tale an added tang. Reading these subheads provided with the article, they do flesh out the details…end result: the whole thing seems nothing but reasonable. What you must realize is that as hidebound by tradition the laws of succession may seem, they are just that: simply laws. Now in the old days, might made right, and the law…or which law shall we have?…was upheld by force. Today, instead of armed conflict in the streets, such things are decided before learned magistrates in oaken courtrooms. But it still comes down to what is the law?

200.18  And the law in place in 1953 was the Regency Act of 1937…here regency refers to the guardianship of a monarch who is not yet of legal age. Well, “official” guardian, since we are assuming here that just one parent dies, and Charles did have 2 parents after all. As things stood, had Elizabeth dropped dead in 1953, 4-year-old Charles would have been King, and the law stated that the next claimant in line to the throne, assuming they were 21 years old, would be Regent, acting in Charles’ place until he hit 18. And that would have been that crazy mixed up kid, Princess Margaret, at the time aged 23 and dating a commoner, and a divorced commoner to boot. Such a possibility disturbed Elizabeth…and Philip too, remember him?…and they were rightly moved to propose a remedy, the Regency Act of 1953, which named Philip the potential Regent.

200.19  The provisions of this act have long since become moot. But in 1953, all and sundry thought the change completely prudent…yes, it was traditional, and in some sense logical, that a Regent also be a Royal, but in the general scheme of things, even things Britannic, it wasn’t that big a deal. In case you were wondering about Margaret’s take on all this, she was fully on board, so really, there’s not much of a story here…politicians fiddled and fussed for a time, as they will, but that was it. One interesting tidbit…the new law eliminated a strange anomaly…that a Monarch came of age when 18, but a Regent had to be 21…which seemed a bit cockeyed and was changed.

wicked ballsy

chart 722

But we were speaking of Mountbattens…and if you’re yearning for something more salacious, and 7th, 9th, or 11th cousins just doesn’t do it for you, I have something I think you’ll like. Before Diana, Charles proposed to his 2nd cousin, Amanda Knatchbull. As you can see in Chart 722, Charles’ paternal grandmother and Amanda’s maternal grandfather were siblings. In fact, that grandfather was Prince Philip’s favorite uncle, the second Lord and Admiral Mountbatten…his father Louis Alexander, who married one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, was the first. While Amanda was deciding whether to accept or not, her grandfather and grandmother were killed by an IRA bomb planted on their fishing boat. She decided not. Philip went with Di.

Interesting about the Mountbatten surname. The first Lord was born in Austria, and eventually became a naturalized British citizen. The second Lord was born in London, but at the time the family name was Battenberg, in due course anglicized to Mountbatten. Now when Prince Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu, he had no last name, since his father had none. When he became a Brit, his original choices for surname included Oldburgh and Oldcastle, based on Oldenberg or Oldenborg, the Germanic house of which his family belonged to an offshoot. For whatever reason…you’d have to have been there…this was considered too pedestrian and he was encouraged to go with his grandfather’s surname Mountbatten…technically not his mother’s, since she went by Battenberg up until the time she was married.

And if it sounds like old Phil got “pushed around” a lot, well, he knew what he was getting into and the pluses apparently outweighed the minuses, if you follow my drift and I think you do. BTW…when perusing Chart 722, did you notice that besides being Charles’ 2nd cousin on his father’s side, Amanda was also his 4th cousin on the Queen’s side? You did? Brilliant.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#199: TV and Movie Picks…

199.1  This week, a couple of interesting bits from the screen, large and small…starting with Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven.

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199.2  His character was named Bernardo O’Reilly, and when it was suggested that with that moniker he must have been adopted, he famously responds: Yeah, that’s my real name. Irish on one side…Mexican on the other…and me in the middle.

199.3  Bernardo O’Reilly has always been a favorite of Russian film fans…easy to understand since Bronson, born in Pennsylvania coal country, was the son of Lithuanian immigrants with Tatar lineage…as a child, he spoke both Lithuanian and Russian to family members. His surname was Buchinsky…his father changed it from Bunchinski, on the theory that the former sounded more “American”…Charles took it one step further with Bronson.

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199.4  And it’s hardly a stretch to think that the character’s name was inspired by Chilean freedom fighter Bernardo O’Higgins, above left. And here’s a parallel in baseball, above right. Recall that a typical Spanish name consists of a Christian name, the father’s surname, and the mother’s surname in that order. The Alou brothers are famous for a discrepancy: they were actually Rojas Alou, and in their home country of the Dominican Republic, the family was, and still is, known as Rojas. Somehow, they got their mother’s surname when they played in the US…see Related How Again? #176. 

199.5  Now the Alous are the best known example, but this has happened to a smattering of other Latin ballplayers as well. Unfortunately, standard references are inconsistent in the way they differentiate such double surnames…we assume Vince’s father was Gonzales, his mother O’Reilly, but I can’t honestly say for sure. I can tell you his career in the Bigs was brief…one game, 2 innings, ERA of 27.00…don’t ask.

199.6  Next, a tantalizing question…on The Mod Squad did Pete Cochran once date his cousin? Watch the second season episode “Call Back Yesterday” and it’s easy to get that impression.

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199.7  It opens with the Squad arriving at police headquarters just in time to witness an argument between Mark Goddard (Doug Allen) and Margot Kidder (Claire Allen)…Pete says he knows them, they’re his cousins. The dust-up concerns why she isn’t being allowed to see her father Bob…Bob Allen and his brother Howard, Doug’s father, run a chemical company. As the plot unfolds, it appears Howard and Doug are trying to kill Bob…turns out that isn’t the case…they’re actually trying to prevent Bob from killing himself…his son Dave, Claire’s brother, died in Viet Nam from exposure to a chemical that the Allen Company manufactures…and the guilt has send Bob over the edge.  

chart 717

199.8   But even before the opening credits, we learn that Claire is, as Linc says to Pete, “your  Claire”…that is, they used to be an item. OK, the show takes place in Los Angeles, and 1st cousin marriage is legal in the state of California…was it in March of 1970 when the episode first aired? So as  I’m watching it today, I’m also wondering…his cousin?

199.9  Pete finds out that Claire, back from a trip to Europe, is staying with his wealthy parents…he goes to see his mother…his father, whom we met 2 episodes earlier, is away on the business trip “up north.” Pete asks why Claire is staying there and his mother replies “She doesn’t need a reason…the Allens are still our very best friends.” Well, she didn’t say the Allens are family… presumably she isn’t an Allen, which would have fit the 1st cousin scenario, so that’s one thing.

199.10  But later, when Pete holds a get-together for family and friends, to search for clues as to what’s happening with Claire’s father, Claire calls Pete’s mother “Aunt Grace”…so there’s that. The episode moves along…car chases, fist-fights, the revelation that all is not as it seems, and eventually Pete rescues Bob by pretending to be his dead son Dave, who was Pete’s best friend…a little weird maybe, but that’s what the writers came up with. And will Pete and Claire get back together? That’s the underlying plot element, and in the final scene we discover they will not…just as well for Pete…Claire is cute but squirrelly, thanks to Kidder’s scenery-chewing portrayal. Still…cousins?

199.11  Like I said, that’s how the show played out, at least to me. But something clearly wasn’t right…so I went back to that opening scene…and what Pete says exactly is: “I know those two…they’re cousins.” Aha! Those two, Doug and Claire, are cousins…Pete didn’t mean they were his cousins…altho that’s the way I took it the first time around, especially his tone of voice when he said it. And Claire’s saying  “Aunt Grace” simply meant Pete’s mother was a close family friend of Claire’s parents, that’s all. Mystery solved, altho they sure had me going for a while, boy!

199.12  And you know, upon further reflection…I can see why I was so quick to grant Pete the benefit of cousins. I’m watching the 5 seasons of the series in order, and in the first season episode “Love.” Pete does have a cousin, Karen Westphal, played by Diane Ewing. Her parents are Arthur and Virginia. Pete calls her “Aunt Jenny,” and from their one scene together, it sure seems as if she would be Pete’s father’s sister…but who knows? BTW, Harrison Cochran is in insurance…they all live in Beverly Hills.

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199.13  And finally…there has never been a brand of cigarettes called Brenda, Joanne, Maureen, Dolores, or Nancy…trust me on this, tobacco history is one of my specialities. So why should there have been a Shirley? That’s an easy one…because it wasn’t meant as a girl’s given name, but as a surname or family name. It’s from a British place name and dates back to the 7th century…derived from “scir” meaning bright and “leah” which was a glade or clearing in the woods, later a field or meadow. Early forms included Sirelei, Shyrley, Shirleye, and Sherley.

199.14  In English, middle names began not as a second Christian name, but as a way to preserve a maternal family name. Eventually, such surnames became given or first names…originally for males, then for females as well…hence Shirley Povich, Maury’s father, a famous sportswriter…and Shirley Temple, who could have very easily been Temple Shirley in a parallel universe.

 199.15  For those who are interested….Shirleys were made by Larus and Brother, which operated from 1877 to 1974 and was one of the more prominent of the “small” cigarette manufacturers, outside of the Big Six*. Their factory was along the famous Tobacco Row in Richmond, Virginia, and they were successful enough to sponsor a radio station that exists to this day. Their main product was known world-wide, House of Edgeworth pipe tobacco, but they also made such cigarette brands as Domino, Holiday, Alligator, Lords, and Yukon…garnering a minuscule but apparently still profitable share of the market into the early 1960s. Shirleys date back to the mid-1930s…seen here as as 70mm “straight”…altho one reference says they also came as an 85mm, so perhaps they lasted into the filter era of the 1950s.

* American Tobacco Company, R.J. Reynolds, Liggett & Myers, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and Philip Morris, just so you know…

199.16  And yes, I did check the Larus family backwards and forewords from the tobacco brothers Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus. They were descended from a dentist who came to America with Lafayette, one Phillippe Larrusse…”the Russian”…and their father was named Pleasant Crump Larus…whew! Other surnames associated with the Larus family include Archer, Baldwin, Black, Cherry, Harris, Keen, Morris, Nutting, Reed, Sanders, Skinner, Traylor, Word, and Yarbrough. No Shirley…doesn’t mean there wasn’t one somewhere…altho realistically, the smokes in question were likely named after the Shirley Plantation in Hopewell, Va, about 15 miles southeast of Richmond.

199.17  Till next week, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em…and it’s still legal!


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#198: Embracing Enhancement

198.1  The word “enhanced” is a relatively new one in genealogical circles, but an exceedingly useful one. It refers to people who are related to each other in more than one way. Now there are some people…altho I daresay virtually none who are seriously interested in kinship and genealogy…who deny that you can actually be related in more than one way. Suppose you and Sheena are both 1st cousins and 2nd cousins…well, just pick one, and that’s it…say, 1st cousins.  And for casual conversation, that’s fine…but you are still more closely related, genetically as well as genealogically, than “just” 1st cousins.

198.2  For example, I have a friend whose father and his brother married sisters. He always suspected he was more closely related to those 1st cousins than to “normal” cousins, but never really thought about it. In fact, he and his cousins are “double 1st cousins”…1st cousins on their fathers’ side and on their mothers’ side…as closely related as half-siblings…1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. And in his particular case, those sisters were identical twins…which genetically count as the same person…so while 1st cousins thru their fathers, the cousins are genetically half-siblings thru their mothers…while genealogically still 1st cousins thru their mothers of course, since their mothers are 2 different people. So they are the equivalent of “3/4 siblings”…related by 3/8, which you’ll notice is slightly more than 1/4 or 2/8.

198.3  If the fractions are confusing, you can compare their degree of relationship to common ones…here, they are half-way between half-siblings and full-siblings…so they are as closely related as half-siblings plus something more…they are “enhanced”! And BTW, he finds this information fascinating…for him, his relatives are what they are, and it’s very cool.

198.4  I was introduced to the concept of “enhanced” relatives at a very eye-opening website, one that really kicked my interest in kinship to the next level…GENETIC AND QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF GENEALOGY, by F. M. Lancaster, a British professor. Whether or not he invented the term I cannot say, but he surely knows a good thing when he sees it, as do I.

198.5  My friend and his cousins are “enhanced 1st cousins”…you can also have “enhanced siblings,” where for example the parents are 3rd cousins to each other, so that their children, besides being siblings, are also 4th cousins to each other. These situations are rare, certainly…but real none the less…and especially interesting to me are “enhanced half-siblings.” Usually, half-siblings share one parent…say they have the same father and different mothers. Many will simply call themselves siblings rather that halfs, and that’s an acceptable everyday simplification. But they aren’t like normal siblings, who have the same father and  the same mother. They may have grown up in the same house, maybe not…they may have had very little contact at all, or always been close…each family is different.

chart 713

198.6  For most half-siblings, the parents they don’t share are not related to each other…but for a few, they are…and they are the enhanced ones. In Chart 713, X and Z are half-siblings, having the same father A. If their mothers B and C are unrelated, they are simply half-siblings, related by 1/4. But is B and C are related, X and Z are related over and above half-siblings…if the mothers are sisters, they are also 1st cousins…half-sisters, then half-1st cousins…1st cousins, then 2nd cousins.

198.7  Prof. Lancaster leaves it at that, but I couldn’t resist running with the “enhanced” idea…to what I call “super-enhanced half-siblings,” where one or both of the unshared parents are related to the shared parent.  I discussed this at Related How Again? #46: More of David  and again at #99: 7/8ths of What Again?…but it’s worth reviewing.

chart 714

198.8  As with kinship in general, the possibilities are virtually endless, given how human beings can and do combine and recombine. 3 of the simplest are illustrated above. In Chart 714a, the shared father is a 1st cousin to one of the mothers. In Chart 714b, he is a 1st cousin to both of the mothers, and I have colored the connections differently to indicate that these are on opposite sides of A‘s family…say he is 1st cousin to B on his father’s side and 1st cousin to C on his mother’s side. If it were all on the same side, the 3 parents would be 1st cousins to each other, as in Chart 714c.

198.9  And there’s a 4th cousin possibility…B and C could be 1st cousins altho not on the side that relate them to A…in other words, A‘s and B‘s fathers could be brothers…A‘s and C‘s mothers could be sisters…and B‘s mother and C‘s father could be siblings. I just kept it at 3…sue me. But how do we figure the relationship of X and Z?

chart 715

198.10  By comparing the parents, by pairs. And as seen in Chart 715, moving left to right, we get closer and closer to the equivalent of “3/4 siblings” but never quite reach it. I know, it can make your head spin if math isn’t your bag…but a hobby’s a hobby, nez pah?


198.11  Speaking of math skills, they’ve really been hit hard by the general dumbing-down over the past several decades…and the Media, God bless ‘em, gleefully leads the charge. Is there a newspaper or magazine anywhere that would disagree with this statement: 10th Annual Ogdensville Pomegranate Festival marks their 10th Anniversary.  Actually, there are…and I’ve seen them…the ones that realize, logically enough, that the 1st Annual Festival did not  mark the Festival’s 1st Anniversary…those 2 numbers mean different things and will never match. But they are few and far between, and I suspect their number is dwindling…as old pros, for whom such simple cyphering is second nature, get unceremoniously kicked to the curb.

198.12  And since reckoning degrees of kinship is mathematical at the heart of it, that also takes the hit…altho once in a while they get things right, and are to be applauded and encouraged on those rare occasions.

chart 716

198.13   I noticed the above item in my local Sunday paper next to the birth listings…and almost as a reflex I sketched it out. Were they correct? If Rick and Randy are brothers they are, and a quick check of Facebook confirmed all is kosher. Admittedly, the paper likely got 2nd cousins right because the family told them about it…such are the virtues of living in a small town…but being right is never wrong, and it sets a good example regardless.

chart 717

198.14  I happened to come across a chart I did for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, 5th cousins once removed, showing how un-related they really were…and it serves as a good cousin reference…print it out and stick it on the fridge. Their degree of kinship was half-way between the bottom 2…so about .03% related, 99.97% un-…which is why nobody got very excited about it…altho that was then, this is now, sad to say…

wicked ballsy


Yeah, but see…having a child does make you a father…always has…Biology 101. At the same time, the word “father” does have different meanings, so point well taken, sez me.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#197: Whack-a-Wiki!

197.1  Hold onto your hat…I’m going to say something nice about Wikipedia! Well, it will start out that way, probably won’t end that way…what can you do?

197.2  But I believe in giving credit where credit’s due. Ground zero for kinship confusion is the term “cousin”…and Uncle Wiki’s cousin page is much improved from the mess it was several years ago. Key improvements include very clear family tree diagrams illustrating the different types of cousins….and more recently, they removed from the “alternate definitions” section that dopey mistake that makes your uncle also your first cousin once removed. To wit, taking for example a 2nd cousin, they had said moving up and down a generation would make your 2nd cousin’s son your 2nd cousin once removed (correct) and your 2nd cousin’s father also your 2nd cousin once removed (incorrect…the father your 1st cousin once removed.)

197.3   It sort of makes sense, until you apply it to 1st cousins, then it doesn’t. Elevating this mistake to a full-blown alternate system was crazy…I complained about it on the “Talk” page and whether that helped or not I don’t know…but for now, it’s gone. Actually, I would like to see some discussion of this mistake and why it’s wrong…as well as the far more common mistake of calling your 1st cousin’s child your 2nd cousin. Apparently there was such a “2nd cousin mistake” entry at one time, but it was removed…both mistakes are common enough that they deserve to be addressed, but current Wiki-thinking says no.

197.4  But I still bristle when I read their opening definition, which is extremely misleading…A cousin is a relative with whom a person shares one or more common ancestors. In the general sense, cousins are two or more generations away from any common ancestor, thus distinguishing a cousin from an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.  You know you’re on the wrong track when you make a statement and immediately have to take it back! Better would be the simple: Cousins are the descendants of siblings, by the same number of generations. 

chart 706 AB

197.5  And up until my recent series of blogs on step-relations, I hadn’t noticed the problem with their treatment of “step-cousins”…Chart 706A. Saying that Joe is your step-cousin doesn’t provide much information, since Joe can be any one of 3 different things, as I have indicated in Chart 706B. And they missed type 1, which I have diagrammed using their style.

inset 0

197.6  I pointed this out on the “Talk” page, with no response as of yet…and also addressed the wider issue of whether extending step-relatives beyond the nuclear family of parents/children/siblings makes sense at all. The key problem in my mind is how you can have step-somethings without being in a step-family relationship…that is, without having a step-parent or a step-child.

197.7  My current thinking is that if you must have step-cousins, they ought to be the result of a step-relationship that involves either you or one of your direct ancestors…that is, parents, grandparents, etc…and not the result of a step-relationship that involves one of your collateral relatives. And this requirement would apply to both step-cousins. Thus, in their diagram (Chart 706A), the criterion applies to Mary but not to David…so they are not step-cousins. In my diagram (Chart 706B) it does apply to both so they are step-cousins…this means type 1 is…types 2 and 3 are not. A compromise of sorts, but it seems to me a reasonable one…if you must have step-cousins!  But in truth, it doesn’t matter that much…precision with blood relatives is what’s at the heart of our system of kinship terminology…relatives thru marriage are fuzzier, because we do get the language we want, nez pah?

inset 1

 197.8  Now it is interesting that moving beyond Uncle Wiki’s cousin page, they say nothing about step-collaterals on their step-family page…limiting it to the nuclear family, which again I think is sensible. It does crop up on the “Talk” page…and the “expert” blithely remarks that it’s all good, which I would dispute. Altho I must say that on the main page they do get the distinction between step-siblings and half-siblings correct, which is eminently laudable.

197.9  And if you’re in the mood for a chuckle, check out this crazy mixed-up comment…talk about giving curiosity a bad name…

inset 2


197.10  So I thought I’d check out some of Uncle Wiki’s other kinship term pages, and as you’d expect they are pretty solid…it’s cousins beyond 1st cousins that throw people.

inset 3

197.11  On the sibling page they do get into 3/4 siblings, which is kind of advanced kinship-wise…and I wish they’d explained why they’re called that. You might be tempted to think the degree of relationship between 2 such individuals would be 3/4, but it’s not…it’s 3/8. The phrase “3/4 siblings” results from this relationship being half-way between full and half-siblings, since 3/8 is half-way between ½ and 1/4.

chart 707

197.12  As you can see on Chart 707, 3/4 siblings are half-siblings on one side and 1st cousins (horizontal) or half-uncle/half-nephew (vertical) on the other…in both cases 1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8. In other words, they are half-siblings…but with something extra, owing to the unshared parents being related. That’s why the generalized term is Enhanced Half-Siblings…and those related parents can be related in countless ways, not just siblings or parent/child.

inset 4

197.13  Uncle Wiki tries to generalize the concept with “sibling cousins.” A clumsy term, first because “half-sibling cousins” would be more accurate…and second, because it’s easy to confuse that with full siblings who are also cousins, as for example siblings whose parents are cousins to each other, which could be called what?…”cousin siblings”? Stick with “enhanced” for siblings who are closer than 1/2…and half-siblings who are closer than 1/4.

197.14  And wouldn’t you know, another “other kind” turns up on the sibling “Talk” page…

inset 5

The answer of “5/8 siblings” is logical, but again misleading, since the coefficient of relationship is 5/16, not 5/8. The correct answer is that not everything needs to have a “name”…just say they’re half-siblings thru their fathers and half-1st cousins thru their mothers…because that’s what they are…Chart 708.

chart 708

197.14  Finally, we come to an “orphan” entry…something that is discussed on the sibling “Talk” page but is no longer on Uncle Wiki’s main sibling page.

inset 6

I believe you can access a list of all the changes if you want to know when exactly “cross siblings” was deep-sixed…I’m more interested in what they are…or were. And at the outset we should note that those with an anthropological or sociological bent would take “cross siblings” to mean siblings of the opposite sex…so there’s that.

chart 709

197.15  But here, Chart 709 diagrams the example that illustrated the deleted cross sibling entry. The correct way to look at this is to say that Eden is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s father’s side…and Kevin is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s mother’s side…what does that then make Eden and Kevin? The answer, at least by blood relations, is nothing. It’s the same situation you have with 1st cousins…you have some on your father’s side and some on your mother’s side…but unless your father and mother are themselves blood relatives, these 2 groups of 1st cousins are unrelated to each other.

197.16  These days, with increasing rates of divorce and remarriage, it’s more common to find a person with half-siblings “on both sides.” It has been suggested that 2 unrelated people who never-the-less have a half-sibling in common be called “quarter siblings.” Well, if such a term is needed, we’ll get one…I’d advise against this one tho, since the word “quarter” suggests a fraction of blood relationship that in this type of case doesn’t exist.

197.17  I suppose the term “cross sibling” is as good as any for now, at least outside of academic circles. I’d be tempted to just say: “Joe is my half-brother’s half-brother”…altho the implicit “but Joe isn’t my half-brother” might be missed by the hearer, resulting in confusion. But how this whole setup strains the meaning of step-sibling is seen in the response, which cites a real life example…except in that example, there is one specific series of events…and there could be another!

chart 710

197.18  What that response describes is Chart 710the Brady Bunch scenario, with say B being Mike and A being Carol. Now on the TV program they had no children together…but if they had, say a daughter Lola, then she would be a half-sibling to both the girls and the boys…but Lola would be a step-sibling to no one.

chart 711

197.19  But suppose it happened the opposite way…Michael came first, then his parents divorced and started new families. This differs from the traditional step-family in Chart 710, where 2 parents are dead. In Chart 711, Michael has both a father and step-father, a mother and step-mother…which traditionally of course wasn’t possible. And remember, altho Michael has step-parents, he has no step-siblings…Eden and Kevin are his half-siblings. It’s a stretch to call Eden and Kevin step-siblings…looked at from Eden’s point of view: your father’s first wife has Kevin with her new husband, and Kevin is your —what? I’d say your nothing…mainly because that first wife is nothing to you. Yet Eden and Kevin are step-siblings in Chart 710…so Chart 709 is ambiguous…it represents both the 710 and 711 scenarios.

197.20  All in all, I’d say this reinforces my basic point: keep steps simple!

wicked ballsy

wb 712

This is one of those “sayings” that circulates around Facebook…and before I could help myself, I’d diagrammed it out…d’oh!…a little lemon juice, a little tartar sauce….


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#196: The Man from H.A.L.F.-U.N.C.L.E.

196.1  Hey, did you hear the latest? The state of New York has legalized incest…woo hoo!

imnset 1.png

196.2  Um…really?  No, of course not really. It’s just that in their unbridled rush to make everything sound as bad as possible, those who today pass for journalists often cross the line separating exaggeration from falsehood. This is why I haven’t watched watched broadcast news in 3 years…brush over newspaper stories with due skepticism…and turn to the internet when I need a good laugh.

196.3   Now to be precise, here’s what the court ruled: while marriages between uncles/aunts and their nieces/nephews are specifically prohibited by state law, half-relations such as half-uncle and half-niece are not the same thing, and since they are not addressed specifically, such marriages are not prohibited. In addition, the fact that a half-uncle/half-niece relationship is as genetically close as 1st cousins…and 1st cousins in New York State can marry…tended in the judges’ minds to lend common sense credence to their basic ruling, which was a simple interpretation of statuary intent.

196.4  And that all sounds fair enough. Mind you, that’s collateral relatives, not direct relatives. The relevant coefficient of relationship here is 1/8…you share 1/8 of your genes with your great grandparents and your great grandchildren…but marching them down the isle is still considered a no-no.

chart 703

196.5  Chart 703 marks you as X…and shows your simplest 1/8 relatives: 1st cousins (a), grand uncles/aunts/nephews/nieces (b), and half-uncles/aunts/nephews/nieces (c)…altho see today’s wicked ballsy.  And to play devil’s advocate for just a moment, one wonders why the lingering distinction between direct relations, those who passed genes on to you…and collateral relations, those who got genes from the same source as you did. As far as the genes are concerned, you share them with somebody or you don’t…and when we say “share genes”…we’re talking about copies of genes…not the literal genes themselves…it’s not like a blood transfusion, where blood that was at one time in somebody else’s body is now in yours. But that’s a philosophical debate for another day.

196.6   The ruling arose out of a case where the federal government wanted to deport a Vietnamese immigrant who claimed to be married to an American citizen. The federales’ argument was not, as it often is, that this was a marriage of convenience solely to gain residency…but that the marriage was prima facie invalid, since it was incestuous by New York state law. The couple have been married since 2000, and the groom was the half-brother of the bride’s mother.

chhart 704

196.7  Since matters of kinship are not that commonly deemed headline news, I thought it would be interesting to look at 3 different media reports. The original stories are in italics, my comments in red…and the first is from the New York Daily News, 10/28/2014, written by Glenn Blain…

196.8  New York’s highest court gave its blessings Tuesday to marriages that are all in the family. Not true…they blessed one specific, and I daresay seldom seen, matchup. To the extent that  this lead sentence implies ALL previously prohibited marriages are now kosher, it’s grossly misleading…but are you surprised?

Despite the ick factor, a union between a half-uncle and his half-niece is not incestuous under New York’s Domestic Relations Law, according to the unanimous Court of Appeals ruling. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe there are more serious considerations involved in crafting laws than whether certain behavior is thought by some people to be “icky.” Thus, had I been editor, I would have replaced “despite the ick factor” with “acknowledging that the so-called ick factor is irrelevant”…but that’s just me.

The court said a marriage in which the groom is the half-brother of the bride’s mother poses about the same genetic risk as marriages between first cousins. I’ll assume the ruling did actually say “about the same genetic risk”…had they left out the word “about,” I would have had no complaint.

“First cousins are allowed to marry in New York, and I conclude that it was not the Legislature’s purpose to avert the similar, relatively small genetic risk inherent in relationships like this one,” wrote Judge Robert Smith, a Republican. Yes, the genetic risk between 1/8 relatives is relatively small. That being said, you wonder if the New York Legislature was really that scientifically savvy…most aren’t. For example, of the 25 states that allow 1st cousin marriages, only North Carolina excludes double 1st cousins, recognizing they are as closely related as half-siblings, 1/4. 

The case involves a 19-year-old Huyen Nguyen of Vietnam, who married her 24-year-old half-uncle, Vu Truong, of Rochester, N.Y., in 2000. The bride’s grandmother — Nguyen Thi Ba — was also the groom’s mother. The groom, however, had a different father than the bride’s mother.

*** In 2007, an immigration judge ruled the marriage was bogus and ordered the bride deported. A federal appeals court, however, asked New York’s highest court to decide whether such marriages were, in fact, legal under state law. See comments below at ***

The Court of Appeals found that while marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews were expressly prohibited, there was no such prohibition on relations between half-blooded uncles and nieces, or half-blooded aunts and nephews. “Half-blooded” sounds like something out of Harry Potter, but that’s the wording used in the relevant law, and it’s a perfectly proper way to express it in English.

While the decision was unanimous, Judge Victoria Graffeo and two other judges suggested the state Legislature should revisit the issue. “Such relationships could implicate one of the purposes underlying incest laws, i.e., ‘maintaining the stability of the family hierarchy by protecting young family members from exploitation by older family members in positions of authority, and by reducing competition and jealous friction among family members,’ ” Graffeo wrote. Dear me…this concern is nothing more than modern-day psychobabble. Down thru human history, incest taboos have been based on religious beliefs, and civil laws followed suit. More recently, misunderstanding of genetic theory and the resulting overreaction has driven incest prohibitions…it is only very recently that “older family members exploiting younger family members” has become a social mantra.

And a goofy mantra it is…in this case the “uncle” and the “niece” are of the same generation, separated by only 5 years…indeed, an “uncle” can actually be younger than his “niece.” But further, except for establishing minimum ages, our laws have nothing to say about the relative ages of a bride and groom. And you’ve never heard of the young exploiting the old? Or people of the same age exploiting each other?

Then there’s this “reducing competition and jealous friction among family members.” So why isn’t there a law against marrying a woman who once dated your brother? As much as we’d like to have a world where everybody gets along, I  think you’ll agree that it’s well beyond the reach of the law to banish jealousy, envy, resentment, and, yes, wounded pride… within a family or otherwise. BTW,  this judge’s screed is lifted verbatim from Benton vs. The State of Georgia (1995)…doncha just love the internet? Used to be, you’d need a wall full of law books to ferret that out…not any more, nope.

Michael Marszalkowski, an attorney for the couple, hailed the decision and insisted Huyen’s marriage was not done for immigration purposes. “They have stayed together for 14 years and counting,” he said.  *** This is a very poorly written story…reading the paragraph I flagged above, I assumed the court action was indeed a marriage-for-residency issue…and I wondered what half-relations had to do with it? Turns out, the real issue was whether such a marriage legally qualified as a marriage in the first place, while the immigration implications were purely secondary.

Marszalkowski said the couple denied being related to each other but lower courts — based on evidence supplied by the groom’s sister — concluded they were. And one of the hallmarks of a poorly written news story is that it raises questions that it doesn’t answer…as here…did the couple really not know they were related or were they trying to hide the fact?  The groom’s sister spilling the beans fits in how exactly? She knew and her brother didn’t…because mom told her but not him? In terms of genealogy and kinship, this is the juicy part!

“This really was an all-or-nothing issue for them,” he said. “If this would have been denied, she would have been deported and sent back to Vietnam.”

About a half dozen other states, Marszalkowski said, allow such marriages. Did he mean half-uncle/half-niece marriages or 1st cousins marriages, because if he meant 1st cousins marriage he’s off by a factor of about 4. Or is the author of this story mixed up?

The Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, saw danger signs in the court’s decision. “If government’s only interest in marriage is who loves each other, than what logical stopping point is there?” McGuire said. To answer the good Reverend’s question, there is no logical stopping point...none at all. Welcome to 2014. Then again, except in the case of marriage-for-residency, I don’t believe love has anything to do with the legal definition of marriage. One partner marries for sex, the other for money…you see that all the time. Or the love that once existed is gone but the marriage persists. Or you have “lavender widows,” women who marry closeted gays…there’s a real famous one in the US these days, in case you hadn’t noticed.

But precisely what the government’s interest in marriage should be is a fascinating question…it probably has something to do with the children that marriages traditionally produce…but beyond that…tax benefits, hospital visitations, inheritance, whatever…maybe everybody should be married, just to have a “buddy”…nez pah?           

196.9  Next, the New York Post’s take, 10/29/2014, written by Julia Marsh…

The state’s highest court has toppled a cultural taboo — legalizing a degree of incest, at least between an uncle and niece — in a unanimous ruling. Right from the get go you can tell the Post’s tone will be more hysterical than the peripatetic Daily News. And in their haste, they make their first  major factual mistake…marriage between uncle and niece was not legalized… thus no cultural taboo was toppled, and that’s mistake #2. In fact, nothing that was previously illegal was legalized…so that’s mistake #3…ambitious start, no?

While the laws against “parent-child and brother-sister marriages . . . are grounded in the almost universal horror with which such marriages are viewed . . . there is no comparably strong objection to uncle-niece marriages,” Tuesday’s ruling reads.

Judge Robert Smith of the Court of Appeals wrote that such unions were lawful in New York until 1893 and Rhode Island allows them. These 2 sentences make no sense…this case simply did not deal with an uncle-niece marriage. Again, one wonders who’s confused, the judges or the article’s author.

The decision stems from a case brought by Vietnamese citizen Huyen Nguyen, 34, a woman who had appealed a ruling by an immigration judge. The judge had tried to boot her from the United States after declaring that her 2000 marriage in Rochester to her mother’s half-brother was invalid. Nguyen and her husband, Vu Truong, 38, appealed and won. Fine…at last we switch from uncle/niece to half-uncle/half-niece…and it looks like the author of this article wasn’t really confused, just  taking the position that full and half collaterals were the same thing…when that was just what this case sought to clarity in the first place…that’s called begging the question, and is mistake #4…geesh…just out of junior high or what? Then again, maybe she wasn’t being willfully  opinionated….just confused after all…but at this point, who cares?…turn to the funnies…

“I’m very happy for my clients,” said their lawyer, Michael Marszalkowski. “They’ve been married 14 years now, but unfortunately, for half the time, there has been this concern over their heads about whether [the immigration issue] could be resolved. Thankfully, now it has been,” Marszalkowski said.

Marszalkowski said he won the case by zeroing in on the language of the state’s domestic-relations law. The statute reads that “a marriage is incestuous and void whether the relatives are legitimate or illegitimate between either: 1. An ancestor and a descendant; 2. A brother and sister of either the whole or half blood; 3. An uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.”  What could it mean that “of either whole or half blood” is deemed a necessary addition when talking about brother/sister, but not when talking about uncle/niece? It’s clear cut to me: “a [sibling] of either whole or half blood” is another way of saying “siblings and half-siblings”…and that’s what the law means. Since it does not add “of either whole or half blood” to the part about uncles, it does not mean to include halfs, only wholes…otherwise, it would have done so, as it did with siblings…next case (no pun intended.)

Incest is a crime punishable by a $50 to $100 fine and up to six months in jail.

Marszalkowski determined that as a matter of consanguinity, or blood relations, half-uncles and nieces share the same level of genetic ties as first cousins — or only one-eighth the same DNA. Completely right…did his homework. “It really was the equivalent of cousins marrying, which has been allowed in New York state for well over 100 years,” Marszalkowski said.

Those on the six-person judicial panel acknowledged that they are not scientists, but noted that the “genetic risk in a half-uncle, half-niece relationship is half what it would be if the parties were related by the full blood.”  It’s just a common sense conclusion, owing to the fact that each of us has 2 parents.

Nguyen and her husband, a truck driver, still live in Rochester and do not have any children. She sued the US Attorney General Eric Holder, who enforces the country’s immigration laws. A spokesman from his office did not return a message. They never do…I think that’s part of  their job.

Family law expert Michael Stutman of the firm Mishcon de Reya, who is not involved in the case, said the ruling is in synch with today’s modern families. 

“As people are more mobile and living longer marriages are ending and people remarry and you get blended families with step children and half children,” Stutman reasoned. Wrong…such “blends” have always been common, but for different reasons…in olden days, it was because spouses tended to die younger, and it was considered proper that everyone be married, and every child have a father and a mother…fancy that.

“There are plenty of other societies that allow so-called intermarriage without worrying about genetic defects. And frankly we have a long history of cousins marrying each other, take FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt,” he said. The president and his wife were fifth cousins once removed.  This “expert” is a dummy…sure, he did get the Roosevelt relationship correct, but their degree of relationship is 1/4096…cousin-like genetic connections end around 1/128 or 3rd cousins, for whom over 99% of their genes are different…they are genetically only as cousin-like as 2 random people off the street.

196.10  Finally, Joel Stashenko in the New York Law Journal, 10/30/2014…

 New York’s Domestic Relations Law does not regard marriages between half-uncles and half-nieces as incest, the state Court of Appeals has determined. A hifalutin’ law journal? You’d be within your rights to expect a much more sober and level-headed approach than we’re seen so far…and based on this lead sentence, I’d say that’s just what you’re going to get.

Making a rare foray into human genetics, the court unanimously said that “half-blood” uncles and nieces—or half-aunts and half-nephews—may marry without violating the prohibitions in Domestic Relations Law §5(3) against marriages between parents and offspring, brothers and sisters and aunts/uncles and nephews/nieces.

The question arose in the form of a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It asked for clarification in Nguyen v. Holder, 146, whether a marriage in Rochester between a half-uncle and his half-niece qualified as incest under state law and, consequently, the marriage was void. Could hardly be more accurate and to the point…wow.

The federal government is involved because it sought to have the niece, Huyen Nguyen, removed to her native Vietnam after contending that her 2000 marriage to her half uncle, Vu Truong, was invalid and that Nguyen could not remain in the United States by dint of her marriage to Truong, a U.S. citizen.

The federal appeals court said it could not decide that question without a clarification of state law from the Court of Appeals (NYLJ, Feb. 24).

While all six of the Albany judges participating in Tuesday’s ruling said in a brief memorandum that state law does not regard marriages like the Truong-Nguyen union as incestuous, each of the judges joined in concurring opinions which elaborated on their views.

Judge Robert Smith wrote in one of them that §5(3) is “ambiguous.” He said the most likely explanation for the Legislature not including half-uncles and half-aunts in the statute’s prohibition against aunts/uncles marrying nephews/nieces is that they did not intend to extend the law’s restrictions that far, not that it was an unintentional oversight.”

Smith noted that “since time immemorial,” society has regarded parent-child and brother-sister marriages as abhorrent, but has not treated uncle-niece marriages with the same horror.

In fact, Smith noted, marriages between aunts/uncles and nephews/nieces, of full- or half-blood, were lawful in New York state until 1893.  At last…somebody understands that full relatives and half relatives are not the same thing. He theorized that enactment of the prohibition against uncles or aunts marrying their nieces or nephews may have been related to the development of the science of genetics in the late 1800s. 

At any rate, he said the genetic risks of a marriage between a half-uncle and half-niece would seem to be roughly equivalent to marriages between first cousins, which are legal in New York. “Would seem to be roughly equivalent” is needlessly fuzzy. Better is “are equivalent.”

“We are not geneticists, and the record and the briefs in this case do not contain any scientific analysis; but neither party disputes the intuitively correct-seeming conclusion that the genetic risk in a half-uncle, half-niece relationship is half what it would be if the parties were related by the full blood,” Smith wrote. “Indeed, both parties acknowledged at oral argument that the risk in a half-uncle/half-niece marriage is comparable to the risk in a marriage of first cousins.”  Now this last bit is interesting…so the bone of contention was not how closely half-uncles/nieces are related…it was instead what the law actually intended.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judge Jenny Rivera joined in Smith’s concurrence.In a separate concurrence, Judge Victoria Graffeo said the legality of a half-uncle/half-niece marriage may be an issue for the Legislature to revisit. She wrote that there could be cultural implications in such marriages that are not present in the Truong-Nguyen union, namely protecting young family members from the possibility of being exploited by older family members in positions of authority.

“The issue of unequal stature in a family or cultural structure may not be implicated in this case but certainly could exist in other contexts, and a number of states have retained statutory prohibitions involving such marriages,” she wrote. “These considerations are more appropriately evaluated in the legislative process.” So even the psychobabble lady had the sense to admit that familial balance of power, the bee in her particular bonnet, simply wasn’t relevant in this case…while it could be in other cases…just couldn’t resist getting that in there, could she?

Judges Susan Phillips Read and Eugene Pigott Jr. joined in Graffeo’s concurrence.Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam took no part in the case. Michael Marszalkowski of Buffalo represented Nguyen. Assistant Attorney General Michael Heyse argued for the U.S. Justice Department.

Nguyen was admitted as a conditional permanent resident of the United States in 2000 based on her marriage to Truong. He was 24 and she was 19 when they were married and they have lived together since.

The government took issue with their marital status in 2006, when the couple filed to remove her conditional resident classification and make her residency permanent based on her marriage to a U.S. citizen. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security sought and secured a removal order from U.S. Immigration Judge Philip Montante Jr. based on her allegedly incestuous and invalid marriage.The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed Montante’s finding in January 2013.  Clean and concise, top to bottom…makes the Daily News and the Post look like raving maniacs…and ignoramuses to boot…but then wasn’t that the point of today’s exercise?

196.11  Next week, another round of everybody’s favorite indoor sport, Wack-a-Wiki…too much fun, sez me…

wicked ballsy

chart 705

The underlying question today is this: when a law allows 1st cousins to marry, does this imply that all kin who are related by 1/8, the degree to which 1st cousins are related, can also marry? The obvious answer is no: the universal prohibition of marriage between direct relatives…”ancestors and descendants” as New York state law puts it…rules out great grandparents and great grandchildren. Beyond that, grand uncles/nieces and half-uncles/nieces are the simplest collaterals that are at 1/8. But there are many others, 4 of which are illustrated in Chart 705.

Unilineal double 1st cousin once removed means the bride is the groom’s father’s double 1st cousin. Bilineal double 1st cousins once removed means the bride is the 1st cousin of both the groom’s father and mother. Here unilineal means the relationship is thru only one of the groom’s lines, in this case his father’s…bilineal means thru both the groom’s lines, his father’s and his mother’s.

Double-half 1st cousins means the bride is the child of the groom’s father’s half-sibling and mother’s half-sibling. And quadruple 2nd cousins means the bride is the child of the groom’s father’s double 1st cousin and mother’s double 1st cousin. Sure, it’s starting to get rather complicated, but the math doesn’t lie…it is what it is…or say math would say, it = it.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#195: Ein Cline

195.1   Suppose you are watching a TV drama based on the 1960 presidential election….and one of the key plot elements is bachelor John F. Kennedy continually hitting on Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia…at the time just 13 years old…Kennedy is 42. How’s it turn out? Kennedy is elected, and on inauguration day is accompanied by his new wife, a 19-year-old  Hollywood starlet. Pierre Salinger comments to Sargent Shriver: “He likes ‘em young.”

195.2   Pretty outrageous, no? Because these are public figures within our lifetime…we know Kennedy was already married…and while he had a “lust for life” shall we say, all indications are he stayed within his own age group and didn’t chase after young teens….let alone the daughter of his election opponent. Trouble is, when dealing with historical figures from an earlier time, of which the general public has practically no knowledge, such an absurd fantasy becomes more plausible.

195.3   Which brings us to The History Channel’s extremely popular Hatfields and McCoys miniseries of 2012. The rampant historical inaccuracies of this production have been well documented on the net and elsewhere…and I covered those relating to kinship and genealogy in several Related How Again? posts, starting with #122 The Coyfields and the McHats. But in terms of false information and trashed reputation, none are treated worse than Pike County lawyer Perry A. Cline.

195.4   On the TV show, he is the main villain of the piece, portrayed as a craven, sniveling shyster. Now actions he took during the Feud years are a matter of historical record. What his motivations might have been is for historians to debate. I merely submit that he served as county sheriff for 2 terms, was elected to the Kentucky state legislature, spearheaded a bill to educate black students, and served as a school commissioner. In fact, a school was named after him…it closed in 1966, but the building was named a Kentucky Landmark in 2007. And he was inducted into Pikeville University’s Distinguished Educator Hall of Fame in 2012…hardly the resume of a scoundrel, nez pah?

195.5  Parenthetically, one thing about the internet…you must have patience…see today’s wicked ballsy. Back when I was researching the Hatfields and McCoys in the spring of 2013, Perry A. Cline’s middle name remained stubbornly elusive. Turns out it was Anderson, the same middle name as Devil Anse Hatfield, whose seldom used first name was William.

195.6  But what concerns this blog is the egregious fabrications regarding Cline’s kinship. You may recall that on the show, Perry Cline wants to marry Randall McCoy’s daughter Roseanna. And near the end, when we meet his youthful bride (not Roseanna), I believe the comment was “You like ‘em young, don’t you, you cradle-robbing snake.” Well, that statement itself makes no sense, since women in their early teens routinely wed in those days. But all of this is a complete fabrication…during the Feud years, Cline was already married, to one Martha Adkins, and would eventually father 8 children.   

195.7    Even worse, you will find things like this:

inset 1

Uncle Wiki, that cornucopia of misinformation, agrees, without getting into specifics…

inset 2

And ancestry.com gets into the act…

inset 3

Here,  no mention of Asa Harmon McCoy being Martha Adkins’ first husband, short of simply giving her the last name of McCoy.

195.8  The truth? Perry Cline did marry Martha Adkins, daughter of Allen D. Adkins and Matilda “Patty” Williams. It’s also true that Asa Harmon McCoy had just one wife, also named Martha. So it seems reasonable to suppose that after she was widowed, Martha Adkins McCoy married Perry Cline, right? Wrong! Because Asa McCoy’s wife was Martha “Patty” Cline, Perry Cline’s sister! This is historical fact, as well-documented as anything could be. Still…in her grief following Asa’s murder, could  his widow have married her own brother? I’ll go out on a limb and say…no.

chart 701

195.9  But as per Chart 701, what’s fascinating is that 3 of Perry Cline’s 7 siblings, besides sister Martha, also married McCoys…brothers William Trigg and Peter married sisters Margaret and Elizabeth McCoy, 1st cousins of Asa and Randell…and sister Jennie Cline married another McCoy cousin, John. This certainly accounts for Perry Cline’s close ties to the McCoy family, altho yet another of his sisters married a Hatfield…and of course numerous Hatfields and McCoys intermarried. That’s the way it was back there, back then…alliances were not as clear-cut as History Channel writers would have you believe.

inset 4

195.10  But we’re not through yet…both The History Channel and Uncle Wiki agree that Perry Cline was a “cousin” of Randall McCoy. I ask you to study Chart 701…remembering that Asa and Randall McCoy were brothers…do you see blood cousins? I don’t….certainly not 1st cousins…and going back several generations, I find no McCoy/Cline connection. Perry Cline was Asa’s brother-in-law, but not Randall’s…no cousins there. And several of Randall’s 1st cousins were Perry’s siblings-in-law, but that’s as far as it goes. Do you consider your sister-in-law’s cousin your cousin? Me neither.

195.11  So whether it’s dramatic license gone crazy…or genealogical sloppiness…everything you thought you knew about Perry Cline is wrong…including the occasional mention of his being related to Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts, hung for the murder of Alifair McCoy. This is untrue, but brings up an interesting point…because Cline did have many Mounts cousins…altho he was no blood relation to the Mounts family…BTW 2 good old German surnames…Cline = Klein and Mounts = Muntz.

195.12  Consider: if your father has a sister and she has children, these children are your 1st cousins…and their surname is not yours or your father’s, but the surname of the man your aunt married. Say your father is an Adcock and your aunt married a Zorba. Yes, you are related to people named Zorba, your 1st cousins. Does this mean you are related to the Zorba family? No…you’re certainly connected to them, thru your aunt’s husband, but there is no blood relation between the Adcock and Zorba families…your Zorba cousins are actually your Adcock cousins, and you are theirs, since their mother and your father were born Adcocks.

195.13  Now historians consider Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts to be the son of 1st cousins Ellison and Harriet Hatfield. Cotton Top’s alliance with the Hatfields on their side of the feud stems from Ellison Hatfield’s acknowledgement that they were father and son…and remember, whatever notoriety ensued was because Cotton Top’s parents were unmarried, not because they were cousins…that was common enough in the Tug Valley, as well as just about everywhere else. Harriet Hatfield married Daniel Mounts when Cotton Top was very young, hence his using the Mounts surname. Interesting to note, he had a brother George, also believed to be a son of the Hatfield cousins, and he went at times by both Mounts and Hatfield… and when his widow remarried, she put herself down as a Hatfield.

195.14  So at the outset Perry Cline is no blood relation to Cotton Top Mounts…is he related to Cotton Top’s step-father Daniel Mounts? A resounding yes!

chart 702And that’s thanks to Perry Cline’s aunt Margaret Cline marrying David Cecil Mounts…resulting in Perry having a passel of Mounts 1st cousins, added to his copious Cline 1st cousins, many of whom intermarried, as seen in Chart 702. Well, 2 of Perry’s Cline cousins married each other, Thomas and Edie…but beyond that, sisters Nancy and Margaret Cline married brothers Peter and Jackson Mounts respectively…all 1st cousins to Perry and one another. And 2 other Mounts brothers, Michael and Alexander, married the daughters of Cline 1st cousins Peter Harper and Sarah, themselves siblings…the brides thus being 1st cousins once removed ascending to the grooms.

195.15  Perry Cline’s relation to Daniel Mounts? 1st cousin once removed thru Daniel’s father, and 1st cousin twice removed thru Daniel’s mother. Next week, a breaking news story and we’re on it!…Goodnight David, Chet, Walter…

wicked ballsy

wbToday, when a new consumer product is introduced based on an existing product, it’s called in the business a “line extension”…back in the day it was called “hitch-hiking” or “piggybacking.” A minor example, but well-remembered by me because it was such a tasty breakfast cereal, was General Mills’ Caramel Puffs, a spinoff of its highly successful Cocoa Puffs. For years there was hardly a mention of it on the internet…then old newspapers starting coming on-line, and I found several grocery ads mentioning Caramel Puffs…it apparently was available for only a year, around 1959-60. Finally, several months ago, a picture surfaced…ha!…now that’s what I’m talking about. But like I said, with the internet, patience can pay off. Can’t find something? Wait 6 months or a year and try again…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved